June 2019 Bulletin

Yellow lady slipper orchid. Photo taken at Bruce County (McGregor Point) in June 2019 (Photo: Theresa McClenaghan/CELA)

News & activities

Legal Aid Ontario funding decision for CELA

Legal Aid Ontario recently announced it will reduce CELA’s operating funding by almost 15 per cent this year and 30 per cent next year. We will continue to seek justice for those harmed by environmental pollution and advocate for better environmental policies. We are proud of our nearly 50-year history of collaborating with colleagues and partner organizations to represent those most vulnerable to environmental degradation in Ontario and across Canada. Thank you for your continued support of our work.

Bill 108 from an environmental lens

CELA counsel Jessica Karban and Joe Castrilli made a presentation and submission on how Ontario’s proposed Bill 108 would affect the Conservation Authorities Act, Endangered Species Act, Environmental Assessment Act, Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, and Planning Act. The Ontario government passed the Bill into law earlier this month.

National Housing Strategy Act receives Royal Assent

The Legal Aid Ontario specialty clinic Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) and the Right To Housing (R2H) Coalition recently helped bring the National Housing Strategy Act into law. Bill C-97, Division 19 which contains the National Housing Strategy Act, received Royal Assent and represents many years of hard work within the right to housing movement across Canada. “This is a victory for every single vulnerable person living in Canada,” says Kenn Hale, ACTO’s Director of Advocacy and Legal Services.


CELA recently hosted a meeting with the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak. The UN rapporteur met with Indigenous leaders and community members. Preliminary findings since released from the UN human rights expert found Canada’s inaction on toxic exposure to be a disturbing sign of discrimination.

Parliament passes the Impact Assessment Act

After a bumpy ride through the Senate, Bill C-69 recently received Royal Assent from Parliament. This lengthy Bill includes the Impact Assessment Act, which sets out new legislative requirements for evaluating and approving major projects that affect areas of federal jurisdiction (e.g. large mines, pipelines, oil/gas development, nuclear fuel waste facilities, etc.). It is anticipated that the new Act will be proclaimed into force once the implementing regulations—such as the controversial Project List regulation—are finalized. CELA’s Richard Lindgren provides an overview on the CELA blog.

Increasing penalties for polluters in Ontario

CELA counsel Ramani Nadarajah responded to a consultation by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) about extending administrative monetary penalties to punish polluters under the Environmental Protection Act(EPA). CELA believes the administrative penalties should not replace environmental prosecutions and recommended that the MECP establish clear guidelines on using administrative penalties instead of prosecution. We also expressed our support for the seizure of out-of-province vehicle license plates to help the Ministry enforce environmental laws and hold polluters accountable.

Strengthening Ontario’s policies on aggregate resources

CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson raised concerns in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s “A Place to Grow” survey on aggregate extraction in Ontario. Far from being “red tape” to be removed, the current provincial policy already favours aggregate extraction over other land uses. Aggregate activity also causes significant landscape and agricultural land loss, and impacts a region’s water quality and quantity. Residents in areas of aggregate activity also face social, health and economic impacts.


Great Lakes protection plan proposed to Environment and Climate Change

Canada CELA sits on the expert panel and the toxics issue table for the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Collaborative. The group recently proposed its 10 year, $100 million per year Great Lakes Action Plan 2030 to Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna. The plan consists of 15 key actions that would protect the Great Lakes for the future and focussed on public safety issues including a new approach to keeping toxic chemicals out of the Great Lakes, safer beaches, and public safety on Great Lakes shorelines impacted by climate change.

Improving the federal-provincial Great Lakes agreement

CELA joined WWF-Canada and Environmental Defence in making recommendations to strengthen the Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) Respecting the Great Lakes Ecosystem, which is currently being renegotiated by the federal and provincial governments. We called for a renewed COA that creates climate resilient communities and healthy ecosystems and includes clear targets, investments, actions, and timelines. Our recommendations to improve the protections explored issues such as resilience through habitat creation, nutrients, plastic pollution, road salt, wastewater, and toxics. Anastasia Lintner, CELA Special Projects Counsel-Healthy Great Lakes, discussed the process in this blog post.

