July 2016 Bulletin

Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

CELA’s Joe Castrilli and Fe de Leon have made several important submissions to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on its review of CEPA. Initial testimony presented in May 2016 was followed by another detailed presentation – CEPA: Lessons in the Regulation of Chemicals – and accompanying speaking notes. This work resulted in Committee requests for more information in numerous areas including environmental justice, assessment triggers for new and existing substances, clarifying and improving information-gathering authority under the National Pollutant Release Inventory, the application of risk assessment vs. hazard assessment, requiring substitution of non-chemical alternatives as support for pollution prevention, improving risk management measures for products, improving the role of the public in CEPA enforcement, among others. Mr. Castrilli and Ms. de Leon provided extensive follow-up as well as a response to chemical industry comments to the committee, and another submission on the issue of alternatives assessment.

CELA’s interventions have made a strong impression. For example, using federal government pollution release and transfer data, Mr. Castrilli and Ms. de Leon demonstrated important shortcomings in the law including showing dramatic increases in emissions of “CEPA-toxic” substances in the years since these chemicals have supposedly been assessed and regulated under CEPA. See our CEPA Review collection to review the full suite of materials prepared in response to this important legislative review process. The Standing Committee expects to resume its review of CEPA in late September 2016.

CELA comments on federal CEAA review

The federal government is currently ramping up the highly anticipated review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA). This controversial Act was passed as part of omnibus legislation by the previous government, and is intended to assess the environmental acceptability of major projects, such as mines, pipelines, oilsands development and nuclear power plants. However, individuals, environmental groups, and indigenous communities across Canada have identified procedural problems and substantive flaws in CEAA 2012 which need to be rectified. The current government has recently solicited public input on the proposed Terms of Reference for the Expert Panel that will conduct the CEAA Review, and CELA’s comments outline the need to broaden the scope of the review.


Raising concerns about the Deep Geologic Repository project

As a member of Nuclear Waste Watch, CELA joined dozens of public interest organizations to explain inconsistencies in the way the Ontario Power Generation (OPG) responded to federal regulations. We warned that OPG appears to be sidestepping public safety regulations with its project proposal for a Deep Geologic Repository for radioactive waste.

Request for extension on EPA’s Drinking Water guide

CELA joined several organizations in asking the U.S. EPA to extend the public comment period on the Draft Protective Action Guide (PAG) for Drinking Water After a Radiological Incident for 120 days beyond its July 25 deadline. We need to consider the proposed regulations are strict enough to ensure they protect the public.

Tribunal allows Brant Citizens’ group leave to appeal

Concerned Citizens of Brant, represented by CELA lawyers, have been granted leave to appeal certain conditions of both a water-taking permit and an environmental compliance approval issued by the provincial environment ministry to an aggregate company in Paris, Ontario. The group has also successfully resisted a government attempt to get the Environmental Review Tribunal to reconsider its decision granting leave.


 CELA’s Sarah Miller receives Toronto Board of Health award

The Toronto Board of Health (BOH) recognized retired CELA researcher Sarah Miller as a Public Health Champion for 2016. The BOH said Ms. Miller had shown incredible leadership and dedication through her research and activism with CELA and the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition’s Environmental and Occupational Working Group. Ms. Miller’s work led to the creation of Toronto Public Health’s ChemTRAC program which collects yearly data on 25 priority substances. Her efforts have raised public awareness of environmental contaminants and will have a lasting influence on public health policy. (Photo Courtesy of Toronto Public Health)

CELA urges a comprehensive asbestos ban

In a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, CELA outlined our concerns that the current regulatory framework in Canada is wholly inadequate to ensure public safety from asbestos use throughout its lifecycle. We urged the Prime Minister to take immediate steps towards an asbestos ban by prohibiting the use of the substance in products under the Canadian Environment Protection Act (CEPA) and to require all facilities which handle it to report under the program.

CELA Represents Citizens’ Group in Pit/Quarry Battle

CELA has been retained by POWR MAG (Protectors of Wetlands and River Magnetawan) in relation to the proposed establishment of a new quarry (and proposed expansion of an existing pit) alongside the Magnetawan River in the Township of Perry. Under the Planning Act, the proponent has appealed the Township’s refusal to grant rezoning for the proposal, and has also applied for licensing under the Aggregate Resources Act. It is anticipated that the Ontario Municipal Board will hold a pre-hearing conference in November.


Remembering Ursula Franklin

CELA staff and board members are saddened to hear of Ursula Franklin’s passing. Dr. Franklin was a notable scientist, feminist, Quaker, pacifist and fellow activist. Towards the end of her own life, the late Michelle Swenarchuk, past Executive Director and Counsel at CELA, helped Dr. Franklin compile The Ursula Franklin Reader: Pacifism as a Map, (published by Between the Lines).

Ms. Swenarchuk wrote an introduction to this collection of talks and essays that document an incredible life’s work. Many of CELA’s staff and board members benefitted from Dr. Franklin’s wisdom and encouragement as we pursued our work.

“Ursula Franklin took a deep and abiding interest in the work of CELA over the years. She expressed to me how important our work was in ensuring environmental protection. She was a close ally of Dr. Rosalie Bertell and I consider both of them to be among my most important heroes and role models,” said CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan. Read more about Dr. Franklin in the Toronto Star obituary and at the University of Toronto In Memoriam.


Faces of CELA

This month we caught up with CELA’s Student-At-Law Chris Rapson to learn why he joined our legal aid clinic and his plans for the future.

So what do you do at CELA?

I completed my Law Practice Program work placement at CELA from January to June 2016. I provided legal research for law reform and litigation files, and assisted CELA counsel.

What brought you to CELA?

After helping to elect Elizabeth May in 2011, I attended law school at the University of New Brunswick. My legal education included clinical programs in Aboriginal law at Osgoode Hall and in environmental law at the University of Victoria. Committed to building a career in these areas, I enrolled in the Law Practice Program in 2015, which led to my work placement at CELA.

Why did you get involved in environmental law?

My previous education in philosophy, environmental studies, and international development, as well as my significant involvement with the Green Party of Canada, inspired me to work in environmental law.

What’s an important environmental regulation you’d like to see in Canada?

I would like to see Canada adopt strong environmental regulations related to a comprehensive national energy strategy that would facilitate a bold transition to a renewable energy economy. More immediately, I would like to see Canada adopt strong environmental regulations and pricing related to water withdrawals, especially for the rapidly developing hydro-fracking industry. I worked on this pressing issue at the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre. In my view, addressing climate change and protecting our waters are among the most important environmental issues in Canada.

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

When not busy working, I enjoy running, camping, and softball. I also enjoy seeing live music, playing guitar and cheering for the Blue Jays.