June 2023 Bulletin

Air Quality Issues in Ontario

While recent air quality warnings and hazy, smoke-filled air have brought the issue to the forefront, air quality has been a problem in Ontario for decades.  Communities like Aaamjiwnaang First Nation, Sault Ste Marie, and Hamilton have been navigating unhealthy, polluted air for far too long.

Air pollution is a significant source of harm to human health and the environment. CELA is deeply concerned about the air quality regulatory regime in Ontario and urges the Ontario government to set and enforce strong standards for air quality to protect people from being exposed to air pollution.

CELA has launched a new law reform initiative aimed at improving air quality in Ontario. To learn more about the scope of the problem, the regulatory mechanisms currently in place, and what needs to change, have a look at our law reform page. It includes links to recent presentations CELA gave in Aamjiwnaang First Nation, and our submission opposing Glencore Canada Corporation’s application for a Site-Specific Air Standard for Sulphur Dioxide emissions at the Kidd Concentrator Site near Timmins, Ontario.

CELA is monitoring various registries for new applications and will post opportunities for comment as they become available. 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.

Case Updates

Families demand urgent action to clean up radioactive mine waste found beneath homes

CELA and Blaise Law are representing four families, who, through no fault of their own, are living with radioactive mine waste at their homes. Uranium mine waste was moved from the nearby Rio Algom (now BHP) uranium mines in the 1960s and used as fill at some residential properties and in construction materials in Elliot Lake.

To date, neither the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Natural Resources Canada nor BHP has removed the radioactive waste minerals from their properties.

This is an environmental injustice that time has only perpetuated

  •  We know that the federal government, nuclear regulator and mining company had knowledge of the use of mine waste going back to at least the 1970s
  • It was the Atomic Energy Control Board (now CNSC) that in 1977 stated “radon produced from contaminated fill will continue to diffuse into houses as long as the contaminated material remains.”
  • The longer you are exposed to radiation, the higher your cumulative dose and thus your health risk.
  • Indoor radon/radon progeny levels at the four homes were well above Health Canada’s guideline of 200 Bq/m3 when it was recently tested. Homeowners have recently been exposed to levels ranging from 468.2 – 1867 Bq/m3.
  • Mitigation systems put in place by BHP or Atomic Energy Control Limited have all failed over time.
  • The effective dose of radiation to these families is very far above the 1 MsV per year limit set by the Radiation Protection Regulations, ranging from approximately 8.2 – 32.9 MsV per year

TAKE ACTION WITH US! These four families are seeking public support for their request for action by the Federal government and Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and BHP to clean up radioactive wastes found on their properties in the city of Elliot Lake, Ontario.

  • Write to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission requesting they issue an order against mining company BHP to clean up. Email: President-CEO@cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca or phone: 613-859-2466
  • Write to the Minister of Natural Resources Canada requesting that they implement their own radioactive waste policy that recognizes the need for long-term protection of human health and the environment. Email: Minister.Ministre@nrcan-rncan.gc.ca or phone: 343‑292‑6837

 For more information, click here to read the briefing note. 

CELA Opposes 20-year Licences for Uranium Mines and Mills

The 10-year licences for three of Cameco Corporation’s (Cameco) uranium mine/mill sites in Northern Saskatchewan are all set to expire in October 2023.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) held a public hearing in Saskatoon in early June 2023, at which Cameco requested 20-year licence terms for all three sites. CELA attended the hearing in person on behalf of the Inter-Church Uranium Committee Educational Co-Operative, Coalition for a Clean Green Saskatchewan, and Committee for Future Generations.

CELA made submissions before the CNSC opposing the request for 20-year licensing terms, emphasizing that longer licence terms are contrary to the public interest; would increase the risk of environmental contamination within the region; that the applications failed to consider the market volatility of uranium; and that they failed to expressly consider climate change. With the support of Dr. Tanya Markvart’s sustainability analyses for each site, CELA recommended that shorter licensing terms of 5-years would be better suited for aligning the licensing cycle with the periodic review cycles for updating each licenced site’s essential documents (e.g., preliminary decommissioning plans), while also enhancing public engagement opportunities.

