World Water Day Highlights the Need for Water Justice

As we look ahead to World Water Day on March 22, we reflect on the very real water inequities in our own backyard – from rural communities without protected drinking water sources to First Nations communities struggling with reliable access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water.

World Water Day in 2018 marked the beginning of the United Nations’ Water Action Decade; a recognition of the growing challenges surrounding clean water access, particularly in a changing climate with pressures from population growth and increased urbanization. It highlights the importance of water for the eradication of hunger, poverty and poor health. It also highlights the need for integrated water management. These concerns are equally relevant within Canada as elsewhere in the world. We can’t take access to clean, safe and affordable water for granted.

Read the full blog post reflecting on water inequities in Ontario, the millions of people whose drinking water sources still don’t have proper protection, and CELA’s continued call for the expansion of the Clean Water Act.

Photo Credit, Theresa McClenaghan

Just Because We Can’t See It…

We’ve known for a long time that exposure to lead can have serious health consequences, especially for fetuses and young children. Although there is widespread recognition of the health impacts of lead, we’re not doing nearly enough to address it.  CELA Counsel Jacqueline Wilson blogs about the dangers of lead exposure, and CELA’s call to action to remove lead from Ontario’s drinking water.

Launch of Water Conversations

The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and Environmental Defence are thrilled to announce the launch of “Water Conversations.”  Taking place once a quarter for two hours, these in-depth discussions will provide water champions a chance to share their expertise, learn from others, and determine the best path forward for actions needed to ensure healthy waters.

Prior to each Water Conversation, we’ll canvass your ideas on topics through a brief survey.  We’ll then review the list of ideas and identify 1-2 topics to bring forward to the conversation.  We will share an agenda with you, as well as resources or materials that you’ll need to review ahead of time so we can best use our time together. These sessions will not be recorded for public sharing, so please plan to join us in person if that session’s topics are of particular interest to you.

Our first “Water Conversation” will take place on Wednesday, March 24th from 10am-12pmET, so please hold that date in your calendar. An event page has been created on CELA’s website, which we encourage you to share with your networks. If you’re interested in learning more about these conversations, and receiving updates, surveys, and invitations, please fill out this short form.

Speak Up on How and Where to Protect Ontario’s Greenbelt

Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing is seeking feedback on ways to grow the size of the Greenbelt.  This is an important opportunity for communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region to alert Ontario and local governments about the importance of maintaining, restoring, and improving natural areas, waters, and farmlands.

You know your community best – we encourage you to speak up for what areas in your community need to be protected through Greenbelt expansion in order to ensure prosperous, resilient, complete communities for the future. CELA may be able to help. Do you need a webinar facilitated in your community with background about the Greenbelt and local context? Do you need other types of support? Reach out to us by filling out this short form and check our website for updates as we roll out additional materials.

Photo Credit, Pelly Shaw

ACTION ALERT – Call for Moratorium in the Ring of Fire to Protect Watersheds and Indigenous Rights

ᑭᒋ ᐅᑕᓇᑫᐸᑭᐧᑕᓂᐧᐊᐠ ᒧᓇᐃᑫᐧᐃ ᐊᑐᐢᑫᐧᐃᐣ ᕆᐣᐠ ᐊᑊ ᐸᔭᕐ ᐁᒪᓇᒋᑕᓂᐧᐊᑭ ᓯᐱᔭ ᓀᐢᑕ ᐃᓂᓂᐧᐊᐠ ᐅᑌᐸᑫᓂᑕᑯᓯᐧᐃᓂᐧᐊᐤ᙮ In response to Canada and Ontario’s continued push for resource development in the Ring of Fire, CELA, joined by other leading Indigenous and environmental organizations sent a letter to the Prime Minister, Premier of Ontario, and Ministers of Environment asking for an immediate moratorium in the Ring of Fire. This letter was drafted in collaboration with Indigenous community organizers, including our client the Friends of the Attawapiskat River, in recognition of our shared duty to uphold and respect inherent Indigenous and treaty rights. We now invite you to join us and take action, as we call on Canada and Ontario to honour and protect inherent Indigenous and treaty rights, and to take immediate actions to address the urgent health, housing, and water crises facing communities. Mining interests cannot continue to be prioritized over the health, lands, and natural laws of Indigenous peoples.

Casework Profile – Mining Justice & Indigenous Rights

CELA represents the Friends of the Attawapiskat River in their actions to amplify the voice of Indigenous community members living downstream of the proposed Ring of Fire mineral development.

The Friends are an Indigenous, community-led organization comprised of community members, elders and youth from Attawapiskat and surrounding communities, including Neskantaga, Peawanuck, Kashechewan and Fort Albany First Nations. 

The Friends were formed in response to concerns that the communities living downstream of anticipated development in Ontario’s Ring of Fire did not have adequate access to information and their concerns were not being meaningfully considered in consultation processes.  Read more about CELA’s work with the Friends of the Attawapiskat River on this casework profile page.

