February 2022 Bulletin

Social Justice Priorities Require Federal Funding & Attention

February 20th was World Day of Social Justice, a day designated by the United Nations to “recognize the need to promote social justice, which includes efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender inequality, unemployment, human rights, and social protections”.   Canada’s federal budget for 2022 will be released this spring, and has major implications for environmental social justice issues.  It’s crucial to prioritize the protection of vulnerable communities in this budget in order to advance environmental justice. 

CELA contributed to the Green Budget Coalition budget recommendations for 2022 – in addition to suggesting ways to achieve progress on climate change and biodiversity, the recommendations outline environmental social justice issues that urgently need federal funding and attention.  Examples include modernizing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, establishing an Office of Environmental Justice and Equity, developing a national strategy to address environmental racism, eliminating funding for new, unproven nuclear reactors, continuing support for Great Lakes funding, developing a national energy poverty strategy, and protecting vulnerable communities from the disproportionate impacts of climate change.  Read the full blog discussing each of these important priorities.

Photo Credit – CELA Collection

You Believe…

Late last year, we asked you to share your “I Believe” statements with us. And did you ever speak up!  It was deeply inspiring to hear your thoughts about the importance of justice, equity and health.  You told us how strongly you believe we need clean water, clean air, and a connection with nature.  That communities need to be engaged in decision-making and that environmental policy needs to protect those most impacted by pollution.  Your words motivate us to continue our work to protect vulnerable communities and ensure their voices are heard by decision-makers.

You were also generous with your responses to our monthly giving campaign. Thank you for answering the call to become monthly donors or make one-time gifts to the CELA Foundation, and provide the stability the CELA Foundation needs to support CELA’s research and education work on environmental law and justice issues, and to train the next generation of environmental lawyers.  

Case Updates

Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods goes to Court

In March 2020, BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. was granted a 10-year licence to expand operations at its uranium fuel processing facility in Peterborough, Ontario. CELA is representing the Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN) in a legal challenge of this licensing decision by Canada’s nuclear safety regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

CARN is a Peterborough-based organization that advocates for the protection of human and environmental health from the threats of nuclear facilities. They are asking the Federal Court to strike the 10-year licence by the CNSC which permits BWXT to produce uranium fuel pellets at its facility located in downtown Peterborough, just metres from an elementary school and playground. It will be heard in Federal Court in March 2022.

Hearing Commences for Proposed Palladium Mine

This March, CELA will represent Environment North in a hearing regarding the federal environmental assessment (EA) for a proposed palladium mine in Marathon, Ontario.  This project was the topic of a recent CELA webinar about environmental justice, which showcased how individuals and community groups could participate in EA hearings.

In this matter, CELA is representing Environment North and raising concerns about the critical lack of greenhouse gas reporting and review of climate impacts in the Environmental Impact Statement. Environment North had asked the Impact Assessment Agency to pause the process until the environmental assessment demonstrates that climate change has been incorporated within the process and, at a minimum, all direct emissions have been responsibly measured and offset. The hearing is scheduled to start March 14 and the full agenda is available here

Proposed Waste Facility in Simcoe Forest

At the end of January 2022, the Ontario Land Tribunal made a disappointing decision to allow a waste disposal and transfer infrastructure project in the Freele County Forest, which is located in the key natural heritage features of the Natural Heritage System in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.

On behalf of our client, Friends of Simcoe Forests Inc., CELA has brought a Motion for Leave to Appeal the tribunal’s decision to the Ontario Divisional Court to challenge the Tribunal’s legal interpretation of the Growth Plan’s protections for natural heritage features. The Tribunal’s interpretation not only threatens the protection of the Freele County Forest, it also sets a bad precedent for potential development in other protected areas in the Natural Heritage System of the Growth Plan.

Landfill Case Heats Up Again

For over two decades, CELA has represented a client in various judicial and administrative proceedings involving a large landfill in southeastern Ontario. The partially unlined site is now closed, but landfill contaminants have moved in the groundwater flow system onto nearby properties. In the latest chapter of this saga, CELA recently filed submissions with the Environment Ministry in relation to the site owner’s proposal to reduce environmental monitoring obligations and to use purge wells that will pump contaminated groundwater to a stormwater pond that drains off-site.

