June 2020 Bulletin

Canadian Environmental Law Association
Turns 50 This Year!

Article by Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan first appeared in The Lawyer’s Daily.

1970 was an auspicious year for environmental protection.

The public was becoming aware of the devastation being caused to our natural environment from toxic chemicals like DDT, and the travesty to the community at Grassy Narrows, arising from mercury contamination of the fish and water on their traditional lands from unregulated emissions from pulp and paper mills. Read more…

Housing and the Indoor Environment:
Where Toxic Exposures can be Up Close and Personal

Authored by Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher, CELAKathy_Cooper.jpg

As we begin to emerge from nearly three months of sheltering indoors, we must remember that housing – being able to pay for it, clean it, supply it with affordable energy and clean water – is among the key challenges and social inequities revealed by the COVID pandemic.

Recent life changes indoors have ramped up use of hand sanitizers, surface disinfectants, disposable masks, and single-use plastics, unfortunately creating a big setback in addressing the plastic-dominated waste crisis.

Outdoors, there has been awe and delight at how the environment has responded to the great “human pause.” These altered indoor and outdoor realities are inseparable from the urgency of the work done by many of our sister clinics on the Colour of Poverty campaign, the Black Lives Matter awakening, and renewed calls for Indigenous justice in Canada (recalling that much Indigenous-led activism has arisen from deplorable on-reserve housing conditions). The result is now worldwide calls for a just and green recovery.

Central to all recovery plans should be affordable and safe housing for all. That safety includes ensuring environmental protection extends to the indoor environment.

Read the rest of Kathy’s blog post here

Clockwise from top left: Showy Lady Slipper Orchids (Lanark, ON), Red Trillium (Eugenia, ON), Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchids (Dyer’s Bay, ON), Red Trillium variant (Lion’s Head, ON). Photo credit, Linda Pim.

COVID-19 Related Updates

Ontario restores fundamental environmental rights law

The Canadian Environmental Law Association welcomes the government of Ontario’s decision to restore the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1994 (EBR), which had been suspended since early April.

The announcement provides a response to the letter from CELA and nearly 50 civil society organizations which raised concerns about the harmful suspension regulation and asked for its immediate repeal. Signatories noted that while emergency measures aimed at protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians during the COVID pandemic are necessary and welcomed, the suspension of the EBR was perilous because it eliminated public knowledge and accompanying rights to weigh in on environmentally significant decisions.

While the province has released a list of informational bulletins indicating the COVID-19 related matters exempt from the EBR because of the suspension regulation, further action is still needed. To respect the public’s right to know and participate, the province should retroactively disclose all proposals for laws, policies, regulations and instruments which would have been posted for comment, if not for the suspension regulation, and restart the comment period on items which are not urgent COVID-19 actions.

Photo of the Month Contest!

CELA was recently gifted a number of gorgeous photographs from our long-time friend and supporter, Linda Pim – many of her images are featured in this month’s Bulletin. Linda’s photos reminded us of the many talents of CELA supporters, and inspired us to launch a monthly photo contest.

For July, the theme will be “Your Favourite Nature Spot during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Many of us are turning to nature for escape during the pandemic restrictions, and we’d appreciate seeing your pictures of your favourite spot. It could be in your backyard, a favourite urban ravine, neighbourhood trail or any place you enjoy nature.

Send us your photo and a short caption on social media tagged with #PictureThisCELA or by email at april@cela.ca

Next month, your photo could be here…

Chapleau, Ontario. Photo Credit, Linda Pim


Forestry Sector Exemption from Endangered Species Act

The province of Ontario is considering a one-year extension to the forestry sector’s exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If granted, this would extend the forestry sector’s exemption from the prohibitions of the ESA, which provides that no person shall kill, harm or harass at-risk species nor damage or destroy their habitat. Rather than grant this extension, CELA urged the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks to reconsider its policy direction and instead, uphold the key safeguards for species at risk set out in the ESA.

