March 2019 Bulletin

Photo: Crocus by Billy Wilson/Flickr

News & activities

CELA is thrilled to announce that we will continue providing direct legal services in Northern Ontario to communities and low-income citizens seeking environmental justice. Last year, we launched our Northern Services pilot project to increase access to environmental justice in communities which have been historically underserved. CELA’s Northern Services counsel Kerrie Blaise met with colleagues at community legal aid clinics throughout northern Ontario including those serving fly-in communities, Indigenous leaders, non-profit organizations and citizens seeking to further environmental protection in their communities. Northern Services counsel will be based at the Algoma Community Legal Clinic in Sault Ste. Marie on a part-time basis with frequent travel to other areas in the North.

Improving Canada’s preparedness for shipping hazardous substances

CELA made a submission to the Government of Canada regarding the Discussion Paper: Canada’s Preparedness And Response For Hazardous and Noxious Substances Released From Ships. The paper’s goal is to develop response plans to Hazardous and Noxious Substances (HNS) incidents in Canadian waters. While CELA supports the overall purpose of the paper we listed several recommendations to improve its approach. Our recommendations addressed the definition of HNS, principles underpinning the regime, stakeholder engagement, and identifying roles and responsibilities, among others.


Photo: Corn Forever by Ken Nash/Flickr

Ontario government removes Schedule 10 from Bill 66

Ontario’s Bill 66 recently received Second Reading in the Ontario Legislature, and was referred to the Standing Committee on General Government. Schedule 10 of this Bill proposed to amend the Planning Act to allow municipalities to pass “open-for-business planning by-laws” that would be exempt from key provisions of the Clean Water ActGreenbelt Act, and other provincial laws. Given the environmental and public health risks posed by these sweeping exemptions, Schedule 10 was strongly opposed by CELA, other environmental groups, farm organizations, MPPs and residents across Ontario. In light of this public pushback, the Standing Committee voted against Schedule 10, thereby removing it from Bill 66. CELA supports the provincial decision to delete Schedule 10, but remains concerned that Schedule 5 (proposed repeal of the Toxics Reduction Act) remains within Bill 66 as it proceeds to Third Reading debate.

Senate Standing Committee Hearings on Bill C-69

Bill C-69 has received Second Reading in the Senate, and the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment, and Natural Resources is currently holding hearings in various Canadian cities to receive public input on the legislation. If enacted, Bill C-69 will, among other things, repeal the existing Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and replace it with the proposed Impact Assessment Act. CELA has been invited to appear as a witness before the Committee in April, and we will recommend key amendments to strengthen and improve the new law before it is passed and proclaimed into force.


Photo: Barn Owl by Chris Parker/Flickr

Strengthening the 10-year-old Endangered Species Act

CELA joined Ecojustice and the private firm Lintner Law to provide recommendations that would strengthen Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007. The legislation recently celebrated its 10th anniversary but is currently undergoing a review. We made eight recommendations to improve the legislation and also joined more than 85 organizations in urging all MPPs to ensure the ESA is not weakened during the ongoing review.

Comments on the proposed amendment to the Growth Plan

CELA counsel Ramani Nadarajah provided comments on Ontario’s proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. We made several recommendations related to intensification and density targets, conversion of employment lands in advance of a comprehensive municipal review, settlement area boundary adjustments and expansions, and watershed planning.

Responding to proposed streamlined greenhouse gas reporting

The Ontario government has proposed changes to its Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) that will streamline the requirements. Although we support Ontario harmonizing with the federal reporting requirements under the GHGRP, we oppose removing mandatory reporting and verification requirements by petroleum product suppliers and natural gas distributors. We also recommended that verification requirements be decreased to emitters of GHGs above 10,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent units per year instead of the current 25,000 or 50,000 tonnes per year.


Photo: Multi-unit housing by Dominic Ali/CELA

Sharing information about bed bugs and pesticides

Although all homes can get bed bugs, they are harder to control in a rooming house or multi-unit apartments. To help residents and tenants that may have to deal with treatment for bed bugs, we will continue to update our factsheet as the federal government continues to re-evaluate pesticides allowed for use indoors. Informed choices are possible for lower risk pesticides as well as non-chemical alternatives.