Photo Credit – Rick Lindgren

Have Your Say

Public Consultation Opportunities on Important Water Policy Issues
The provincial government has initiated public consultations on three water-related planning documents. The good news is that we have the opportunity, as guaranteed by Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, to participate in the decision-making process regarding these important policy initiatives.
1)  The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) is seeking feedback on a new draft Subwatershed Planning Guide that provides information on recommended steps, approaches, and best practices for undertaking subwatershed planning in Ontario. Current provincial guidance for integrating watershed and subwatershed planning into land use planning is out of date, with the latest guidance dating back to 1993. The proposal is open for public comment until March 13, 2022.
2) The MECP has released a draft Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Guidance Manual that is meant to guide municipalities, property owners, planners, developers, and others to manage rain where it falls, reduce flooding risks, and increase resiliency to climate change. The public comment period for this proposal is open until March 28, 2022.
3) The MECP has released a Municipal Wastewater and Stormwater Management in Ontario Discussion Paper that provides an overview of wastewater and stormwater management in Ontario. While it does not include any specific policy, regulatory, or legislative proposals, the MECP is seeking public feedback on potential policy approaches for a variety of topics that may help inform potential future proposals. The discussion paper is open for public comment until March 28, 2022.

Photo Credit – Kelly Mathews

Law Reform Updates

Time to Fix Toxic Substances Law

CELA is urging the federal government to substantially improve amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).  The amendments were first introduced in April 2021 in Bill C-28 but did not proceed due to the intervening Fall 2021 election.  Earlier this month a new Bill was introduced in the Senate (Bill S-5), with largely the same amendments.  Opportunities to improve Bill S-5 are summarized in a blog prepared by CELA counsel, Joe Castrilli, and described in detail in a 45-page CELA brief recently provided to the federal ministers of environment and health.

Call for Federal Office of Environmental Justice and Equity

CELA’s Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan attended a meeting this month between leaders of the Green Budget Coalition (GBC) and  Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Finance Freeland, during which she briefed the Minister on the GBC proposal for a federal Office of Environmental Justice and Equity.  The Office would ensure that vulnerable communities receive proportionate shares of the benefits of climate, nature, energy and other environmental programs as well as avoid the undue and disproportionate adverse environmental impacts of government decision making that have so often hit those communities.  For a full copy of the GBC recommendations, click here.

Green Budget Coalition leaders meet with Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland

Ethical Investment Decisions for the Climate

78 Public Interest groups, including CELA, ­are calling on Canada’s biggest banks to drop investments in nuclear power, including so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) from their fossil-free and ESG investment portfolios.

In a recent letter, groups from across the country contend investments in SMRs will divert critical funds away from the already proven, safe, and economical alternative energy sources essential for Canada to meet our pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 40 to 45% by 2030.

Call to Action to End Plastic Pollution

Canada is the world’s second-highest user of plastic on a per person basis. Plastic production, use, and disposal contribute to climate change and cause disproportionate harm to those living next to production and disposal facilities — often low-income and vulnerable communities. CELA, along with over 50 other groups, has signed a letter calling on the Government of Canada to take action on ending plastic pollution.

2022 Budget Consultations

In response to Ontario’s 2022 Budget consultations, CELA has provided recommendations on the environment, health, climate, and equity.  Our recommendations include restored funding to Conservation Authorities, the Ministry of the Environment, and public health units, all of which have been reduced in recent years.  We also ask that the provincial government re-fund the Environment Commissioner as a separate office from the Auditor General of Ontario, and that funding be allocated to lead service line removal, energy efficiency projects for lower-income households, and to support Indigenous-led conservation and protected areas.

Significant Changes Proposed to the Aggregate Resources Act 

CELA recently submitted comments to the Province of Ontario in response to proposed regulatory changes for the “beneficial reuse of excess soil at pits and quarries in Ontario”.  CELA recommends that, in order for the public to provide meaningful comments on the substance of this proposal, it is important the precise regulatory language be included in the ERO Notice and an additional 60 days be given to the public for providing comments.  CELA also recommended the Ministry carefully consider all aspects associated with the implementation of the draft changes. CELA’s full comments can be found here.

