An Eventful Year Ahead

January is a month of transition, leaving behind the old year and commencing the new. Here at Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA), we’ve been reflecting on the successes of last year, the gratitude we have for our client communities, our many diverse types of supporters, our funders, and the work in the courts and in law reform that are ahead in 2022.

We are pleased to share our recently released 2021 annual report with you.

As a legal aid clinic dedicated to environmental equity, justice and health, CELA has joined many calls for green and just recovery over the last two years.  We recognize that the pandemic has revealed many social inequities, often mirrored in the disproportionate impact on the health and environments of low-income, disadvantaged, and vulnerable communities.

2021 saw CELA involved in cases protecting drinking water and opposing air pollution, calling for better protection from lead and PFAS in drinking water, and pushing for better implementation of our environmental assessment laws. CELA’s work is amplified through your support to the CELA Foundation.

In the Courts

Only a few weeks into 2022, and our lawyers and paralegals are already busy with many important cases. On behalf of Grassy Narrows First Nation, we are challenging Ontario’s decision to issue mining exploration permits in their territory.  On behalf of Kebaowek First Nation, we are monitoring a federal impact assessment for a pipeline that could impact environmental resources and health and safety in their unceded territory.

CELA will continue to push for the protection of Indigenous rights as Canada proceeds with the Regional Assessment and impact assessments for mineral development projects in the Ring of Fire. We will continue to advocate for climate impacts to be at the forefront of environmental and impact assessments for new mining developments, including our representation of Environment North for a proposed palladium mine in the Lake Superior watershed and collaborative efforts with ENGOs to ensure a new gold mine near Kirkland Lake undergoes a full impact assessment.

On behalf of Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods, CELA is seeking a judicial review that is key to protecting vulnerable communities from environmental harm, particularly elementary school children who attend school beside the nuclear facility.  

For a more fulsome list of CELA’s cases in 2022, refer to this blog post.

Law Reform
CELA’s work on law reform seeks to change policies that disproportionally impact low-income people and disadvantaged communities, and to assist and empower those same communities to have a greater role in decision-making that affects them.

CELA will continue to advocate for better protection of vulnerable communities in Ontario from the impacts of climate change, to call for a federal Office of Environmental Equity, and to push for improvements in regulatory oversight of polluting industries and major projects that threaten the environmental health and safety of the surrounding communities

Our work on freshwater and Great Lakes includes advocating for the full implementation of Ontario’s Clean Water Act, proactively supporting the critical role of conservation authorities, and calling for Ontario’s drinking water framework to be strengthened to better protect vulnerable communities, especially children, from the detrimental impacts of lead in drinking water.

Public Legal Education
Last year CELA hosted over a dozen webinars and published numerous toolkits and resources on a variety of topics, including Indigenous and Treaty Rights, freshwater policy, toxic chemicals, and environmental assessment.  2022 will hopefully see a return to some in-person meetings, though we will continue to offer digital sessions – a number of webinars and workshops are already planned for February. We’re working on a new toolkit for 2022, specific to establishing Indigenous-led and governed Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas – a recognized means of protecting Indigenous rights, lands and biodiversity.

This is just a brief summary and snapshot of the many cases, law reform efforts, research projects, and education and outreach initiatives that CELA is undertaking in 2022, alongside many valued partners and collaborators.  For more detail on all this important work, please read the full blog post on our website.

Photo Credit  – CELA Collection

Take Action

Ring of Fire & Protecting Indigenous and Treaty Rights

CELA stands with the Friends of the Attawapiskat River in calling for the protection of inherent Indigenous rights and the waters of the Hudson and James Bay lowlands.  You can take action now – let Canada and Ontario know that developing the Ring of Fire will lead to unprecedented cumulative impacts and threaten the land that has been home to Indigenous nations since time immemorial.  Click here to send a letter now.

For more information about the Regional Assessment currently underway for the Ring of Fire, read this backgrounder prepared by CELA and the Friends of the Attawapiskat River.

Coniferous tree leaning, on a background of snow and blue sky

Photo Credit – Kerrie Blaise

Energy Efficiency for All Canadians

No Canadian household should have to choose between eating, heating, and other essentials. Yet this is an everyday reality for the more than 2.8 million Canadian households that spend a disproportionate amount on their home energy costs. There is an urgent need for the Federal Government to take a leadership position in expanding the scale and scope of low-income energy efficiency funding.

CELA and Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) have signed on to a letter written by Efficiency Canada to strongly encourage the Federal Government to include funding for energy efficiency for lower income households in the 2022 budget, and to tie this funding to the following best practices. To take part in this important campaign, click here to sign on to the open letter, ask your MP for their support, or share it on social media!