CELA’s written submissions can be found here and here.

The CNSC has not released its decision yet.

Chalk River Near-Surface Disposal Facility – Hearing Postponed

The final Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing on the application from Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to authorize the construction of a near surface disposal facility (NSDF) in Chalk River, originally scheduled for June 27, 2023, will now be held on August 10, 2023. More information can be found on CNSC’s website here.

CELA recently submitted a final submission on this issue and also posted daily blogs during the initial phase of the hearing (the first of which is here).

Law Reform Updates

Improvements Still Needed for Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Bill S-5 amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), received Royal Assent in June 2023.

Since April 2021, CELA has produced numerous critiques in the form of submissions and proposed model amendments to these bills to government, written and oral testimony before both the Senate and House Standing committees examining Bill S-5, blogs, articles, media interviews, webinars, and other forms of communication on what was wrong with Bill C-28/Bill S-5 and what should be done to correct these problems.

Unfortunately, several of our recommendations were not adopted. However, the Minister has noted publicly that there will be further consideration of CEPA in the near future. Therefore, we have provided a short list of what still needs to be done and what should be corrected in the amendment of CEPA. Click here for the full blog and list of changes.

Inside CELA

Thank You Julia!

We were sad to say goodbye to Julia Hambleton last month as she headed off to new adventures, but we’re very grateful for her passion and enthusiasm these last 2.5 years in the role of Legal Assistant and Information Coordinator.

Julia was incredibly dedicated and made a huge difference to our team and to our clients. We will miss her knowledge, her organizational prowess, and especially her great contribution to the upbeat atmosphere of the office!

Welcome Laura!

CELA is thrilled to welcome Laura Tanguay to the team! Laura is the new Water Policy Coordinator for the Healthy Great Lakes program. She has a Master’s degree in Environmental Policy and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University, where her research engages with an environmental justice framework and considers the viability of consent-based mechanisms for more just approaches to Impact Assessments.

Recently, Laura co-edited and was a featured co-author in a report titled “Operationalizing Indigenous-led Impact Assessments” funded by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada that can be found here, and co-authored an article titled “Undermining Assessment: EIA follow-up, stake-holder advisory groups, and extractive industries in Nunavut, Canada” that can be found here.

From the Foundation

TBCG Environmental Advocates Writing Contest

The Canadian Environmental Law Foundation is holding a blog writing contest for the next generation of environmental advocates.

Open to current students or recent graduates of a post-secondary program in Canada, participants are asked to answer the question “What systemic changes are needed to ensure equitable community engagement in environmental decision-making?”

The contest closes on Friday, July 14th, 2023. Entries should be 750 words or less. An entry form with additional details and contest rules is available on the Foundation website. Winners will be announced in late August.

Feature from the Foundation

This month’s Feature from the Canadian Environmental Law Foundation looks at water quality and air-borne toxics. The 1984 report from the Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation titled “Water Quality and Air-Borne Toxics: Symbol of the Next Generation of Environmental Problems” addressed the then-emerging problem of atmospheric deposition as a source of water quality contamination.

Webinars & Resources

Public Legal Education – June Look-Back

CELA Counsel Joseph Castrilli presented at the American Water Works Association conference, and penned a blog about how recently enacted Ontario laws threaten the framework for protecting drinking water sources adopted after the Walkerton tragedy of two decades ago.

Rick Lindgren, Counsel, provided a guest lecture on June 12th on ecological crime and access to justice to a Carleton University class. 

Theresa McClenaghan, CELA Executive Director and Counsel, and Jacqueline Wilson, Counsel, presented at the Southwest Region Legal Clinic Spring Training Conference about climate change impacts and energy poverty programs for legal aid clients. They also delivered a webinar hosted by the Markham Public Library on Bill 23 and related land use planning impacts.

Theresa also presented on land use planning at the Grey to Green Conference hosted by Toronto Metropolitan University. 

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.