August 2020 Bulletin

One Earth One Voice –
Take Action for a Green and Just Recovery

Right now the federal government is deciding on economic stimulus measures to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. We have a once-in-a-generation chance to get this right. Canada must make investments that will move towards a stronger, equitable, and more sustainable society – through a Green and Just Recovery.

This means, above all, investing in a society that places people’s health and the well-being of natural ecosystems that sustain all species, above corporate profits. That means that any investments made cannot set environmental progress back, undermine environmental justice, or be incompatible with Canada’s environmental commitments. Please Take Action Now.


Supporting the Next Generation of
Environmental Lawyers

At CELA, we place a tremendous value on building the capacity of the environmental and social justice community by training and mentoring young lawyers. CELA employs an articling student every year, whose focus is on administrative and environmental law. We also seek out opportunities to partner with organizations or academic institutions that can support student placements, and we welcome volunteers where our capacity allows.

This past year, CELA was very fortunate to work with almost a dozen talented students from the legal and communications professions. Their range of talents and expertise have been integral to CELA’s work, and we’re proud to feature a selection of work in this month’s Bulletin.

CELA’s articling student program is supported by the Canadian Environmental Law Foundation. Donations in support of this program are appreciated.
Petri_BaileyPetri Bailey – Petri is CELA’s Northern Services Summer Student, and has worked on issues such as plastics contamination in the Great Lakes, and the challenges of nuclear waste disposal. Most recently, he wrote a blog about Indigenous-led conservation in Northern Ontario. He thanks the Shawanaga First Nation for providing a unique and valued perspective.


Michelle_Lafortune_2Michelle LaFortune – Michelle’s work at CELA has focused on the Climate Emergency Declaration Movement. Starting in 2019, municipalities across Canada (and around the world) declared climate emergencies to acknowledge the climate crisis and to commit to considering the environment in all local decision making. She recently gave a presentation including a call for local governments to be leaders in the fight against climate change and to ensure that climate policies consider the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations.

Julie_MutisJulie Mutis – This summer, Julie produced a video series and blog post to commemorate the 20 year anniversary of the contamination of the water supply in Walkerton, Ont. The series featured CELA staff and others who were involved in the inquiry that followed the tragedy, and focused on the legislative legacy of Walkerton and the current state of drinking water protection in Ontario.

Peter_HillsonPeter Hillson – Peter is a student at Osgoode Hall Law School in the JD/Master of Environmental Studies program. This summer he worked with Sustainability Network as part of his Osgoode Summer Internship Program. Peter has written a thoughtful blog post about his learnings on Indigenizing legal education as part of his work to develop a distance approach to this years Environmental Legal Toolkit. More information on the Toolkit can be found in the upcoming event section, below.

Diane_HwangDiane Hwang – Diane has been supporting CELA’s legal team on our work relating to the federal environmental assessment of the Near Surface Disposal Facility planned for the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ottawa, Ontario. The proposed facility would take low level radioactive waste from numerous sources across Canada including nuclear research facilities, shut-down reactor sites, uranium mines, etc.

Taraneh_AshrafiTaraneh Ashrafi – Taraneh is a law student at Dalhouise University and was CELA’s fellowship student in 2020. During her time with CELA, Taraneh wrote an insightful blog about lessons for dealing with COVID-19.


Edith_BarabashEdith Barabash – Edith has been volunteering at CELA for almost a year, and has had opportunities to engage with multiple cases and areas of law. She worked on the Friends of Simcoe Forests case, for which she looked through Environmental Impact Studies, and did legal research on Ministerial Zoning Orders, LPAT proceedings and the Planning Act. She recently helped author a submission on proposed changes to the Growth Plan of the Greater Golden Horseshoe in order to maintain existing protections for water sources, and researched changes to the Aggregates Resources Act.

Jenna_SheikhJenna Sheikh – Jenna has been supporting CELA’s legal team on our work on the Deep Geological Repository (DGR). She prepared background materials outlining the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, their site selection process, and what a DGR is. Her work focuses on the importance of public participation and includes further resources for the affected community members to consult.

Ryan_ChawnerRyan Chawner – Ryan joined CELA in September 2019 as a pro bono student through Osgoode Hall’s Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic and received an Osgoode Summer Internship to continue working with CELA. His work has focused on law reform efforts in connection with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), namely the intersection of toxic substances and environmental rights.

Christine Persad, Yvonne Mazurak and Julie Mutis

In the fall of 2019, CELA, with the support of then law students Christina Persad and Yvonne Mazurak, released a report addressing the issue of lead contamination in Ontario’s drinking water. The report calls on the Ontario government to take a multi-pronged approach to the issue, and makes several specific recommendations, including legislative changes to require replacement of a minimum of 75% of municipal lead service lines to homes within 3-5 years.

CELA’s report contributed to the Canada-wide investigation by the Canadian Institute for Investigative Journalism. The Tainted Water series made headlines across the country and highlighted the inadequacies in lead testing and mitigation that continue to put Canadians at risk to the long-term health impacts of lead exposure. Julie Mutis is one of the writers who contributed to the award-winning series.

CELA is working to keep momentum of public awareness going by educating people on how they can limit their exposure and pushing for regulatory changes that will put the country on track for a lead-free future. Christina, Yvonne, and Julie returned to CELA this summer to help contribute to those efforts.



Photo of the Month Contest!

We received a number of beautiful images this month from our readers – scroll the Bulletin to spot them! Our thanks and congratulations to this month’s winner, Anum Khan, for her lovely photo of Mississippi Valley Conservation Area. Congrats Anum!

