The Next Generation of Environmental Advocates

An important part of CELA’s work is legal education. Thanks to the CELA Foundation’s funding, we can train and educate lawyers on important environmental case law through CELA’s articling program.

Articling students are law school graduates who are completing a 10-month period of training before being called to the bar. At CELA, the articling students deal directly with individuals seeking legal support, learn about the decision-making processes integral to CELA’s law reform activities, and are directly involved in environmental litigation.

Former students who completed their training at CELA have gone on to advocate for environmental protection at other ENGOs, other law firms, or with government ministries and tribunals in Canada and abroad. Students like Renee Griffin, who is now Executive Director at Scarborough Community Legal Services and President of CELA’s board of directors.  Read more about Renee’s experience articling at CELA here.   

By articling with CELA, students learn about the importance of the rule of law, advocating for the public interest, and appreciating the need for systemic improvements to environmental decision-making. 

We want to thank our most recent articling student, Maneka Kaur, for her amazing work and dedication over the last year. Maneka is an internationally trained lawyer whose love of environmental law started in India in 2012 when she interacted with a pioneer of environmental law activism. During her time with CELA, Maneka worked on a variety of projects, including summary advice files, freshwater policy reform, land use guidelines, and fish consumption advisory research. Read more about Maneka in her “Faces of CELA” profile.

We’re also excited to welcome our incoming articling student, Zoé St Pierre. Zoé recently completed her law degree in the French common law program at the University of Ottawa and is fully bilingual in English and French. She has wonderful environmental law and clinic experience, including completing an internship with the University of Ottawa’s human rights-focused Equality Law Clinic, an internship at Ecojustice’s Ottawa clinic, and a caseworker position in the tenant division at the University of Ottawa’s Community Legal Clinic. We look forward to Zoé starting with us in July – in the meantime, you can read more about Zoé on her “Faces of CELA” profile.

CELA is recruiting for our 2023 articling student right now – check out the description on our website.  Applications are due by July 8, 2022.

From left to right: Renee Griffin, Maneka Kaur, Zoé St Pierre

Case Updates

Nuclear Commission Dissuaded from Granting 25-Year Power Plant Licence

In a decision released June 22, 2022, Canada’s nuclear safety regulator has granted a 10-year licence to the Point Lepreau Nuclear Power Plant on the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick – and not the 25-year licence requested by the operator. CELA and the Coalition for Responsible Energy Developing in New Brunswick (CRED-NB), who were joint intervenors in the hearing, said that while 10 is preferable to 25 years, a ten-year licence still erodes public trust when the average licence length for the plant has been 3 years. The groups say shorter licences and more frequent hearings responsive to the nuclear operations would have better served the public interest, and are critical to encouraging active public engagement in nuclear oversight. Read the full press release here

Supreme Court of Canada Decision Confirms the Test on Public Interest Standing

CELA was one member of a joint intervention headed up by our colleagues at the ARCH Disability Law Centre in an important Supreme Court of Canada case dealing with public interest standing. The court released their decision on June 23rd, 2022, and the specialty clinic coalition welcomed the decision, which reinforces the importance of, and the legal tests to establish, public interest standing.

This is a significant case supporting access to public interest litigation in the courts. Said Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director of ARCH Disability Law Centre, “This is an important finding and outcome that ensures that specialty and community legal clinics can continue to do the important and valuable systemic work that they do on behalf of their low-income and marginalized client communities”. The full media release can be found here and the Supreme Court’s decision can be found here.

CELA Retained by Napanee Residents’ Group

CELA lawyers represent Keep Napanee Great (KNG), a residents’ group opposed to a proposed asphalt plant in the Town of Greater Napanee. Citing concerns about drinking water, groundwater, odour, dust, traffic, and land use compatibility, the Town council determined that the proposal was “not in the best interest of the community” and refused to amend its zoning by-law to permit this industrial activity at the subject property. The proponent then appealed the Town’s refusal to the Ontario Land Tribunal. KNG supports the Town’s refusal and has requested the Tribunal to grant it party status for the appeal hearing under the Planning Act.

Photo Credit: Fe de Leon

Supreme Court to Rule on the Constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act

In a split decision, the Alberta Court of Appeal recently concluded that the federal Impact Assessment Act is unconstitutional because it impermissibly intrudes into matters of exclusive provincial jurisdiction. Lawyers for the federal government have now served and filed their Notice of Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. CELA and its client groups participated in the Alberta proceedings and intend to seek leave to intervene at the Supreme Court in this important national test case.

