March 2021 Bulletin


Inside CELA

Law Society of Ontario Awards CELA’s Kathleen Cooper
CELA is proud to announce that Kathleen Cooper, Senior Researcher, Paralegal, and Communications Coordinator, has recently been awarded the William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award from the Law Society of Ontario.  This award is an apt recognition of Kathleen’s dedication and passion for environmental justice, and her contributions to consultations at all levels of government. Her work has significantly improved the lives of low-income people across Canada.  Congratulations Kathy!

Faces of CELA
CELA’s work on Healthy Great Lakes is greatly enhanced by the contributions and knowledge of our excellent Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee.  We’re pleased to introduce the three newest members of our Advisory Committee: Rhonda GagnonKristen Lowitt, and Julie Cayley.  You can learn more about each of them in their respective “Faces of CELA” profiles on our blog.

Photo Credit, Kathy Cooper

Speak Up!

Speak Up on How and Where to Grow the Greenbelt

Through a public consultation open until April 19, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has asked for early input on two potential study areas, as well as suggestions for other potential areas in which to grow the Greenbelt. 

This is an important opportunity for communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region to alert Ontario and local governments about the importance of maintaining, restoring, and improving natural areas, waters, and farmlands.

You know your community best – we encourage you to speak up for what areas in your community need to be protected through Greenbelt expansion in order to ensure prosperous, resilient, complete communities for the future.

Speak Up for a Green and Just Recovery in the Federal Budget

The next federal budget must eliminate the injustices of vulnerable communities being disproportionately impacted by both the social and economic consequences of the pandemic and by pollution, climate change, and resource extraction.

CELA joins environmental groups across Canada in One Earth One Voice – a campaign to urge the federal government to prioritize a Green and Just Recovery. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rebuild a just society that is better for our health, the economy, and nature. Decision-makers in Ottawa are deciding how to allocate billions of tax dollars on pandemic recovery.

Case Updates

Carbon Pricing Appeals in the Supreme Court of Canada

To safeguard vulnerable communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, CELA represented clients in constitutional references held by appellate courts in Ontario and Saskatchewan in relation to federal carbon pricing legislation. These courts ruled that the legislation is constitutionally valid on the basis of Parliament’s “peace, order and good government” (POGG) power under the Constitution Act, 1867.

CELA also participated in appeals that were heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in relation to these references, and the Court upheld the legislation on the basis of POGG in a 6:3 decision released in late March 2021.

This welcome ruling will enable the continued implementation of national minimum standards for carbon pricing across Canada, but does not displace the ability (and responsibility) of all levels of government to undertake effective climate action within their respective spheres of jurisdiction.

Constitutional Reference on Federal Environmental Assessment Law

In a four day proceeding held in February 2021, the Alberta Court of Appeal heard arguments from various parties and intervenors (including CELA) on whether the federal Impact Assessment Act is unconstitutional, in whole or in part. The Court reserved its decision, which is expected to be released later this year. CELA argued that the Act is within Parliament’s jurisdiction, and additional details about this important case are provided in a recent blog that explains why CELA intervenes in national test cases.

Legal Action Launched Against Nuclear Regulator’s Decision

Local citizens group Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods (CARN), represented by CELA, has launched a legal challenge against a recent decision of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to grant a 10-year licence permitting nuclear fuel manufacturer BWXT to commence the commercial production of uranium fuel pellets at its facility located in downtown Peterborough. The group seeks to defend the health of children and their community from the nuclear fuel plant.

Photo Credit, Stuart Lush

Law Reform

National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism
Earlier this month, CELA law student Adam De Luca wrote about Bill C-230 and how it aims to address environmental racism in Canada. Bill C-230: National Strategy to Redress Environmental Racism Act, was successfully voted through its second reading in the House of Commons last week, by a vote of 182 to 153. Bill C-230 has now been referred to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development for review. A date has not been set for this proceeding, but anyone wishing to participate and contribute can request to appear before the committee here.

Federal Environmental Commissioner should be an Independent Officer

CELA and other witnesses recently made presentations to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on whether the federal Environmental Commissioner should be reconstituted as an independent officer of Parliament.  At present, the Commissioner is established under federal law as a subordinate to the Auditor General of Canada. However, based on decades of experience with the provincial Environmental Commissioner (who served as an independent legislative officer under Part III of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights), CELA’s brief concludes that the federal Commissioner should be re-established and empowered as an independent Parliamentary officer. 

Photo Credit, Rick Lindgren

CELA Concerned Tribunal Amalgamation Will Undermine Access to Justice

CELA recently presented to Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly on Bill 245, Accelerating Access to Justice Act 2021. Schedule 6 of the omnibus Bill, if enacted, will amalgamate five tribunals into a single tribunal which will be known as the Ontario Land Tribunal (“OLT”). Schedule 6 also sets out a number of new procedural and substantive provisions in relation to OLT proceedings. Schedule 10 of the Bill proposes a number of amendments to several provincial environmental laws, including the elimination of existing rights of appeal to the Minister under the Environmental Protection ActOntario Water Resources Act, and other statutes. CELA has recommended that Schedules 6 and 10 of the Bill be withdrawn. A more detailed analysis of the brief can be found on our website.

Proposed Sulphur Dioxide Emission Exemptions

CELA’s recently responded to a provincial consultation regarding proposed sulphur dioxide emission exemptions for three facilities in the Sudbury region that are conducting nickel smelting and refining.  The full submission is available here.

CELA Supports Global Pact for the Environment

For decades, CELA has advocated the establishment of an enforceable public right to a healthy environment. Accordingly, CELA has recently joined an international coalition that is calling upon the United Nations to recognize this fundamental right, which is one of the pillars of the draft Global Pact for the Environment.

Webinars & Resources

Asbestos Remediation in Ontario Schools

CELA recently released a new fact sheet about asbestos remediation in schools.  The fact sheet summarizes the rights and responsibilities about asbestos remediation in schools contained in two Ontario laws: the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Education Act.

Growing the Greenbelt – Webinar Recordings
CELA recently partnered with local groups in southwestern Ontario to host two webinars on the importance of growing the Greenbelt.  The recordings from the session in Brantford and Brant County, and from Guelph-Wellington, are available on our website.  More information about the current consultation on growing the Greenbelt is available here.

Northern Focus – A 2-Part Webinar Series
CELA and Environment North recently hosted two webinars looking at ethics and environmental justice, and a community’s “Right to Know” and environmental protection.  The recordings from these webinars can be accessed from our website here.