January 2023 Bulletin

On the Horizon

We are pleased to share our 2022 Annual Report with you. We’ve taken a new approach and we hope you enjoy reading seven feature stories that highlight interesting and important aspects of Canadian Environmental Law Association’s work over the past year.

As we wrap up 2022, we turn our minds to what’s ahead. In the coming year, Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) will continue its work to advance environmental equity, justice, and health through casework, systemic law reform, and public legal education.

March 21-22, CELA will appear as an intervenor in an important hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada that will determine the constitutional validity of the federal Impact Assessment Act. Supreme Court of Canada hearings are webcast live and details about the hearing schedule are accessible online

CELA continues to represent Grassy Narrows First Nation in a major case involving the provincial issuance of mining exploration permits. A number of the cases that CELA has been retained to work on are profiled here; you can follow along as cases are resolved and new ones are taken on. 

CELA urges the Ontario government to strengthen the drinking water framework to better protect vulnerable communities, especially children, from the detrimental health impacts of lead in our drinking water, and to extend source water protection to the hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario whose drinking water is still not sufficiently protected under the Clean Water Act.

CELA will continue to advocate for improvements to chemicals regulation to protect those who suffer the greatest health impacts and will seek the introduction of a meaningful new substantive environmental rights provision and enforcement mechanism in Canada’s main environmental protection regulation, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

We look forward to working with collaborators to roll out our Climate Change Impacts and Vulnerable Populations project, supported by law student programs, in which we advocate for better protection of vulnerable communities in Ontario from the impacts of climate change, including maximum heat by-laws in tenant units, recommendations on green roofs, rural transportation, flooding, and urban trees.

CELA’s work is enhanced through partnerships with networks such as the Low-Income Energy Network, with whom we advocate for an end to energy poverty in Ontario. We continue our leadership role of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment which advocates for strong environmental laws that are intentionally protective of children’s health. And last but not least, we will advocate for a federal Office of Environmental Equity, along with members of the Green Budget Coalition.

We look forward to engaging with you on all of these important issues, whether it’s through this newsletter, online webinars, or, increasingly this year, a return to in-person events.

Photo credit: Canva images

Case Updates

All eyes will be on the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2023 when a two-day hearing will be held to determine the constitutional validity of the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA).

This statute establishes an information-gathering and decision-making process for large-scale projects (e.g., mines, pipelines, etc.) that may adversely affect areas of federal jurisdiction (e.g., fisheries, migratory birds, etc.). CELA and two clients have intervened in this important appeal, and we recently filed a written argument that concludes the IAA is constitutionally sound.

Law Reform Updates

In the Wake of Bill 23

Last fall, the Ontario government introduced and subsequently passed Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, followed shortly thereafter by notices relating to the Greenbelt and Oak Ridges MoraineThe Act impacts 10 separate pieces of legislation and will significantly impact communities, land use planning, housing, water, and natural heritage. 

The large and complex nature of the Bill makes it challenging to understand the exact nature of its impacts – never mind tracking when those impacts will take place. CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan wrote a blog that sheds light on the confusion.

In short, not all the changes laid out in Bill 23 took effect as soon as the Bill passed. Some took effect immediately, while others were delayed. CELA prepared a chart that clarifies which is which, and if the effective date is delayed, what needs to happen before it goes into effect.

It is also possible that some sections of the Bill might never get proclaimed – if many years pass without the proclamation of a new piece of legislation, or amendment to an existing one, then that change ceases to have an effect. This sometimes happens when implementation is more complex than anticipated, or if the government realizes there are unintended consequences that need to be considered. 

All of which is to say that it is worthwhile remaining engaged on the issues you care about under Bill 23 and the related policies, and continuing to express your views, whether that be on wetlands, conservation authorities, green standards, architectural heritage, or any other aspect of Bill 23.

CELA is in the process of developing materials to help clarify how the legal and policy landscape in Ontario has and will change as a result of Bill 23 – as we develop fact sheets and presentations we’ll post them on this Bill 23 landing page.

Impacts on Wetlands

The proposed changes to the Ontario Wetland Evaluation System (“OWES”) – which were in a separate (but related) posting on the Environmental Registry – will significantly weaken wetland protections in Ontario.

