April 2021 Bulletin

Thinking Globally On Earth Day

CELA Supports Global Pact on the Environment

In order to safeguard the health and safety of our client communities, CELA has frequently advocated for the need for effective, enforceable, and equitable environmental rights at the provincial, national and international level. In this blog, staff lawyer Richard Lindgren explains why CELA is “thinking globally and acting locally” by supporting the Global Pact for the Environment that is under consideration by the United Nations.

Earth Day Reflections

Last year’s Earth Day reflections hold just as true today; it’s an opportune time to reflect on the progress we have made, and to renew our energy and focus for the future.

Photo Credit, Kelly Mathews

Case Updates

CELA’s Intervention in the Supreme Court Carbon Pricing Case

In his blog, CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren examines the recent Supreme Court of Canada judgment that upheld the constitutionality of the federal carbon pricing law. He also explains why CELA intervened in this case on behalf of Ontario-based clients, and reviews the implications of the Court’s landmark ruling for low-income persons and vulnerable populations.

Friends of Simcoe Forest Appeal Provincial Regulation Limiting their Legal Rights

CELA represents the Friends of Simcoe Forests (FSH) in a judicial review appealing a decision by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.  The Minister’s decision involved passage of a transitional regulation exempting Simcoe County’s Official Plan Amendment 2 (OPA 2) from the natural heritage provisions of the Province’s 2019 Growth Plan, a Plan that affords protection from development in areas of significant woodlands and wildlife habitat. OPA 2 would allow a waste processing facility in the middle of a significant woodland, the Freele County Forest, and the habitat of several species at risk.

The Minister’s regulation precluded FSF from  presenting evidence about how Simcoe County’s proposal goes against the natural heritage provisions in the 2019 Growth Plan.  This month, CELA counsel were in Divisional Court on behalf of FSF to argue that the Minister did not have authority to enact the transitional regulation. 

Photo Credit, Jacqueline Wilson

Permit to Take Water Decision in Tiny Township

The Environmental Review Tribunal has granted the Federation of Tiny Township Shoreline Associations (FOTTSA), represented by CELA lawyers, leave to appeal a Permit to Take Water issued by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks under the Ontario Water Resources Act.

The Permit concerns aggregate washing for a gravel pit operation in Tiny Township, Simcoe County. In their decision the Tribunal found it appeared that: (1) there is good reason to believe that no reasonable person, having regard to the MECP’s Statement of Environmental Values, created under the EBR, could have made the decision to approve the Permit; and (2) the Director’s decision to issue the Permit could result in significant harm to the environment.

The full decision, and other information related to this case, are on CELA’s website here.

Law Reform

Bill 245 Denies Access to Justice 

The ability of the Ontario public to have their voices heard in decisions that affect their community is a fundamental feature of democratic societies. The province’s latest omnibus Bill 245, Accelerating Access to Justice Act, 2021, threatens this right in the environmental and land-use decision-making process.  Read the full guest blog by authors Burgandy Dunn and Rizwan Khan.

Long-Awaited Amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Long-awaited proposed changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) were introduced this month as Bill C-28: Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act. Unfortunately, the latest amendments to Bill C-28 are not nearly as reformative as they ought to be, and in some areas they may even make environmental law enforcement more difficult.
Substantive amendments were made to Schedule 1 (List of Toxics Substances) of CEPA, significantly changing how toxics substances are managed under CEPA.  Bill C-28 also includes a right to a healthy environment, added in the preamble of CEPA.  While this proposal has been highly anticipated, adding to the preamble of CEPA does not change the law in any way on its own. Without including a recourse for individuals to take in order to assert their rights to a healthy environment, these revisions are just abstract ideas.

CELA lawyer Joseph Castrilli and Researcher and Paralegal Fe de Leon examine the good, the bad and the ugly about the new amendments in their latest blog

Toxic Substances and the Great Lakes Basin

Michael Murray and John Jackson, co-chairs of the Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network recently published two guest blogs for CELA, discussing the impacts of toxic substances on water quality in the Great Lakes.

In the first, they discuss how the US and Canada have failed to properly address harmful Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the lakes under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Without a strong binational plan to deal with these ‘forever chemicals,’ an integral component for addressing toxic substances under GLWQA will be missing.
In their second post, Murray and Jackson highlight how the principles of ‘zero discharge’ and ‘virtual elimination’ could be better implemented in the water quality agreement to address the threats of toxic substances in the Great Lakes Basin. The recent release of Bill C-28: Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act includes alarming amendments to remove virtual elimination in CEPA.

