February 2019 Bulletin

Photo: Flowerpot Island: Fantom Five National Marine Park, Bruce County, Ontario, Canada by J. Stephen Conn/Flickr

CELA’s February 2019 Bulletin

Upcoming events

Drilling down on nuclear waste (February 28)

The Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s is doing “exploratory drilling” in northern communities as part of their siting process, and has a stated intention to undertake a drill program in Bruce County. This presentation by CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise will focus on this program and the associated permitting process. Registration closes at 11:30 am on February 28.

News & activities

Calling for accountability on Canada’s waste dumping in the Philippines

CELA and eight other environment and justice-focused NGOs wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau to support an appeal from the EcoWaste Coalition of the Philippines to immediately address the dumping of Canadian wastes in that country. The appeal also recognized this matter as a violation of Canada’s obligations under the UN Basel ConventionControlling Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. The groups called on the Prime Minister to ensure the return to Canada of wastes illegally exported and dumped in the Philippines, as required by the Basel Convention. Canada also needs to ratify the Basel Ban amendment as one of only 24 eligible countries not yet in support. This amendment would prohibit the export of hazardous waste for any reason from more developed countries to less developed countries. The groups’ letter received extensive coverage in the Canadian and international media such as Philstar GlobalManila BulletinKorea Times, and Inquirer.

Canada needs better pesticide labels

CELA commented on this federal public consultation regarding pesticide labels, noting the inappropriate exclusion of NGO and public input to the so-called multi-stakeholder consultation that preceded it. We raised several important issues about updating pesticide labels, such as the need to prevent absurdly small font sizes on domestic class products, multiple language instructions on product use and risk information, and consistency on all product labels in an expansive definition of residential areas. Additional comments took issue with ambiguous differences between “space” and “broadcast” spraying that may result in undue pesticide exposure indoors as well as the need for additional precautionary label statements to reduce children’s pesticide exposure.


Photo: Tofino by Mubnii M./Flickr

Improving Bill C-55 to protect Canada’s coastal waters

The federal government is working to establish a national network of marine protected areas (MPAs) in accordance with the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity to ensure 10 per cent of marine and coastal waters are protected by 2020. CELA supports the government’s attempts to meet this target and made a submission to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans’ review of Bill C-55 to amend the Oceans Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act that would bring this to fruition. Our recommendations included making ecological integrity the primary goal for MPAs, prohibiting activities such as extractive and commercial activities within MPAs, strengthening sentencing provisions for offences committed under the Oceans Act, and others.


Photo: Power ad infinitum: Electrical high tension (voltage) transmission towers from Pickering Nuclear Station by Doug McGr/Flickr

Improving the CNSC’s emergency preparedness plans

Following the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station relicensing hearings in June 2018, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) committed to establish a working group to oversee potassium iodide (KI) delivery and planning, specific to vulnerable populations. CELA recently provided comments to the CNSC on a preliminary draft of the working group’s Terms of Reference. We urged the CNSC to devise an implementation plan and ensure the inclusion of public and civil society organizations—not just nuclear licencees—in the working group’s membership. We also recommended that children, who are particularly at risk in the event of an accident, be provided equal levels of protection across the province—meaning KI should be stocked in all schools 50 km from nuclear power plants.


Photo: 9V Battery by Dominic Ali/CELA

Improving electronics and batteries diversion from Ontario’s waste stream

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks recently solicited stakeholders’ views on the establishment of a new producer responsibility framework, under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, in relation to waste electrical and electronics equipment, single use, and rechargeable batteries. In response to this consultation, CELA and other groups submitted a joint letter that identifies environmental priorities, guiding principles and implementation details that should be reflected in the forthcoming regulation that will govern these materials under the Act.

Supporting jurisdictions to act on climate

CELA joined over a dozen parties at a two-day hearing in the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal that will determine whether the federal government exceeded its constitutional authority by enacting the national Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. CELA argued that Parliament has various heads of federal power that serve as the constitutional basis for the Act, but further noted that provincial governments are also empowered by the Constitution to pass legislation addressing climate change. The five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal reserved its decision.

Initial modernization of NAFTA’s environment assessments

CELA made a submission to Global Affairs Canada (GAC) on its initial environmental assessment of the modernization of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, GAC’s initial assessment was conducted before the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) was finalized and many of its observations are out of date. Against this backdrop, we found that CUSMA offered inadequate protections from the negative impacts of trade on Canada’s environment. Our submission found several aspects of the CUSMA objectionable such as GAC’s conclusion about the limited environmental impacts of the Good Regulatory Practices chapter and Agriculture chapter, and the agreement’s vague language—especially within the Environment chapter of the Agreement. We also found the adoption of a CUSMA arbitration panel to resolve disputes instead of the dispute resolution mechanisms under NAFTA to be of little realistic use. We continue to urge GAC to conduct scientific, data-driven review of the text and implications of the CUSMA to ensure its environmental impacts are understood.

Video: “Glyphosate – Strategic Briefing for Lawyers and Activists”


Videos and presentations of CELA’s glyphosate events now online

In late January, CELA and Friends of the Earth hosted two events in Toronto to hear from Michael Baum and Brent Wisner, the California-based attorneys who represented school groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson in his case against Monsanto (now Bayer). CELA Counsel Joe Castrilli provided a Canadian take on the case and participants also heard about glyphosate health concerns from Dr. Meg Sears. The Strategic Briefing for Lawyers and Activists video is available on CELA’s YouTube channel, and slide decks from Michael BaumJoe Castrilli, and Dr. Meg Sears are available. Castrilli’s comments are also available in this article originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.