Pines and black spruce near Orient Bay on Lake Nipigon. Photo Credit, Petri Bailey

Response to Smarter and Stronger Justice Act (Bill 161)

CELA is pleased with positive amendments the Legal Aid Services Act portion of Bill 161 that added promotion by clinics of access to justice and responsiveness to the needs of low-income and disadvantaged communities in Ontario. Amendments to the Class Proceedings Act did not correct areas of concern thus increasing the difficulty to certify any class actions in Ontario, particularly in relation to environmental claims.
Read more in CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan’s blog post.

Small Modular Reactor – Environmental Assessment Scope

Canada’s first ever small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) is undergoing a federal environmental assessment (EA). Global First Power in partnership with the Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. are proposing to have an operational SMR by 2023 at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Deep River, Ontario.

CELA and Dr Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security Director, Liu Institute for Global Issues at UBC, submitted comments on the scope of factors which should be included in the EA. As this proposed project also serves as a demonstration project for future SMR development, we urged the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (the EA review body for this matter) to ensure its review of the project considered proposed applications for mine sites, and use in off-grid and Far North communities.

Great Lakes Fish Health & Consumption

CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes Program is supported by a committee of advisors, including Lawrence Gunther of Blue Fish Canada. In Blue Fish’s June 14 newsletter, Lawrence takes a deep dive on the issue of fish health and fish consumption in the Great Lakes and St Lawrence basin.

flowerpot_islandFlowerpot Island, Bruce County, Ontario. Photo Credit, Linda Pim.

Faces of CELA – Diane Hwang

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I am a student volunteer with CELA through Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC). I am entering my 2nd year of law school at the University of Ottawa. I began volunteering with CELA in May and will be working on projects regarding nuclear waste. Currently, I am looking at the environmental assessment of the Near Surface Disposal Facility at Ottawa’s Chalk River. [Read more…]

A Host of Great Virtual Opportunities!

Upcoming Event – The Science and Art of Environmental Policymaking
Hosted by the Sustainability Network
Thursday, July 9, 1:00-2:00 PM ET

Cost: $20 per person
Registration required

Policymaking is both a science and an art. In this webinar, CELA Counsel Anastasia Lintner will take you through the science of policymaking by providing an overview of the Canadian policy framework, including how policy gets created within the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Anastasia will also dive into the art of policymaking through stories based on her own experiences and observations in advocating for improved and enhanced environmental protections.

Upcoming Event – Environmental Themes of Our Times Book Club
Tuesday, July 21, 7:00-8:00 PM ET
Registration required

July’s book club selection is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Widely cited as the book that sparked the modern environmental movement, Silent Spring was lyrically written while revealing shocking facts about the impacts of pesticides on the living ecosystem.

If you’ve been meaning to read Silent Spring someday, now is your chance! While we will encourage people to read the whole book, we will focus on the chapter “And no birds sing”.

Presentation – Quarrels with Quarries
CELA Counsel Ramani Nadarajah recently presented on a webinar hosted by the Wilderness Committee. She spoke about the recent legislative and policy changes governing aggregate operations in Ontario.

Recording Available – Sham Regulation of Radioactive Waste in Canada
Leading public interest organizations recently provided a bilingual briefing session for parliamentarians and the media on a suite of controversial “regulatory documents” from Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency.

Recording Available – PFAS the “Forever Chemicals” Contamination in the Great Lakes
Host John Jackson and presenters Michael Murray (NWF) and Beverley Thorpe explored the opportunities to work bi-ati to protect the Great Lakes from PFAS Contamination.

Recording Available – Pesticides Indoors – Differences in Risks, Regulation, and Necessary Precautions
All pesticide use carries risk but important differences exist in how pesticides behave indoors and in how they are regulated. Hosted by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, presenters Kathleen Cooper (CELA) and Dr Meg Sears (Prevent Cancer Now) explain these differences and the choices that exist for lower risk alternatives alongside prevention.