Photo Credit, Linda Pim – Red Trillium, Eugenia, Ontario

Getting the Lead Out of Drinking Water in London

Fourteen years ago today, the London Free Press revealed that residents in the City of London had been exposed to high lead levels in their drinking water for at least 12 years. Despite there being a provincial standard of 10 micrograms per litre (µg/L), there was no provincial regulation to mandate municipal water testing for lead.

Today, CELA is checking in on London’s progress to fully address the lead-in-water issue.  Read the full blog post by law student Maria Lucas.

Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Planning Framework

CELA and the Low-income Energy Network (LIEN) made submissions to the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines on how to improve Ontario’s long-term energy planning framework. CELA and LIEN recommended that the elimination of energy poverty and environmental protection and restoration be explicitly included as a goal of every responsible authority in the energy planning system. Recommendations were also made to improve participation and transparency.

Support for Growing Ontario’s Greenbelt

Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently hosted a public consultation, seeking feedback on two potential study areas for expansion of the Greenbelt, as well as suggestions for other potential areas in which to grow the Greenbelt.  We saw this as an opportunity to express our support for growing the Greenbelt and further protecting Ontario’s environment, groundwater and agricultural resources.

CELA hosted two webinars in partnership with local groups – one in Brantford-Brant County, and one in Guelph-Wellington. CELA staff also presented at a number of other webinars discussing the importance of expanding the Greenbelt boundary, including one hosted by the Wildlands League.  We also submitted the following comments in response to the government’s consultation.  

Illustration Credit, Ryan Price

Electricity Disconnection Ban Extended

The Ontario Energy Board has extended the ban on disconnection notices for residential electricity customers until May 19, covering the duration of the province wide stay-at-home measures. This move is important for Ontarians living on low income and is welcome by CELA and our colleagues in  the Low Income Energy Network.

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CELA Participates in Environmental Accountability Project 

CELA has long advocated the establishment of a public right to a clean and healthy environment, and the creation of effective procedural tools to safeguard this right.  Accordingly, CELA has gratefully accepted an invitation to serve on an advisory group for the Law Commission of Ontario’s new project entitled Environmental Accountability: Rights, Responsibilities and Access to Justice. Among other things, the project will consider “how well the Environmental Bill of Rights is working, whether reforms are needed to the procedural rights created by the Act, and whether courts, or another tribunal, should have an expanded role in protecting environmental access to justice.”

Faces of CELA

CELA’s work would not be possible without the extraordinary contributions of our law and articling students.  This month we profile the contributions of Krystal-Anne RousselMaria Lucas and Adam De Luca

This past term, CELA was also fortunate to host two communications interns from Ryerson University.  We very much enjoyed working with Ava Rice and Pelly Shaw, and appreciated their energy, passion and talent!

You can learn more about each of these great students in their respective “Faces of CELA” profiles on our blog.

Clockwise from top left: Ava Rice, Adam De Luca, Maria Lucas, Pelly Shaw, Krystal-Anne Roussel

Have Your Say

Small Modular Reactor Proposed for OPG’s Darlington Site – Consultation Open

Public comments on Ontario Power Generation’s licence renewal for its Darlington site can be submitted to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission by email to cnsc.interventions.ccsn@canada.ca until May 3, 2021.   CELA will be urging the Commission to consider OPG’s ill-suited plans for an SMR at the Darlington site, just 60km from Toronto, before granting a licence. To learn more, visit CELA’s Climate Action and Nuclear Energy resource page

Webinars & Resources

Overcoming the Crises of Climate Change, Covid-19, and Nuclear Challenges on Pacific and First Nations Communities

On the eve of Earth Day 2021, CELA’s Kerrie Blaise and Kacie McLaren of Kebaowek First Nation‘s lands management office joined an international panel of speakers to discuss youth climate action, nuclear peace and Indigenous rights. The event was hosted by Reverse the Trend and Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and moderated by United Nations youth climate advisor, Sophia Kianni.  The recording is available here.

Water Conversations

CELA and Environmental Defence are hosting “Episode Two” of Water Conversations in June.  Taking place once a quarter for two hours, these in-depth discussions will provide water champions a chance to share their expertise, learn from others, and determine the best path forward for actions needed to ensure healthy waters.  To learn more about Water Conversations, please fill out this short form.