Although 14,848 comments were delivered to the Ministry about the proposal, in under a month, a decision to go ahead with the changes was made. The new OWES will make it very difficult for any wetland to meet the criteria for a provincially significant wetland. The smaller remaining wetlands in Southern Ontario which are part of a complex are particularly vulnerable to re-designation.

Wetlands serve critical functions such as absorbing stormwater, reducing flooding, and producing clean water and air. The long-term damage of removing wetlands will be significant.

Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan

Entrenching Environmental Rights in 2023

CELA continues to engage in our ongoing advocacy to entrench legally enforceable environmental rights at the provincial and federal levels.

For example, CELA recently filed a detailed brief with the Law Commission of Ontario regarding the need to strengthen the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights; more detail on this submission can be found in the article below. Similarly, CELA has called upon Parliament to enact two private members’ bills: Bill C-219 (Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights) and Bill C-226 (National Strategy Respecting Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Act).

In this blog, CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren discusses these and other rights-based initiatives that are under consideration at present.

Improving Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights

The independent Law Commission of Ontario has recently solicited public comments on its consultation paper that focuses on the province’s 30-year-old Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR). Among other things, the Law Commission’s paper questions whether (and how) the EBR should be updated to establish the substantive right to a healthful environment, increase public access to the courts, recognize “rights of nature,” and incorporate the public trust doctrine to govern the Ontario government’s management of public resources.

In response to the consultation paper, CELA filed a detailed brief that outlines the statutory, regulatory, policy, and administrative reforms that are necessary to strengthen and improve the EBR regime. It is anticipated that the Law Commission’s final report and recommendations may be released by the spring of 2023.

Critical Moment for Canada’s Main Toxics Legislation as Parliamentary Committee Resumes its Review of Bill S-5

Last week three environmental groups, including CELA, issued a press release urging the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to support key recommendations from its own 2017 report as it reviews and votes on amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

In 2017 the Committee made 87 recommendations for improving CEPA. The same committee is now voting on amendments to the bill. Committee meetings resumed on January 30th. 

CELA is seeking substantive changes to the Bill including effective remedies to support the right to a healthy environment; mandatory pollution prevention plans for all CEPA toxic substances: requiring safer alternatives to chemicals; keeping the title of Schedule 1 as the List of Toxic Substances and eliminating the division of Schedule 1 into two parts.

More information on Bill S-5 and the need for CEPA reform can be found on our law reform page

Photo credit: Canva images

Inside CELA

Best Wishes Krystal-Anne!

Krystal-Anne Roussel, Counsel and Water Policy Coordinator with CELA, has secured a very exciting opportunity to work in animal law at the University of Toronto.

We will miss her a great deal and have very much valued her impeccable work, valuable insight, and passion for environmental justice. Krystal-Anne worked with CELA for two years, first as an articling student, then in the roles of Water Policy Coordinator with the Healthy Great Lakes program and Counsel. We wish her well as she embarks on new adventures!

From the Foundation

Did you know? The Canadian Environmental Law Foundation is home to the Canadian Environmental Law Collections. The Foundation maintains digital and physical collections that document the history of environmental protection across the country. Some come from CELA’s historical records. Other collections were rescued when their original online homes were shuttered. The archive reflects work by government agencies, watchdog authorities, nonprofit organizations, lawyers, and many of the country’s most influential environmental advocates.

Every month, we’ll feature an interesting document, image, or story from the collections. This month, read David Estrin’s 1973 address to the Pollution Control Association of Ontario, speaking to the need for an Environmental Bill of Rights in Ontario.

Webinars & Resources

Enregistrement: Le bien-être environmental de votre communauté – actions a entreprendre en 2023

L’enregistrement est disponible pour le webinaire « Le bien-être environnemental de votre communauté – actions à entreprendre en 2023 » présenté par l’Association canadienne du droit de l’environnement. Cette présentation souligne les liens entre l’environnement, le bien-être et la résilience climatique sur un plan local.

La présentation a offert un survol de trois enjeux environnementaux ainsi que des actions concrètes dont vous pouvez entreprendre pour assurer le bien-être pour vous, votre communauté et l’environnement. En particulier, la présentation a couvert :
– comment réduire le plomb dans l’eau potable;
– comment améliorer la qualité de l’air locale, et;
– comment mieux protéger les personnes vulnérables contre les vagues de chaleur.

Regardez l’enregistrement ici.

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.