Profiles of CELA's Casework

CELA counsel provide representation in the courts and before tribunals on matters of environmental law to Ontario residents and community groups who qualify for legal aid. Illustrative examples of some (but not all) of our cases are profiled on our website via the links below.

As one of several specialty legal aid clinics in Ontario, CELA counsel provide additional service to the public through advice and guidance to other clinics, private bar lawyers, MPPs, and community agencies in our specialized areas of law.

All of CELA’s legal services are capacity-dependent and guided by case selection criteria. Watch this space for links to more casework profiles in coming months.

Selected Current Cases

The Federal Role in Carbon Pricing CELA is intervening in this case to protect the rights of vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change  by ensuring the courts confirm federal jurisdiction to act in order to protect the environment. 

Upholding the Federal Impact Assessment Act CELA is intervening in this important national environmental law test case to ensure that the federal Impact Assessment Act and regulations are considered constitutionally valid from a division-of-powers perspective.

Land use planning – proposed waste facility in Simcoe Forest  CELA is representing the Friends of Simcoe Forest in a Local Planning Appeal Tribunal appeal of a decision to allow a waste processing facility in the middle of a significant woodland and habitat of several species at risk.

Citizens Against Melrose Quarry (CAMQ) – CELA represents this citizens group in legal proceedings regarding an existing quarry and proposed new quarry in southeastern Ontario to address public safety considerations and nuisance impacts that may adversely affect the quantity and quality of local groundwater, the sole source of drinking water for nearby residents.

Kebaowek First Nation – Pipeline Assessment and Indigenous Jurisdiction – This case concerns an upcoming federal impact assessment of a proposed 780 km natural gas pipeline stretching from northeastern Ontario to southern Quebec.

Proposed Mega-Landfill in Southwestern Ontario – CELA represents Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) Alliance in relation to a large landfill being proposed in a worked-out quarry in Oxford County. This matter has become an important test case in light of recent Environmental Assessment Act amendments requiring landfill proponents to obtain written support from affected local municipalities.

Judicial review of Bill 197 – COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, 2020 – In this Ontario-wide test case, CELA represents multiple organizations and individuals seeking a judicial review of changes to three Ontario environmental laws. Proposed changes to the Environmental Assessment Act are of particular concern because of new restrictions on application of this law and termination of long-standing public safeguards in the EA process.

Uranium Processing Plant Relicensing Hearings in Peterborough – CELA is representing Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN), a Peterborough-based non-profit organization opposed to the renewal of a uranium processing facility’s operating licence. CARN was formed to raise awareness about nuclear facilities and advocate for more stringent human health and environmental safeguards.

Small Modular Reactor at Chalk River – CELA is intervening in Canada’s first ever SMR environmental assessment. Critically, the standards set in this case will set the baseline requirements and conditions to be met should SMRs be deployed in communities across Canada.

Recently Concluded Cases

Citizens successfully challenge aggregate pit proposal near Trout Lake 

CELA represented the Trout Lake Campers’ Association in challenging a proposed aggregate pit, the approval for which had not considered social and environmental impacts.

Selected Cases from CELA's History

The Walkerton Inquiry CELA represented the Concerned Walkerton Citizens in the two-year Public Inquiry that investigated Walkerton’s tainted water tragedy that occurred in May of 2000.

Walkerton’s Drinking Water Protection LegacyIn this video series, several CELA staff, the chair of Concerned Walkerton Citizens, and other water professionals  share their experience of the Walkerton Inquiry and its legacy.   

Citizen Opposition to Tire-Burning Plans CELA worked with other environmental lawyers, groups, and residents to successfully stop a controversial proposal to burn scrap tires, plastics and other wastes at the Lafarge Cement plant in Ontario resulting in a strong legal precedent supporting public participation.

Castonguay Blasting Ltd. v. Ontario (Environment) Canada’s highest court upholds broad interpretation of environmental laws in protecting public and affirms for first time application of precautionary principle to Ontario environmental legislation

Hudson, Quebec Pesticide Bylaw Canada’s highest court unanimously confirms legitimacy of municipal power to enact pesticide bylaws under general health and welfare provisions to enact bylaws in response to local concerns.

Cases addressing nuclear safety and emergency preparedness

Proposed Deep Geologic Repository for Nuclear Waste – CELA provided advice and assistance to multiple individuals and public interest organizations in these proceedings, in addition to participating in its own right. The proposal was withdrawn by OPG in June of 2020.

Pickering Nuclear Generating Station Life Extension – CELA and other groups raised concerns about inadequate emergency preparedness including inadequate plans to address Chernobyl or Fukushima-size accidents, inadequate local alert systems, and a lack of studies to ensure realistic evacuation in case of severe a accident with early large release of radioactivity.

Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Refurbishment – CELA contested the approval of this project  bringing a judicial review application to Federal Court noting a lack of consideration for environmental effects of potential nuclear accidents, potential impacts on Lake Ontario waster quality and fisheries, and failure to meet legal obligations under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Darlington Nuclear Generating Station New Build (Joint Panel Review) – CELA worked alongside multiple public interest organizations to raise concerns about the need for, and alternatives to, this proposal, the storage and fate of high level radioactive waste, and emergency planning for accidents at the plant to protect the public.