CELA defends Clean Water Act

Earlier this month, CELA special projects counsel for Healthy Great Lakes, Dr. Anastasia Lintner, delivered a presentation at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She explored the different ways Bill 66 could alter land-planning policies that ultimately affect the city’s environmental and sustainability initiatives. Dr. Lintner also presented to Kingston City Council on February 5, and the council voted in favour of urging the province not to proceed with schedule 5 (which proposes to end the application of the Toxic Reduction Act in two years) and Schedule 10 which would have provided for “open for business planning by-laws” to the detriment of the Clean Water Act and the Greenbelt among others. The province has now said that it will remove Schedule 10 from the Bill when it resumes consideration of Bill 66.

Protecting species at risk – a public workshop in North Bay, Ontario

In response to a March 4 deadline for comments on the province’s 10th year review of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise recently delivered a public legal seminar in North Bay, Ontario. Her seminar explained how citizens could engage their environmental rights, under the historic Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, and outlined key recommendations citizens could draw upon in their comments to the province for the ESA review. The recommendations included prioritizing species protection and recovery, as currently provided for in the ESA; removing exemptions from industry and development from the ESA’s prohibitions of harming and killing at-risk species and their habitat; enhancing transparency and accountability of mitigation plans and reporting; and investing in effective on-the-ground oversight and enforcement.

Radon law and policy webinar for CARST members

Members of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST) held a webinar to hear a summary of CELA’s updated research about best practices in radon law and policy, and recommendations for Canada’s federal and provincial governments. The webinar slide deck is available online alongside the detailed report prepared by CELA last year in collaboration with CAREX Canada.

On the CELA blog


Photo: Ontario Legislature by abdallahh/Flickr

Bill 57 passes legislature

The Ontario government recently passed Bill 57 (Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act, 2018), which is omnibus legislation intended to implement the government’s 2018 Fall Economic Statement. However, Bill 57 wholly eliminated the Office of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO). CELA’s Richard Lindgren explains the importance of the ECO. (This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily website published by LexisNexis Canada Inc.)

Pesticides and products liability: American success, Canadian challenge

In August 2018, a verdict of a California jury in Johnson v. Monsanto found Monsanto liable to a groundskeeper who said the company’s weedkiller with the active ingredient glyphosate, caused his cancer. The jury awarded Mr. Johnson US $289-million in damages, later reduced to US $78-million by the judge on an appeal by the company. CELA counsel Joe Castrilli looks at the important lessons the Johnson case has for Canada.

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Environmental Bill of Rights

On February 15, 1994, Ontario’s ground-breaking Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed into force by the provincial government. CELA counsel Richard Lindgren weighs in on the significance of what the legislation means to Ontario and where it could be heading in the future.

Faces of CELA: Sara Desmarais


This month we caught up with Sara Desmarais, a four-month placement student from Lakehead’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law to learn more about her. Sara comes to CELA via Lakehead’s Integrated Practice Curriculum’s placement program.

So what do you do at CELA?

I am mostly conducting legal research for lawyers, drafting legal documents, assisting with summary advice to individuals/groups, and assisting lawyers and staff with any other projects like law reform. I recently assisted Jacqueline Wilson and Kerrie Blaise to provide comments on the initial Environmental Assessment of the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (the new NAFTA). It has also been really exciting to be helping CELA’s lawyers prepare for the Carbon Pricing Reference cases in Saskatchewan and Ontario.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?

I basically grew up in the woods as a child, being part of Scouts Canada for 9 years. Being involved in Scouting as a child really kindled my love for nature and the environment, and taught me principles of stewardship. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that would protect the environment and so I attended Trent University for a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. Becoming an environmental lawyer had crossed my mind, but it was the environmental law courses taught by CELA’s own Rick Lindgren that affirmed that environmental law was the path I needed to take.

What’s the most rewarding part of being part of CELA?

Sorry to sound cheesy, but to work with CELA has been my dream, so this placement is a dream come true! I get to work on really interesting projects and files, and I feel like I am putting my time and energy into projects that actually make a difference for people and the planet. Being a part of CELA fills me with hope. It is reassuring to be a part of a team that is so dedicated to protecting the health of the public, and the environment. Being surrounded by the knowledgeable and approachable individuals of CELA, I am gaining valuable skills and insight that will help me to become an advocate for environmental justice.

What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today?

Unsurprisingly, Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today is climate change. The impacts are already here, with more frequent and severe weather events, the spread of invasive species, and with First Nation communities experiencing the brunt of climate change’s impacts on the land and water. We can no longer ignore the human-caused impacts of climate change. While it is an issue that transcends borders, this does not mean that Canada should sit idle; we have an obligation to the species of this planet, and to future generations to step up and take responsibility for our mistakes.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

As a society we need to be less dependent upon non-renewable energy, and need to make renewable energy supplies more mainstream. We need strong policies and laws in place to limit the greenhouse gas emissions of heavy polluters. We need more sustainable farming practices and less industrial-scale farming practices.

If you were the Leader of the World, what environmental law would you implement?

I would pass a law guaranteeing the right to a healthy environment, with this right extending non-human beings. It would probably resemble something like the Ontario Bill of Rights. In regards of project approvals, this law would apply the precautionary principle to protect the health of people and the planet from uncertain hazardous outcomes. And echoing the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this law would require free, prior informed consent from indigenous communities before a project can move forward, since environmental injustices tend to be thrust upon indigenous communities with close ties to the land.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

I love going on hikes with my fiancé, and I especially love exploring conservation areas. In Thunder Bay, there is only one conservation area left on my bucket list! I also enjoy taking my camera on my hikes to take nature photos. I try to take advantage of being outdoors and appreciate the diversity of the Canadian landscape. I also love going to antique shops and flea markets looking for vintage tea cups!