Case Updates

Specialty Clinic Coalition Intervenes in Supreme Court Appeal

In order to safeguard access to justice for low-income persons and vulnerable or disadvantaged communities, CELA joined five other specialty legal clinics in intervening in an important appeal in the Supreme Court of Canada. The appeal arises from a B.C. judgment, and focuses on the proper application of the test for granting public interest standing to groups or organizations that launch legal proceedings in relation to legislative, regulatory or administrative matters. The appeal was heard in mid-January 2022 and the Court has reserved its decision.

*Note that there was an error in the email version of the above case description that was circulated.  The above text is corrected and accurate

Community Group Receives Municipal Award
Congratulations are in order to the Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN) who recently received a Community Betterment award by the City of Peterborough for their advocacy related to uranium pelleting concerns in the city.  CELA is representing CARN in a legal challenge of a licensing decision by Canada’s nuclear safety regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). 

Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN)

Law Reform Updates

Groups Raise Concerns about Ontario’s Draft Project List Regulation

Ontario’s Environment Ministry has recently solicited public comments on its proposed regulatory list of projects that will require a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment under the amended Environmental Assessment Act.

Among other things, CELA’s review of the draft regulation revealed that too many environmentally significant projects were omitted from the proposed list. Accordingly, CELA and nine other organizations jointly submitted a letter that requests the Ministry to make various revisions to the draft regulation, including an expansion of the project types that will be subject to Part II.3 of the Act.

Tracking Heat-Related Deaths

CELA student Conrad Oliver wrote a compelling blog about the need for the Ontario coroner to track heat-related deaths in order to accurately understand extreme heat and climate change impacts on vulnerable populations.

Review of Ontario’s Great Lakes Strategy

In anticipation of Ontario’s review of the Great Lakes Strategy, CELA has submitted a letter with recommendations to the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks. CELA was an active participant in the consultations that led to the establishment of the Strategy in 2016.

SMR’s Have No Place in the Net Zero 2030 Plan 
In response to the Government of Canada’s engagement on Canada’s 2030 Emission Reduction Plan, CELA submitted a letter emphasizing that nuclear Small Modular Reactors should not be part of the path to net-zero.  Read the full letter here.

Photo Credit  – CELA Collection

Water Guidelines

CELA and Swim Drink Fish Canada recently provided comments on the draft Guidelines for Canadian Recreational Water Quality.  Contaminated recreational water quality is a significant public health and environmental issue across the country. 

It’s Raining “Forever Chemicals” Across the Great Lakes

PFAS, the “Forever Chemicals”, are not on the public radar in Canada – but they should be.  Research shows their prevalence around the Great Lakes, and that it’s a growing problem across Canada.  CELA and the Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network (TFGLBN) have released a toolkit about PFAS, including a map of PFAS contamination, and how you can learn more and reduce your exposure to these hazardous chemicals.

In a joint effort, the TFGLBN, CELA, NorthWatch, Health Environmental Justice Support and Clean Production Action submitted a petition to the Office of the Auditor General on PFAS, seeki more information on PFAS levels in Canada. The petitioners are reviewing the responses received from the federal government and will keep the public updated on this issue.  For more information, visit the law reform information page on our website.

Inside CELA

2021 Clawbies Award

If we may toot our own horns for a moment, CELA is proud to have been awarded a Clawbie Award as one of the best law blogs of 2021. The award cited our blog as examing “a remarkable range of topics through an environmental law lens, from lead in drinking water and environmental racism to energy justice and carbon pricing. Canada’s environmental challenges are daunting, but this blog reminds us there are dedicated professionals working for change”.  Thank you to the Canadian Law Blog Awards for the recognition!

Webinars & Resources

Webinar – Intervening at Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Hearings
Monday, February 7, 2022 – 6:00-7:30pm (AST)
Registration is required.

CELA and the Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick invite you to an evening workshop where the public will have an opportunity to learn about the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s intervention process.

NB Power is asking for a 25-year licence renewal for its Point Lepreau nuclear generating station. Learn more about your environmental rights and how citizens and groups can submit a written or oral ‘intervention’ at the hearing. 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.

Webinar – Environmental Rights and Participation
February 4, 2022 – 6:30-7:30pm (EST)
Registration is required.

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. In this webinar, we invite you to learn about the federal environmental assessment process and how it can be used to advance environmental justice in your community.

Drawing on the upcoming public hearing for a palladium mining project, proposed for Northern Ontario in the Lake Superior watershed, we will review the EA process and how individuals and community groups can participate.

Photo Credit  – CELA Collection

Presentation – Climate Change and the Law

CELA lawyer Rick Lindgren made a presentation about climate change litigation during a webinar held by the Canadian Association of the Club of Rome.  His presentation is available on our website.

Book Chapter – Key Developments in Environmental Law

CELA lawyers Joe Castrilli and Rick Lindgren have written chapters in the recently published Key Developments in Environmental Law 2021. Joe’s chapter addresses the Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment on the federal carbon pricing law, while Rick’s chapter summarizes the constitutional reference held by the Alberta Court of Appeal on the federal Impact Assessment Act.

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.

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