Lake Lauzon – Photo Credit, Kerrie Blaise

Successfully Navigating Stormy Seas 

This year looked a little different for CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes program.  While the pandemic restrictions presented real challenges to our usual in-person approach to strategy sessions and workshops, water champions across Ontario stepped up. We hosted more than a dozen webinars that reached over 9,500 people.  Together, we responded to many government proposals, prepared submissions, and advanced law reform efforts. Read the full year-in-review, including a deeper dive into some key areas of work, on our blog.

Constitutional Reference on Impact Assessment Act

In late February 2021, the Alberta Court of Appeal heard legal arguments by numerous parties and intervenors on whether the federal Impact Assessment Act is constitutionally valid. CELA and two clients intervened in support of this important legislation, which applies to major projects in Ontario (e.g. mines, pipelines, etc.), and can safeguard vulnerable persons and disadvantaged, racialized and Indigenous communities from being disproportionately impacted by such projects. It is anticipated that the Court’s opinion will be released later this year.

Gary Pritchard – A Bridge Between Two Worlds

It wasn’t until Ecologist Gary Pritchard was 34 that he got his Indigenous name. Standing on the gentle green shores of Eagle Lake, during a shaking tent ceremony, which is an Anishinaabe healing ceremony, Pritchard was given the name Giniw, meaning ‘golden eagle.’ One of Giniw’s elders, a Metis woman from Peterborough, also gave Pritchard this name. Without knowing this, the elders at the ceremony chose to call him Giniw as well. “Part of my healing journey, they said, was to be named,” reflected Pritchard.

Read the rest of Pelly Shaw’s profile of Gary Pritchard on our blog.

Photo Credit, Gary Pritchard

Algonquin First Nations Call Out Canada for Stalling on Indigenous Rights

On behalf of the Kebaowek First Nation, CELA’s Kerrie Blaise wrote to Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson requesting that the government immediately adjust the Impact Assessment Act so that Indigenous governing bodies can play a greater role in federal impact assessments. Indigenous governing bodies must be designated as ‘jurisdictions’ under the Act in order for them to exercise more advisory power. Read more here.

Water Management Framework Submission

In response to the proposed updates to Ontario’s water quantity management standards, CELA recommended to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks that they conduct a full public review of Ontario’s water policy framework. Read more here.

Friends of Simcoe Forest Challenges Waste Processing Complex in Court

The Friends of Simcoe Forests Inc. (FSF) filed an application for judicial review last fall, seeking to overturn a decision by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). FSF is opposing the establishment of a waste processing complex in the Freele County Forest. Prior to the commencement of a hearing, LPAT struck out certain issues in FSF’s Issues List, including issues related to the applicability of the 2019 Growth Plan, which is central to FSF’s appeal. The LPAT relied on a Transitional Regulation that was enacted by the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. FSF is challenging LPAT’s decision as well as the Minister’s decision to enact the Transitional Regulation. The Divisional Court has scheduled the matter to be heard on April 26 and 27, 2021.

Borer’s Falls, Dundas Valley – Photo Credit, Breanne Finnigan

Collaborating on Carcinogens

CELA partners with CAREX Canada (CARcinogen EXposure) to share our respective policy and research expertise on carcinogens in the environment and the workplace. A recent  blog highlights our work on radon and asbestos and describes opportunities to engage with CAREX.

Advocacy to Add “Plastics Manufactured Items” to Canadian Environmental Protection Act

CELA along with 29 other organizations wrote to Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Jonathan Wilkinson and Minister of Health Patty Hajdu requesting that manufactured plastics be added to the official list of toxic substances, Schedule 1 in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The change, said CELA, would demonstrate a strong legislative stance on plastic pollution, which is a serious problem in Canada. Read more here.

100 Groups Demand Transparency in Canada’s Review of Radioactive Waste Policy and Waste Management Strategies

CELA, Northwatch and Greenpeace wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan, expressing deep concern over the recently announced review of Canada’s nuclear waste policies, and requesting transparency. Particularly, they wrote, it is worrisome that the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, which is a conglomerate of nuclear power generators, be given a leading role in conducting this review. Read more here.
Kingsford Lake – Photo Credit, Bo Wandschneider &nbsp

Webinars & Learning Opportunities

Indigenous Ways of Knowing – Webinar Series

CELA was honoured to be host another webinar series with Gary Pritchard earlier this winter.  Over the course of three fascinating presentations, Gary spoke to us about Indigenous place making and ethical space, conservation strategies and decolonizing ecology.  The recordings are available here.
Has Ontario Abandoned Integrated Watershed Planning? Anastasia Lintner, Special Projects Counsel, Healthy Great Lakes will be presenting with Dr. Anne Bell of Ontario Nature at a webinar hosted by the Canadian Society of Environmental Biologists on March 16, 2021.  Their talk will be about the “Legal and Environmental Significance of Changes to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities”. The event is free, registration is required.