December 2020 Bulletin – Holiday Greeting

CELA’s December Bulletin –
A Look Back at Our 50th Anniversary Year

Warm Holiday Greetings from CELA

Read the full length version of Theresa’s post online

In a profoundly different year than anyone expected, CELA has been able to continue our critical work thanks to our talented and dedicated staff, Board, volunteers, students, collaborative partnerships, and an increasing number of supportive donors (thank you!) to the CELA Foundation.

While we began the year with high hopes of celebrating our 50th anniversary with all of you – the pandemic has delayed those plans – watch for an announcement of a new date for late 2021.

The pandemic has put a spotlight on the significant inequities in our society, often mirrored in the disproportionate health and environmental impacts experienced by low-income, disadvantaged, and vulnerable communities.

In our work to address climate change or air and water pollution, CELA’s focus is fundamentally about environmental equity, helping communities participate in environmental decisions that affect them, and striving for better tools and laws to protect environmental health and well-being.

Looking back on CELA’s 50th year, we are excited to share highlights of our work in our 2020 Annual Report.

Through CELA’s casework this year, we have worked with a number of First Nations communities to enable their legal rights and jurisdiction, and to protect local drinking water supplies in communities across Ontario from impacts posed by proposed quarries, landfills, or waste processing facilities.

We are participating in Canada’s first ever federal environmental assessment of a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), raising concerns about this dirty, dangerous and distracting proposed “solution” to climate change.

A significant theme for CELA’s law reform advocacy this year has been addressing the rollback of Ontario’s environmental laws including numerous changes to the rules for land use planning and environmental assessment.

Additional law reform work this year addressed disproportionate impacts on vulnerable communities from many issues including water and wetland protection, energy poverty, tenant rights and healthy housing, and emergency preparedness and nuclear waste.

Extensive work continued on the regulation of pesticides, the need to ban single-use plastics and improve plastic recycling and waste management, and advocacy for reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Across all of this work we joined with Canada’s leading environmental organizations in calling for a green and just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we look ahead to 2021, this work will continue as we fulfill our core CELA mandate as a  legal aid clinic to represent clients before tribunals and in the courts, conduct legal analysis and advocate for law reform to address systemic environmental inequities, and provide outreach and public legal education helping communities to participate in the decisions that affect them.

Our priorities for 2021 will include:

  • achieving a better system to regulate cumulative effects of pollution emissions in Ontario
  • advocating for climate emergency plans that protect vulnerable communities across Ontario
  • ensuring implementation of the federal Throne Speech commitments to pass a new climate accountability law and to establish a Canada Water Agency
  • advocating for environmental protection as a legally enforceable human right
  • ensuring safe drinking water for all, including complete source water protection and lead service line replacement throughout Ontario
  • pushing back against provincial environmental rollbacks, notably in the areas of environmental assessment, land use planning, and science-based watershed management

For much more detail, please review our Annual Report. We are grateful for your continued support of our work and look forward to continuing to protect your health and environment for the next 50 years.

Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan, Nith River, Brant Count

Upcoming Events

Protecting Ontario’s Environmental Future

On December 8th, the Ontario government passed a new law which seriously weakened the Conservation Authorities Act, allowing the province to turn its back on science-based planning. New developments that could increase the risk of floods or landslides and destroy protected and ecologically sensitive lands can be ordered to go ahead.

At the same time, the government has been making unprecedented use of Minister’s Zoning Orders to force through planning decisions without debate or input from municipalities or the public.

So what next for Ontario’s environment? Join Environmental Defence, former Greenbelt Council chair David Crombie, Canadian Environmental Law Association and Ontario Nature on January 12 at 7pm for a live conversation about protecting our future. We’ll dive into what the attacks on environmental rules mean for our province, what we can expect next for our communities, and what you can do to stand up for the water, farmland and natural places we all rely on for our future.

Register today to tune in for this live discussion! 

Indigenous Ways of Knowing in Conservation – Webinar Series

CELA is honoured to be hosting another webinar series with Gary Pritchard.  For 3 weeks starting on January 21, Gary will talk to us about Indigenous ways of knowing, conservation strategies and decolonizing ecology.

Registration for these sessions is required.  This link will register you for all three sessions.  We encourage you to attend all three, as content will build from one week to the next.  Each session will take place from 1:00-2:00pm ET.

Jan 21 – Indigenous Place Making and Ethical Space/Ways of Knowing
Jan 28 – Indigenous Conservation Strategies and Practice
Feb 4 – Decolonizing Ecology

As preparation for the conversations, you are welcome to review our spring webinar series with Gary, which introduced the topics of how to work with Indigenous peoples, how to achieve effective and meaningful engagement with Indigenous communities, and treaties as a foundation part of Canadian society.   The last webinar in the series looked at how to develop successful relationships between municipalities and Indigenous communities.

Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan, Nith River, Brant Count