Hearing for Radioactive Waste Dump for Chalk River Laboratories Site

Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), recently concluded a five-day public hearing to consider a request by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to amend its nuclear research and operating licence for the Chalk River Laboratories site, to authorize the construction of a proposed near-surface disposal facility (NSDF) for low-level radioactive waste. Prior to granting the licence, the NSDF is required to undergo a federal environmental assessment (EA) under Canada’s predecessor EA legislation, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.

CELA appeared as an intervenor at the hearing, and CELA summer law students Rebecca Waxman and Adam Meadows posted a series of daily blogs live from the hearing room.  

Law Reform Updates

Bill S-5 Blues: Parliamentary Consideration of Toxics Law Amendments – A Chronicle of the Debacle in the Senate

Almost half-way through Parliament’s consideration of the first major amendments to Canada’s industrial chemicals law in over two decades, and the results have been hugely disappointing for the future protection of human health and the environment from toxic substances in this country.

The amendments contained in Bill S-5, respecting the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), introduced in the Senate in February 2022, were mainly of a housekeeping nature. Despite significant amendments called for by CELA and others, the version of the bill that emerged following Third Reading from the Senate is not materially improved on the issue of controlling toxic substances.

CELA’s concerns with Bill S-5 at First Reading included: (1) amendments that constituted half-measures that lend ambiguity to the right to a healthy environment provision and lack enforceability; (2) counter-intuitive thinking that divides Schedule 1 substances into two groups and reduces controls on many including cancer-causing agents; and (3) questionable decision-making that removes identification of the substances in the Schedule as being a list of toxic substances thereby potentially inviting litigation by industry contesting the presence of substances in the Schedule and undermining the constitutionality of the statute. These problems remain following Third Reading of Bill S-5.

The disappointing government amendments, and the Senate’s inability to pass amendments recommended by CELA and others, is detailed in a recent blog post by CELA Counsel Joseph Castrilli. Bill S-5, having received Third Reading in the Senate, now heads to the House of Commons where consideration of amendments to CEPA will resume, likely in the Fall of 2022. Perhaps the House will provide the sober second thought and long overdue amendments needed that the government has managed to avoid to this point.

Photo Credit: Linda Pim

Inside CELA

Kathleen Cooper Receives Arthur Scott Lifetime Achievement Award

Kathleen Cooper, recently retired Paralegal and Senior Researcher at CELA, was awarded the Arthur Scott Lifetime Achievement Award by the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (CARST), who are dedicated to helping Canadians reduce radon risk. The award is named for Arthur Scott, who was a pioneer in developing the soil depressurization systems and laying the groundwork for much of the work CARST does today. 

The award recognizes Kathy’s work moving radon issues forward in Canada and providing CARST and others with clear information on the legal foundation necessary to address radon risk in Canada. In her career Kathy has made a significant impact on the radon landscape in Canada – this award from CARST recognizes her effort and dedication.

Kathy was also honoured earlier this year by the Law Society of Ontario, receiving the William J Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award.

Ramani Nadarajah Receives SABA Legal Excellence Award

CELA congratulates Ramani Nadarajah, CELA Counsel, on receiving the Legal Excellence Award from the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto. The SABA Legal Excellence Award recognizes lawyers who have achieved excellence in their areas of practice or have exceptionally contributed to the profession. Ramani is currently on secondment this year to the Law Commission of Ontario working on their environmental rights project.

Ramani was also honoured earlier this spring by the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University, receiving the Gold Key Alumni Award.

Webinars & Resources

Advancing Indigenous Rights through Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas – Toolkit & Presentation

With thanks to the funding provided by the Law Foundation of Ontario, CELA, with contributions by the Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (ANA or Grassy Narrows First Nation) Land Protection Team, has created a toolkit that aims to shed light on Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) as an emerging legal mechanism for protecting lands and water.

As this toolkit explores, the legislative means for establishing protected areas assumes traditional models of conservation, which are Crown-led and Crown-governed. This is exemplified in the 55 different pieces of legislation across Canada that provide for the establishment of protected areas, but none formally recognize nor set out the legal mechanism to establish an IPCA. This legislative lacuna has served as a bar to establishing IPCAs, as evident in Ontario, where none of the 520 provincial parks and conservation reserves are recognized as IPCAs.

The toolkit was recently launched at a webinar featuring Indigenous knowledge holder, land protector, and Elder Joseph Fobister and project lead and settler lawyer Kerrie Blaise. A recording of the launch event is available here.

Photo Credit: Kerrie Blaise

Canada: Embracing its Rivers

Building on the research of CELA’s 2021 fellowship law student Amanda McAleer, CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan recently presented at Dubai’s Futures Foundation’s Rights of Nature Workshop. Her pre-recorded presentation discussed the history and legal scope of river protection in Canada, including the declaration of personhood for the Magpie River in Québec.

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 CELA Foundation.

The CELA 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.

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