July 2023 Bulletin

Rising Temperatures Disproportionally Impact Vulnerable Communities

As summer temperatures continue to rise, calls for protection for vulnerable communities are increasing.

The climate crisis is also a public health and equity crisis, as low-income people in Canada are least responsible for the devastating impacts of climate change but are most impacted by them.

CELA has been developing resources with an equity lens to help municipalities address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities.

One report, co-authored by CELA, the Low Income Energy Network (LIEN), and the Advocacy Center for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), focuses on extreme heat and rental housing. It provides draft language for a maximum heat municipal bylaw, which would require landlords to maintain a maximum temperature of 26°C in rental units. The recommendation accounts for the worsening climate crisis and the disproportionate impact of extreme heat on vulnerable populations including the elderly, those with chronic illnesses and mobility challenges, and those that are socially and materially disadvantaged.

CELA and LIEN also recently released a report on the availability of cooling devices as a discretionary benefit for recipients of Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program.

An important part of the conversation about extreme heat involves migrant workers, an often overlooked but indispensable part of Canada’s workforce. Agricultural workers regularly deal with extreme heat exposure both in their workplaces and their accommodations. Although Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Employment Standards Act apply, migrant workers face well-documented, intersecting challenges to legal enforcement of their rights, such as their precarious immigration status, the type of work they do, social and cultural factors, as well as the policy and legal framework in Ontario.

Case Updates

Families from Elliot Lake take Nuclear Regulator to Court 

CELA and Blaise Law have served the federal government with an application for judicial review of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) recent decision that denies a group of families’ request for clean up of radioactive uranium mine waste rock found beneath their homes in Elliot Lake, Ontario.

The families are seeking an order from the court, declaring a recent CNSC’s decision unlawful and unreasonable. The decision from the court will be key in ensuring Canada’s nuclear regulator upholds its statutory duty to protect human health and the environment from nuclear substances – including in instances of legacy waste and where nuclear substances have been moved off of licensed, uranium mine sites.


Hearings Continue for proposed Near Surface Disposal Facility at Chalk River

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is holding its final day of hearings on August 10, 2023 regarding the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories proposal for a Near Surface Disposal Facility at its Chalk River site. CELA has been involved in this case since 2016, and provided written and oral submissions during the 2022 hearings (which took place from May 30 to June 3).  Following those hearings, the deadline for comments was extended to allow for more consultation with Indigenous communities. If interested, the link to watch the August 10 hearing is here.

More information about CELA’s work on this issue over the years, as well as a series of blogs we wrote during the 2022 hearings, can be found on our website here.

Law Reform Updates

Air Quality Issues in Ontario

Continuing CELA’s efforts in air quality regulation reform, we have made several submissions in July about air quality issues in Ontario.

CELA recently sent a letter requesting that the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks’ David Piccini, use his authority under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993, and provide additional notice and comment and enhanced public participation opportunities in relation to applications and renewals of site-specific standards.

CELA has also submitted comments in response to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ proposal for a technical standard for the carbon black sector (ERO number 019-6492). The proposed technical standard would exempt two carbon black facilities, Cabot Canada Ltd. in Sarnia and Birla Carbon in Hamilton, from complying with the updated SO2 provincial air standards that took effect on July 1, 2023.

CELA and Environment Hamilton jointly submitted a letter to Ontario Premier Ford to express concerns about air quality in Hamilton. A recent study found that Hamilton’s concentrations of benzo(a)pyrene exceed Ontario’s provincial air standards. We requested a meeting with the Premier’s office to discuss ways to improve Ontario’s air quality regulation.

More information about air quality issues in Ontario can be found on our website. If you’re concerned about air quality issues in your community or are aware of an application for a new standard, please get in touch with us at info@cela.ca.

Environmental Justice a Key Pillar in National Adaptation Strategy

Last month, the Government of Canada released the final version of the National Adaptation Strategy. The Strategy is Canada’s blueprint for reducing risks associated with climate change and CELA is pleased to see acknowledgment of environmental justice as a key pillar. This blog post explores how the recommendations made by CELA in July of 2022 have, or have not, been incorporated in the final release. CELA is committed to ensuring that plans to adapt to the climate crisis focus on the communities most impacted.

CELA response to Draft State of PFAS (known as the "Forever Chemicals") Report and Proposed Management Measures

CELA, alongside 30 environmental and health non-government organizations, submitted comments and recommendations in response to the draft State of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Report, released for public comment by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada. The full submission is available here.

Inside CELA

Welcome Tom and Lijing!

At CELA’s Annual General Meeting in June, we welcomed two new members to the CELA board of directors. We are pleased that Tom Borg and Lijing Black are joining the board and look forward to working with them!

Welcome Lindsay!

We are pleased to welcome Lindsay Dixon as CELA’s Articling Student for 2023-2024.

Lindsay recently completed the Canadian and American Dual JD program from the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit Mercy.She participated in Detroit Mercy’s environmental and advanced environmental law clinics as well as Pro Bono Students Canada’s Trans ID Clinic. She also has experience as a caseworker at the University of Windsor’s Class Action Clinic.

Get to know more about Lindsay on her “Faces of CELA” blog.

Good-bye Zoé!

We’re sad to say goodbye to Zoé St Pierre as she finishes her 2022-2023 articling term with CELA. Zoé has been an amazing and valued part of the team, bringing passion, intelligence, and a strong work ethic to her role.

We’re thrilled that she is now a licensed lawyer in Ontario and is moving on to another position within the legal clinic system, and we look forward to working with her in her new role!

Photo collage showing articling student Zoé St. Pierre, a female Red-Winged Blackbird, and the title "We'll Miss you Zoé!"

From the Foundation

Feature from the Foundation

This month’s feature from the Canadian Environmental Law Foundation is a climate change survey from 1993. Over a dozen ENGO’s conducted a survey of decision-makers at various levels of government regarding action plans for controlling Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions. The report summarizes their findings.

Webinars & Resources

New "Making the Links" Toolkit for Southwestern Ontario

Across Canada, low-income individuals and disadvantaged communities bear the disproportionate burden of adverse health and environmental impacts from contaminants that are discharged into air, land, and water. The nexus between pollution, poverty, race, and ethnicity has prompted civil society, academics, lawyers, and non-governmental organizations to advocate for legal reforms that facilitate access to environmental justice.

CELA is pleased to present a new toolkit for Southwestern Ontario on environmental rights and public action. For more information on CELA’s toolkits, and to find a toolkit for your region, click here.

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 Canadian Environmental Law Foundation.

The Canadian Environmental Law 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