August 2017 Bulletin

(Photo credit: Judy East)

News & Activities

Strengthening potential changes to the Conservation Authorities Act

The Ontario government recently introduced Bill 139 for First Reading. Part of the Bill proposes amendments to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act. CELA, with nine other environmental organizations, commented on the proposed amendments and are generally supportive. If enacted, the new provisions will enable improved transparency and accountability for conservation authorities, including a clear purpose statement and prohibitions against changing watercourses or interfering with wetlands. However, we are concerned about the number of provisions that will not come into force until a date to be proclaimed by Cabinet, making implementation of the improvements uncertain.

CELA comments on Ontario’s land use planning reforms

The Ontario government’s recently introduced Bill 139 contains schedules that will fundamentally change the province’s land use planning system. For example, the Bill proposes to limit the types of land use planning decisions that may be appealed by Ontarians, and restricts the grounds of appeal that may be advanced. In addition, Bill 139 proposes to replace the Ontario Municipal Board with a new appeal tribunal that would no longer hold de novo hearings, receive testimony, or permit parties to cross-examine witnesses. During the public comment period on Bill 139, CELA filed detailed submissions outlining numerous concerns about these and related land use planning reforms.

Federal government proposes EA reforms

In April 2017, a federally appointed Expert Panel released a wide-ranging report explaining how to rebuild public trust in the federal environmental assessment (EA) process. In response, the Government of Canada issued a short Discussion Paper in June 2017 outlining potential EA reforms that are currently under consideration. After carefully analyzing these proposals, CELA recently filed submissions which conclude that the suggested reforms are inadequate, incomplete, and unlikely to result in robust, credible, and participatory EA processes at the federal level.


Commenting on the proposed radioactive dump in Renfew Country

With the assistance of Dr. Ian Fairlie and Dr. Tanya Markvart, CELA submitted comments to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) about the proposed radioactive waste dump in Renfrew County on the Ottawa River. CELA evaluated the draft environmental impact statement for the project, its compliance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 and the principle of sustainable development, and reviewed the project’s potential health impacts. In addition to providing 13 recommendations to the CEAA, we highlighted omissions in the existing draft and pinpointed studies requiring public disclosure.

Informing the public about environmental assessments

CELA’s executive director Theresa McClenaghan gave a presentation about public involvement in the process of environmental assessments (EAs) to the Elliott Lake community liaison committee. The community has expressed interest in hosting high level nuclear fuel waste. The presentation outlined several aspects of the EA process, including the importance of independent panels, draft reports, and potential issues that could compromise public submissions.

Strengthening the provincial nuclear emergency plan consultation

CELA was invited to make a presentation to Ontario’s advisory committee on the Provincial Nuclear Emergency Response Plan (PNERP). This expert group will review all of the public comments in the province’s recent consultation and advise the government about revisions to the plan. During the presentation, CELA executive director Theresa McClenaghan emphasized that Ontario’s emergency plan must protect the public from a Fukushima-scale accident, must be based on empirical evidence, and cautioned that as long as the province relies on nuclear power, emergency planning should meet best international practices.


(Photo credit: Dominic Ali/CELA)

Blog & Collections

BLOG: Replacing the OMB

A public interest perspective For decades the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has held public hearings and rendered binding decisions on matters arising under numerous provincial statutes, including the Planning Act. The Ontario government introduced Bill 139 (Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017) which would replace the OMB with a tribunal. CELA counsel Rick Lindgren weighs in on how this proposed Act will affect Ontario residents.

CELA’s nuclear emergency planning collection

CELA has called for better nuclear emergency response planning in Ontario for several years. The province’s current emergency plans are inadequate, especially since Ontario plans to run several reactors beyond their original operating lives. This decision increases the risks of a nuclear accident that could potentially affect millions of residents. Among our other activities related to this issue, we have joined dozens of organizations in calling for improved public safety to protect communities near nuclear plants, warned about the hazards of transporting radioactive materials, and issued a report card on Ontario’s plans to update its nuclear emergency response.

CELA Spotlight

Q&A with Morten Siersbaek


(Photo credit: Courtesy of Morten Siersbaek)

This month we caught up with CELA counsel Morten Siersbaek. Morten initially joined us as a student-at-law and was called to the bar in June 2017. At CELA, Morten focuses on issues related to nuclear safety and the environment.

What’s the path that brought you to CELA?
Having worked in environmental law in Denmark, it was my goal to continue working in this field in Ontario. However, as a foreign-trained lawyer I first had to qualify to practice in Canada. This path started with an LLM from the University of Toronto, then a number of NCA equivalency exams, and the Ontario bar exams. After this was done I enrolled in the Law Practice Program (LPP) at Ryerson University which is an alternative to traditional articling and provides in-depth training to candidates. Luckily for me, CELA was offering a work placement to LPP students. I enrolled in the LPP, with the intention of applying to CELA, and I was fortunate enough to land the work placement in January 2017.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?
My involvement in environmental law started somewhat by chance. After completing my Danish LLM, a job became available at the Danish Ministry of the Environment, which was the beginning of my journey in environmental law. This was a perfect area for me because of its combination of law, nature, and science. While it all started by accident, it’s been over 8 years now and I feel like it just keeps getting better and better.

What’s the best part of working at CELA?
I find it very meaningful and fulfilling to work here and it has been highly rewarding both personally and professionally. Equally important is the fact that I get to work with great people who are very knowledgeable, care about the environment, and want to help people who lack the resources to fight back against environmental harms.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from working at CELA?
That in spite of (or perhaps because of?) Canada’s great wealth of natural resources, environmental protections are far from ideal, in many cases poorly enforced and often wilfully ignored. In short, the need for organizations such as CELA seems to be as great as it has ever been.

When you’re not at CELA, what do you like to do?
I enjoy city life in downtown Toronto and explore nature around the GTA with my wife. I also play drums in two metal bands, both of which are currently writing new albums.