Advancing Environmental Rights & Equity – Reflections on World Environment Day

In recognition of World Environment Day earlier this month, CELA reflected on the state of environmental justice in Canada. There are a number of critical pieces of legislation on the federal order paper right now, and CELA is concerned they may stall or be lost entirely as Parliament pauses for summer break.

First and foremost, Bill C-230, an Act respecting the development of a national strategy to redress environmental racism – this bill is a recognition of environmental racism in Canada and provides the mechanism to create a national strategy that addresses that racism. While CELA has some concerns about the bill – overall it lacks teeth, and we’d like to see the timelines shortened, the addition of definitions of key terms, and the inclusion of quantitative benchmarks – this is a critical first step for Canada, as we lag behind many other countries on this issue. 

Also in play right now is Bill C-28, an Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).  CEPA provides the legislative framework for protecting human health and the environment from toxic substances. CELA has long advocated for strengthening CEPA, including through the recognition of a right to a healthy environment, and remedies to effectuate that right.

Lastly, Bill C-12, an Act respecting transparency and accountability in Canada’s efforts to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, was amended and given Third Reading by the House of Commons in late June 2021, and it has now been referred to the Senate. In our view, the Senate should prioritize the speedy passage of Bill C-12 so that the Bill can be fully implemented at the earliest possible opportunity.

As Parliament heads into summer recess, we hope to see these critical pieces of legislation picked up on the fall agenda, and that these issues get the sustained attention and resources needed to advance environmental rights and equity.

Case Updates

Federal Court Case Defending Health of Children, Community from Nuclear Fuel Plant Moves Forward

In June, CELA filed a lengthy record on behalf of our client, the Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhood (CAR Neighbourhoods), in Federal Court arguing Canada’s nuclear safety regulator unlawfully issued a licence to nuclear fuel manufactured BWXT Nuclear Energy Canada Inc. in Peterborough. 

This challenge comes in response to a December 2020 decision of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, which authorized BWXT to transfer the production of uranium dioxide fuel pellets for use in nuclear power reactor fuel bundles from its Toronto facility to its Peterborough facility.  CARN is particularly concerned about the proximity of BWXT’s Peterborough facility to an elementary school and impacts to vulnerable populations, including children. In arguing that the CNSC failed to uphold the safeguards in the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its obligations to implement international law, CARN is asking the Federal Court to declare CNSC’s issuance of a licence permitting pelleting in Peterborough to be unlawful.  A hearing date has not yet been set.

Law Reform Updates

CELA Brief on Federal Study on Freshwater

CELA recently responded to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s study on freshwater, which examined federal policies and legislation relating to freshwater.  CELA’s brief identified several gaps where the federal government can make improvements, including taking a leadership role in building a pan-Canadian approach to freshwater, addressing the severe gap in historical federal management of safe drinking water on First Nations reserves, implementing more stringent policies to address toxic substances, and developing a pan-Canadian strategy to protect watersheds across Canada.  CELA law student Eneria Mucaj, lead author of CELA’s brief, penned a blog discussing the context and substance of our recommendations.

Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan

Long-Overdue Update to Radioactive Waste Policy

CELA recently submitted comments in response to Canada’s long-overdue update of its radioactive waste policy.  The submission calls on Canada to include the following in its new policy:
  • build independence into the oversight of nuclear matters through the establishment of an independent agency,
  • adopt a “no abandonment” principle for nuclear waste,
  • emphasize real engagement with impacted communities, particularly Indigenous communities whose constitutional rights are at stake,
  • include a prohibition on importing nuclear waste, and
  • include a prohibition on the reprocessing of nuclear waste.
CELA also endorsed the submission made by Nuclear Waste Watch, of which CELA is a steering committee member.

Update on Implementing Changes to Ontario’s Conservation Authorities Act

CELA recently partnered with WCS Canada, Ontario Nature and Environmental Defence on a submission regarding the proposed phase 1 regulations for implementing changes to the Conservation Authorities Act.  

CELA remains dismayed that the Ontario government is limiting the role and responsibilities of conservation authorities. That said, it is crucial that we also actively participate in on-going decision-making regarding the implementing regulations. Read more about how the legal framework for conservation authorities is shifting in Anastasia Lintner’s earlier blog here.  

Photo Credit – Kathleen Cooper

New Blue Box Program Puts Business Interests Ahead of Protecting the Environment

Earlier this month, the Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks announced changes to Ontario’s Blue Box recycling program. Unfortunately, this long-awaited shift towards producer responsibility for Blue Box recycling of paper, metal and plastic from municipalities to the businesses who make, use and sell packaging will do little to promote innovation in product design and reduce plastic pollution. Known as “extended producer responsibility,” the announcement signals that the new rules are light on measures to reduce designated materials particularly plastics that end up in landfills, incinerators and the natural environment.  Read the full media release here.

CELA Recommends Strengthening Canadian Environmental Protection Act

CELA and other environmental NGOs sent a letter addressed to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and selected MPs (including members of the House Of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development) with recommendations for strengthening Bill C-28 (An Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act).  Read the full letter here.

Spotlight on CELA’s Students

CELA is Hiring a 2022-2023 Articling Student!

Are you interested in an articling opportunity in environmental, administrative law, and social justice? CELA is hiring now for a 2022 – 2023 Articling Student.  Please visit our Articling at CELA page here for details. The deadline for applicationis July 9, 2021, at 5:00 PM EST

Faces of CELA

CELA couldn’t do it without our students – the talented roster of law students, articling students, and communications interns who make our work possible.  This month we’re profiling Kanisha Acharya-PatelSara Shams and Amanda McAleer – stay tuned for more profiles in July!  

CELA students Kanisha Acharya-Patel, Amanda McAleer, and Sara Shams

Webinars

Meeting about the 2021 Canada-Ontario Agreement

CELA, Environmental Defence and the Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network are hosting an online meeting to discuss the 9th Canada-Ontario Agreement on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health. We’ll talk about what we asked for in our submissions in 2019, what recommendations were included in the 2021 agreement, and discuss possible next steps.
The meeting will take place on Wednesday, July 7th from 1:00-2:30pm ET.  Registration is required.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Perspectives on Bill C-28 and the Proposed Changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

The Canadian Environmental Law Association and Nature Canada invite you to a webinar on Thursday July 8, 2021 at 1 :00 p.m Eastern Time (length 1 hr 15 mins)  

Registration is required

The federal government released Bill C-28 (the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act) on April 13, 2021 proposing amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Bill C-28 represents the first time changes to CEPA will be considered in over 20 years. As Canada continues to see increasing impacts to the environment and to the health of Canadians from toxic substances and genetically engineered organisms, the introduction of Bill C-28 represents a unique opportunity to assess the changes needed to CEPA to address current and future challenges related to toxic substances, genetically engineered organisms and access to public engagement in legislations.

Correction

We regret having made an error in our May 2021 article on the anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.  Our wording did not correctly convey the causes of death.  According to the World Nuclear Association, there were 2,313 deaths of evacuees from the Fukushima Daiicchi nuclear accident.  There were also 19,500 from the earthquake and tsunami.  There were no deaths attributed to radiation exposure.

Share this: