Casework: Judicial Review of Bill 197 - COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020

On behalf of several environmental organizations and individuals, CELA applied for judicial review of the statutory decision by two Ontario Cabinet Ministers that denied our clients and other members of the public their legal right to be notified and consulted on environmentally significant legislative amendments contained in Bill 197 (COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020) before they were enacted by the Ontario Legislature on July 21, 2020. These amendments include changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA), the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) and the Planning Act. The EAA is Ontario’s key environmental planning law and these changes  are of particular concern to CELA’s clients because, among other things, they impose new restrictions (and create uncertainty) on how the Act is applied to proposed undertakings, and terminate long-standing public safeguards in the EA process in relation to infrastructure projects. 

The controversial EAA changes in Bill 197 – together with an expansion of provincial powers to unilaterally issue Ministerial zoning orders (MZO) under the Planning Act – were passed by the Ontario Legislature in July 2020 without public notice and comment opportunities under the province’s EBR. Ontario’s Divisional Court held a four-day hearing in May 2021 and released its judgment in September 2021. The Court held that “the Minister of Municipal Affairs acted unreasonably and unlawfully in failing to post the MZO proposal” for public consultation in accordance with the EBR. However, the Court ruled that the EAA changes were not subject to the consultation obligations under the EBR due to a retroactive provision in Bill 197 that deemed the EBR to be inapplicable to such changes.

Publications, Legal Submissions

CELA’s judicial review application contends that the two Ministers: 1) failed or refused to comply with public notice and consultation requirements under the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR); 2) make erroneous interpretation, and unreasonable reliance upon, a proposed amendment to the EBR; and 3) failed or refused in the exercise of their statutory power in enacting amendments to, and removing existing provisions from, the EAA to comply with international law conventions, principles, and norms on environmental assessment, public participation, and human rights applicable in Ontario.

Video - Interviews by the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network

Interviews with CELA lawyers Theresa McClenaghan, Kerrie Blaise, and Richard Lindgren about Bill 197

Indigenous advocate Mike Koostachin responds to Bill 197

Youth climate activist Cooper Price responds to Bill 197