Blog: An Eventful Year Ahead

January is a month of transition, leaving behind the old year and commencing the new. Here at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), we’ve been reflecting on the successes of last year, the gratitude we have for our client communities, our many diverse types of supporters, our funders and the work, both in the courts and law reform, we have ahead in 2022.

Wrapping up 2021

We are pleased to share our recently released 2021 annual report with you.

As a legal aid clinic dedicated to environmental equity, justice and health, CELA has joined many calls for green and just recovery, recognizing the pandemic has revealed social inequities, often mirrored in the disproportionate impact on the health and environments of low-income, disadvantaged, and vulnerable communities.

2021 saw CELA involved in cases protecting drinking water and opposing air pollution, calling for better protection from lead and PFAS in drinking water, and pushing for better implementation of our environmental assessment laws.

Because of donations to the CELA Foundation, and its support, many of CELA’s efforts are amplified, particularly the articling student program and some outreach and education efforts.

In the Courts

Only a few weeks into 2022, and our lawyers and paralegals are already busy with many important cases. On behalf of Grassy Narrows First Nation, we are challenging Ontario’s decision to issue mining exploration permits in their territory.  On behalf of Kebaowek First Nation, we are monitoring a federal impact assessment for a pipeline that could impact environmental resources and health and safety in their unceded territory.

CELA will continue to push for the protection of Indigenous rights as Canada proceeds with the Regional Assessment and impact assessments for mineral development projects in the Ring of Fire. We will continue to advocate for climate impacts to be at the forefront of environmental and impact assessments for new mining developments, including our representation of Environment North for a proposed palladium mine in the Lake Superior watershed and collaborative efforts with ENGOs to ensure a new gold mine near Kirkland Lake undergoes a full impact assessment.

We are awaiting the outcome of the judicial reference on the constitutionality of the federal Impact Assessment Act, and will determine whether our clients should seek leave to intervene if an appeal is undertaken to the Supreme Court of Canada.

CELA is participating in a coalition of legal aid clinics that have intervened in a Supreme Court of Canada appeal that involves the test for granting public interest standing to persons or groups that challenge administrative decisions. This appeal was argued in mid-January 2022 by our colleagues at the ARCH Disability Law Clinic and the Court has reserved their decision.

After a lengthy hearing with several significant rule of law concerns raised, the Ontario Land Tribunal rendered a decision in a matter relating to the protection provided to natural heritage features by the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

CELA will continue to represent a federation of approximately 20 community groups in Tiny Township, Simcoe County regarding an existing aggregate operation and a proposal to expand it which poses challenges to the groundwater resources and drinking water supplies of residents in the area.

Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN) date in Federal Court has been confirmed for March 21. CELA represents CARN in an application for judicial review of decision from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. On behalf of CARN, we are arguing the CNSC’s decision to issue a 10-year licence for a nuclear processing facility in downtown Peterborough, adjacent to an elementary school failed to fully consider international laws, radiation protection principles, and impacts to vulnerable communities – namely children.

Law Reform

CELA’s work on law reform seeks to change policies that disproportionally impact low-income people and disadvantaged communities, and to assist and empower those same communities to have a greater role in decision-making that affects them.

CELA will continue to advocate for improvements in regulatory oversight of nuclear power, nuclear waste, and uranium mining, milling and processing, and nuclear substances, including by urging the end of current Ministerial conflict of interest by having the nuclear regulator report to a separate Minister of the federal Crown than do the departments that advocate the promotion, development and use of nuclear materials.

With funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, research is being conducted by CELA and Professor M V Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security, and Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. This research focuses on the regulation and governance of small modular nuclear reactors and engagement with civil society groups and Indigenous communities, with the aim of furthering community-driven policy interventions across the energy sector.

CELA will continue to advocate for improvements to chemicals regulation from the perspective of those with the greatest health impacts on vulnerable communities and will seek the introduction of a meaningful new substantive environmental rights provision in Canada’s main environmental protection act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Further, CELA will be advocating for re-introduction of a federal Bill to counteract environmental racism in Canada.

Funded by the Mott Foundation, CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes program focuses on the full implementation of Ontario’s Clean Water Act, supporting the critical role of conservation authorities, and seeking a strengthened drinking water framework to better protect vulnerable communities, especially children, from the detrimental impacts of lead in drinking water.

CELA will monitor, respond to, and conduct public legal education in relation to further regulatory steps undertaken by the Ontario government in 2022 to implement its controversial “modernization” of the provincial Environmental Assessment Act.

CELA will continue to advocate for better protection of vulnerable communities in Ontario from the impacts of climate change, to call for a federal Office of Environmental Equity, and to push for improvements in regulatory oversight on all aspects of nuclear power.

Public Legal Education

Last year CELA hosted over a dozen webinars and published numerous toolkits and resources on a variety of topics, including Indigenous and Treaty Rights, freshwater policy, toxic chemicals, and environmental assessment.

2022 will hopefully see a return to some in-person meetings, though we will continue to offer digital sessions as well.  Several webinars are already planned for February; details are on our website.

With funding from the Law Foundation of Ontario, CELA Counsel continues to work with a community in Treaty 3 to create a first of its kind public education resource and toolkit specific to establishing Indigenous-led and governed Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area – a recognized means of protecting Indigenous rights, lands and biodiversity.

Stay in Touch

As CELA looks ahead to the work already underway for 2022, we invite you to follow us along with us and reach out if you require assistance.  Legal inquiries can be sent to, and non-legal inquiries can be sent to  For news about environmental equity, justice, and health, subscribe to CELA’s Monthly Bulletin, or follow us on social media.