PMRA’s failure to address the cumulative effects of organophosphates

CELA joined five other environmental organizations in expressing serious concerns to the federal Minister of Health about the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). The PMRA has failed to address the cumulative effects of organophosphates under the Pest Control Products Act as required. Although the PMRA acknowledges that organophosphates have a common mechanism of toxicity, it has declined to include a cumulative health effects assessment as it renews registrations for products that contain the substance.

The 52-minute RentSafe webinar is available on YouTube.


RentSafe: Intersectoral action on healthy housing webinar

CELA senior researcher and paralegal Kathleen Cooper conducted a webinar with Erica Phipps of the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment on healthy housing that is available on YouTube. The slide deck can be downloaded from our website.

Source water protection in Indigenous communities

CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise recently presented this slide deck to the Chiefs of Ontario in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The presentation features a case study of the source water protection project CELA worked on in collaboration with the Chippewas of the Thames, the Oneida Nation of the Thames, and the Munsee Delaware Nation communities. In addition, it outlines how other First Nation communities can better protect their source water using existing environmental laws.

Guest lecture on environmental injustice

Toronto’s George Brown College invited CELA to give a guest lecture on environmental injustice to sociology students. The presentation by CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise outlines the history of the subject including examples, and explains citizen environmental rights.

On the CELA blog


Photo: Fresh air by Dominic Ali/CELA

Financial incentives for radon mitigation

Radon is linked to lung cancer and affects many Canadians. In Ontario alone, radon causes over 1300 new lung cancer cases per year and 850 deaths. The cost of radon mitigation deters many Canadians from even testing their homes. CELA senior researcher Kathleen Cooper and legal intern Yvonne Mazurak explored financial incentives that might rectify this problem.

 Upcoming Events

April 11: Carbon pricing in Canada webinar

Several CAN-Rac members have been granted intervenor status in the April 15 court case involving the Ontario government’s challenge to the federal government’s carbon pricing legislation. This 90-minute webinar will feature members of the legal team working with these intervenors including CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson. Webinar presentations will be in English with some parts of the Q&A in French and English. Viewers will be able to ask questions in both languages.
WHEN: Thursday, April 11, 3 pm
Register here.

Q and A with Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Dianne Saxe


Photo: Outgoing Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Dianne Saxe/Handout

Earlier this week, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO), Dianne Saxe, issued her final report to the Ontario legislature. The report was especially notable because the ECO was recently eliminated by a change in provincial leadership. CELA caught up with Saxe for a quick phone interview to hear her thoughts about the 25th anniversary of Ontario’s landmark Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) and what the loss of the ECO means to the province.

It’s been 25 years since the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was established. Why was it so significant?
For 25 years, the EBR has given Ontarians the right to participate in government decisions that affect the environment. The public has had notice of environmentally important proposals, and a legal right to comment and to have those comments taken seriously. It has also given them a right to challenge environmentally harmful permits, and the ability to call for government action. Ontario’s environment is healthier today, because Ontario passed the EBR 25 years ago. It has really led to better environmental outcomes. The EBR is a unique and valuable law that all Ontarians can be proud of, and should cherish.

Why is the ECO important for Ontario?
We’ve played an important role as champions of environmental rights. We’ve been an important check on what’s happening. We’ve also played a really significant role in getting government to comply with regulations under the bill.

What are some of the ECO’s achievements that you’re proudest of?
There are so many. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done to promote public understanding about the effects of climate change. People across Ontario, and beyond, have come to rely on our reliable, fact-based, non-partisan reports about energy, environment and climate. They know they can trust us to do our homework, to be fair and to put the environment first. I’ve gone from town to town talking to communities and meeting everyone from government workers to employees of chemical companies. They may not like the news I have to give them, but they like knowing that they know.

How do you think the end of the ECO will affect Ontario in the future?
Without the ECO, Ontarians will have to be even more vigilant. No one should blindly assume that the province will do a good job of environmental protection, especially as climate change, ecosystem collapse, and destruction of biodiversity all gather speed. It now falls on the media and the public and groups like yours to hold the government to account.