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. 

Selected Current Cases

Elliot Lake and Radioactive Mine Waste

Families in Elliot Lake are demanding action by the federal government and mining company BHP to clean up radioactive wastes found on their properties.

Controversial Asphalt Plant in Napanee

Keep Napanee Great (KNG), a non-profit residents’ advocacy group, was recently represented by CELA at an Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing about a proposed hot mix asphalt plant in Napanee.

Proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility at Chalk River

In 2016, the privately-owned Canadian Nuclear Laboratories applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to amend their license to allow a Near Surface Disposal Facility for their Chalk River site. CELA has submitted written submissions and appeared at hearings in the to consider the application. 

Grassy Narrows First Nation and Environmental Injustice 

The Ontario government has issued nine permits that allow mining exploration activities to occur within Grassy Narrows territory. However, prior to the issuance of the permits, the Ontario government did not notify, consult with, or obtain the consent of Grassy Narrows. Accordingly, Grassy Narrows has instructed lawyers at CELA and Cavalluzzo LLP to seek judicial review of these permits.

The Richmond Landfill Saga

For over two decades, CELA has acted on behalf of the Concerned Citizens’ Committee of Tyendinaga and Environs (CCCTE) in the courts and before administrative tribunals in complex and precedent-setting matters under the Environmental Assessment Act, Environmental Protection Act, Environmental Bill of Rights, and Planning Act.

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.

Recently Concluded Cases

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.

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. 

Putting the Public and the Environment First in Nuclear Licencing – Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station

In 2022, the licence for the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) is set to expire and the operator, NB Power, is asking for an unprecendented 25-year licence renewal. The PLNGS is located within 100 metres of the Bay of Fundy and is Canada’s only nuclear generating station on an ocean. The Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB) and CELA submitted a joint intervention to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission opposing the licence request

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.

Defending the Health of a Nuclear Host Community – CELA represented Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN), a Peterborough-based non-profit organization, in an action challenging Canada’s nuclear regulator’s decision to allow uranium processing in downtown Peterborough and metres from an elementary school. CARN was formed to raise awareness about nuclear facilities and advocate for more stringent human health and environmental safeguards.

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.

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 Waste and Reactor Decommissioning

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.

Nuclear Waste and Reactor Decommissioning in Manitoba and Saskatchewan – CELA provided assistance to groups addressing reactor decommissioning proposals at Whiteshell facility in Pinawa, Manitoba and the SLOWPOKE-2 reactor decommissioning in Saskatoon.

Cases Addressing Nuclear Safety and Emergency Preparedness

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.

Point Lepreau Nuclear Plant Emergency Preparedness – CELA worked with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick to respond to the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station application for a five-year renewal of its operating licence.