For September, our photo contest theme will be “In Your Neighbourhood”. Send us a photo from a walk around your neighbourhood – could be trees, interesting houses, unique gardens, or your neighbours creative sidewalk chalk art! Send your entry over social media tagged #PictureThisCELA

Anum_Khan_Mississippi_Valley_CAPhoto Credit – Anum Khan, Mississippi Valley Conservation Area.


CELA Goes to Court over Ontario Bill 197

In the wake of the passage of Ontario’s controversial Bill 197 last month, CELA is now representing five clients in a judicial review application that asks the Divisional Court to issue declaratory relief and other remedies in relation to the omnibus legislation, which overhauls the Environmental Assessment Act and amends other provincial laws. The Application was commenced by Earthroots; Canadian Environmental Law Association; Ontario Nature; Cooper Price, a 16-year old activist with Fridays For Future Toronto/Climate Strike Canada; and Michel Koostachin, who was born and raised in Attawapiskat.

The grounds for the judicial review application are that Bill 197 was enacted in a manner that failed to comply with the public notice/comment requirements of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, and that Bill 197 is inconsistent with international law conventions, principles and norms on environmental assessment, public participation, and human rights applicable in Ontario. The notice of application was filed on August 20th.

Renewed Support for CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes Program

CELA is pleased to announce that the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has renewed its support for our Healthy Great Lakes program. In these uncertain times, we are especially grateful for the Mott Foundation’s support of our efforts to protect freshwater health in the Great Lakes – St Lawrence River Basin.

In the last year alone, we were able to respond to 14 government consultations that proposed to roll back environmental protections in Ontario, initiated nine proactive policy submissions to improve water protections, and hosted more than a dozen webinars that reached over 1,600 water supporters.

Looking forward, we are excited to continue to cultivate a diverse Great Lakes community and seek robust, well-implemented public policy by: monitoring and responding to government proposals, and growing public engagement through our drinking water, toxics, and integrated watershed management priorities.

Your voice is a valuable part of the conversation! To stay engaged on freshwater and Great Lakes – St Lawrence River Basin issues, including being the first to know about webinars, resources and comment opportunities, please email April Weppler.

Ric_Evoy_Lake_SuperiorPhoto Credit – Ric Evoy, Lake Superior.

Concerning Changes Proposed to Environmental Assessments

In response to a range of new exemption and policies to “modernize” Ontario’s Environmental Assessment process, CELA recently provided comments noting that the proposals, collectively and individually, undermine the environmental assessment program’s purpose, scope, and efficacy.

CELA recommends that the government immediately halt the reforms, and in their place initiate a robust, meaningful, transparent, and accountable public consultation process aimed at what we all want – a rigorous, efficient and effective environmental assessment program for Ontario, based on 21st century principles and best practices. CELA also provided comments to the changes proposed for projects in parks and conservation reserves.

Good News for Friends of Simcoe Forests

The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing has confirmed that minister’s zoning orders will not be granted to projects going through the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal process, including the waste facility that was to be located within the Freele County Forest.

Casework: The Federal Role in Carbon Pricing

CELA heads to the Supreme Court in September to argue in support of the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act.

This case is extremely important to our client base as the effects of climate change will be greatest on the most vulnerable among us, whether homes or livelihoods are jeopardized with crop failures, horrific storms, the spread of invasive species, unprecedented heat events, or many other known and predicted impacts.

We will argue that this federal law falls under the criminal law head of power in the Canadian constitution. It aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in Canada and contains various prohibitions on industrial emissions, or sale of fuels, unless polluters register and pay charges, with penalties to ensure compliance. Criminal law is one head of power that justifies federal action when the intent of Parliament is to address an “evil” – prior such cases have dealt with firearms registration, cigarette packaging, and toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Bo_Wandschneider_Rock_DunderPhoto Credit – Bo Wandschneider, Rock Dunder.

Canada’s First Small Modular Nuclear Reactor Proceeds to Next Step in EA Process

We continue to address Canada’s first ever federal environmental assessment (EA) of a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR). In CELA’s view, this an inappropriate and ill-advised “solution” to climate change. In a disappointing Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission decision released in July, many critical issues raised by CELA were not addressed.

In adopting what CELA and many other intervenors viewed as a deficient scope of factors set out by CNSC Staff, the Commission did not provide due regard for the novelty of the reactor design and its unique risks. In our view, the EA should consider the on-site and off-site impacts of SMRs in mine sites, and in off-grid, remote First Nation communities throughout Canada, particularly because this project serves as a demonstration project for future SMR use. The proponents draft Environmental Impact Statement is anticipated in the Spring of 2021.

Acting on Plastic Waste and Packaging – What All Levels of Government Should Consider First

In a recent blog post, CELA researcher and paralegal Fé de Leon and Olga Speranskaya from HEJSupport, outline recent activity by CELA and the NGO community in response to governments’ initiatives to plastic waste and other materials collected for recycling. The core principle in these submissions is that extended producer responsibility and toxic free circular economy are key to design innovation.

A Host of Great Virtual Opportunities!

Environmental Themes of Our Times – Virtual Book Club

CELA’s monthly book club met in August to discuss Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. For September, the club will discuss Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass.
Join the conversation on Tuesday, September 15th at 7pm ET; registration is required.

2020 Environmental Law Toolkit: Ecojustice, CELA and CEC

CELA has supported this toolkit workshop for a number of years, including contributions from a number of our lawyers. In light of the pandemic, this year’s toolkit will feature an innovative digital approach, including nine recorded presentations as well as two presenter panels on September 30 and October 1. Details and registration will be posted in early September; watch the Sustainability Network website and CELA’s social media channels for details.