Webinars & Resources

Join a Treaty Peoples’ Briefing on the Ring of Fire

In a final effort to gain the attention of federal environment minister Minister Guilbeault, in advance of a critical deadline for the Ring of Fire development, the Friends of the Attawapiskat River have launched a Treaty Peoples’ Briefing. This month, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is expected to approve the agreement which will inform the Regional Assessment for the Ring of Fire. CELA’s client, the Friends of the Attawapiskat River, have been calling for this process to be suspended and restarted only when there has been meaningful engagement with the Treaty 9 grassroots and communities who live downstream of the proposed mining development. In the first of a series of videos, Mike Koostachin talks about why it’s important to listen to the grassroots in Treaty 9, and why Minister Guilbeault must always make decisions with future generations in mind.

Webinar – Can Small Modular Reactors Rescue Nuclear Power? An Assessment from Canada

Presented by: The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center
March 2, 2022, 8:00pm ET
The webinar is free but please register

Last December, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canada, announced that it will work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to deploy the BWR-X, a small modular reactor (SMR) designed by GE-Hitachi, by 2028.  This is typical of the many claims these days about small modular nuclear reactors. Will SMRs be the savior of the nuclear industry, or is it just wishful thinking about nuclear power?

Webinar guests will discuss the problems associated with SMRs, regulatory and economic, as well as the challenges these pose for equity and justice. Questions from participants are welcome. 

Guest Speakers
M.V. Ramana, Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Kerrie Blaise, Northern Services Legal Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association
Moderator: Hajime Matsukubo (CNIC Bureau Chief)

Consecutive interpretation (English/Japanese) will be provided.

CELA Lawyers to Serve as Judges in National Environmental Law Moot

CELA lawyers Rick Lindgren and Ramani Nadarajah (currently seconded to the Law Commission of Ontario) will serve as volunteer judges in the Willms and Shier environmental law moot on March 4 and 5, 2022.  Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director, is a Factum Judge for the competition.  This year’s virtual moot involves student teams from law schools across Canada, and will focus on an appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2021 judgement that upheld the constitutionality of the federal carbon pricing legislation.

Webinar Recording – Intervening at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Hearings

CELA and the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick recently co-hosted a workshop for the public to learn about the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s intervention process. Intervening before the Commission is the public’s way of participating in decisions relating to the licensing of Canada’s nuclear facilities. This workshop will prepare members of the public to provide written and oral comments to the Commission for the licence renewal hearing of NB Power’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station. Originally aired on February 7, 2022.

Webinar Recording – Environmental Rights and Participation

Environmental assessment is a crucial “look before you leap” tool, allowing us to study and understand the human, social and environmental impacts of a project before development begins. This webinar explores the federal environmental assessment process and how it can be used to advance environmental justice in your community.

Drawing on the public hearing for a palladium mining project, proposed for Northern Ontario in the Lake Superior watershed, this webinar reviews the EA process and how individuals and community groups can participate.  Originally aired on February 4, 2022.

Webinar Recording – Analysis & Potential Amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Co-hosted by CELA and Nature Canada, this webinar discusses the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), Canada’s main environmental legislation. It provides legal analysis and perspectives on key amendments to CEPA outlined in Bill S-5 which was introduced in April 2021 but was stopped by the 2021 election call. Bill S-5 focuses on specific areas such as Right to a Healthy Environment and vulnerable populations, pollution prevention of toxic substances, and biotechnology products. Originally aired on February 11, 2022.

Looking for a Publication?

In addition to the search function on our website, all our publications are listed in reverse chronological order on our website here, or you can view a full list here.  Looking for an older publication?  CELA’s archives contain all of CELA’s documents up until 2017.

You might also be interested in perusing the library housed by the CELA Foundation.

The CELA Foundation website is also home to the Environmental History Program, which includes interesting projects such as Environmental Beginnings and all the publications from the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.