Nuclear regulator revises approach after public expressed concerns

CELA called on the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to revoke and revise its Notice of Hearing for one of Canada’s nuclear research reactors after a short window of just 13 days was provided for public review and comment. According to the Notice, the Saskatchewan Research Council seeks to amend the operating licence of its SLOWPOKE-2 reactor to a decommissioning licence. On behalf of Northwatch, the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Cooperative and the Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County and Area, CELA alleged the CNSC’s failure to provide adequate notice breached fairness and is contrary to its governing statute, the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. This could raise issues regarding the validity of any decision related to the reactor’s licence. In response to CELA’s request for a full and fair hearing with adequate notice, the CNSC has reissued its Notice and agreed to hold a public hearing in September.


(Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Calling for political leaders to ensure clean and safe drinking water

In a binational effort, CELA joined 18 U.S. organizations in calling on the premiers of Ontario and Quebec, as well as the governors of eight states along the Great Lakes, to make commitments that would ensure clean, safe, affordable, and accessible drinking water throughout the region. Our recommendations toward a regional agreement would ensure data and monitoring, standards, best practices, affordability, reliable access, and robust investments in drinking water. The premiers and governors recently met at the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors’ and Premiers’ Leadership Summit to address lead in drinking water and perfluoroalkyl substances strategy coordination.

Accessing public information in advance of Great Lakes forums

CELA joined seven ENGOs in calling on the Canadian and U.S. governments to share status reports with the public well in advance of the forums held every three years as required by the 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Protocol. At the meetings, the parties seek public feedback on the state of the Great Lakes, the priorities for science and action, and a progress report. Although we were not able to attend the 2019 Great Lakes Public Forum that was recently held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we were not able to effectively participate because we did not have access to the latest reports.

Healthy Schools Day highlights risks of diesel bus emissions


Each year in April, Canada celebrates Healthy Schools Day to highlight and promote efforts to create healthier learning environments for children and youth. Healthy Schools Day in Canada is led by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE). This year’s efforts focused on diesel-powered buses and the associated health risks to students, teachers, parents, bus drivers, and schools’ neighbours. A recently published article explains CPCHE’s efforts to raise awareness and provide solutions. Learn more about Healthy Schools Day at the English website or French website.

New library website features Canada’s environmental history

CELA’s sister organization, the Resource Library for the Environment and the Law (RLEL), is pleased to announce the launch of its new website. The library’s unique collection, built since 1970, contains approximately 7,000 essential publications on environmental law and policy in Ontario and Canada as well as some international materials. Many of these publications and government documents can’t be found anywhere else. The new site features the Environmental History Program—a virtual library to make environmental law history and resources accessible to the public.


Winning the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (Webinar)

In a significant environmental law development by some of our neighbours on the other side of Lake Erie, earlier this year voters in Toledo, Ohio, came out in favour of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights to protect the Lake’s ecosystem. The initiative garnered international headlines and gave the ecosystem rights to exist, flourish and naturally evolve. The Canadian Freshwater Alliance recently hosted a webinar attended by CELA staff that featured the Ohio residents behind the Lake Erie initiative. The webinar is now available online.

On the CELA blog

Help from RentSafe for tenants dealing with mould


The RentSafe team has new resources to help tenants and their doctors address mould problems in poorly maintained housing. Mould is among the top indoor environmental health concerns faced by tenants, writes CELA senior researcher Kathleen Cooper. CELA and other specialty clinics have collaborated in the RentSafe project along with other partners to help make indoor air healthier and safer for tenants.

Canada’s Impact Assessment Act: A public interest perspective

After years of public consultation, partisan debate, and jurisdictional wrangling, Parliament recently gave Royal Assent to Bill C-69, writes CELA counsel Richard Lindgren. Despite mixed views about this milestone event, some environmental organizations generally welcomed the Bill’s passage. He explains why.

Declining environmental oversight in Ontario’s North

In this blog post, CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise explains how environmental oversight in the North has been jeopardized, putting at risk the sustainability of resources and at-risk species in Ontario’s North. (Originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.)

Water, Waste, Wildlife: Canada’s Environment Week 2019

Since 1971, the week of June 5 has been declared “Canadian Environment Week” to celebrate the country’s environmental accomplishments. Environment Week 2019 provides an opportunity to focus on the daunting environmental issues that confront Canada in the 21st century writes CELA counsel Richard Lindgren. (Originally published in The Lawyer’s Daily.)