Vulnerable Communities are Hit Hardest by Climate Change

In September of 2019, an estimated 6 million people across the world took to the streets to protest the climate crisis. Following the climate strikes, over 50 municipalities in Ontario declared climate change an emergency. 

It’s crucial that climate change declarations are accompanied by action — and, as climate change disproportionately impacts vulnerable communities, action needs to be equity-focused.

Municipalities in Ontario have significant power to address climate change issues. They have the authority to pass by-laws concerning climate change and the health, well-being, and safety of persons in their region. There are huge opportunities for progress on climate equity issues at the community level. 

Read CELA’s most recent blog post by Communications Intern Fiona O’Flynn to learn more about some of the areas in which municipalities can have a significant impact on climate equity.

Photo Credit – Shutterstock

 

Case Updates

Defending Community & Children’s Health in a Nuclear Host Community

CELA was in court earlier this month on behalf of Citizens Against Radioactive Neighbourhoods, asking the Federal Court to judicially review a decision by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that approved uranium fuel production in downtown Peterborough near an elementary school. The federal court judge, Mr. Justice Mosley, has reserved his decision and it will be released in due course. More details about the case can be found on our website.

Climate Change Review of Marathon Palladium Mine

CELA recently represented Environment North in a federal environmental assessment hearing for a proposed palladium mine in Marathon, Ontario.  A recording of Environment North’s appearance is available here and the public can watch the hearing – which continues until April 14 – live on YouTube.

Appearing before the Joint Review Panel, Environment North critiqued the mining proponent’s lack of consideration of climate, sustainability and socio-economic impacts like community well-being, and submitted that the Panel did not have the requisite information it needed to make a finding that the project wouldn’t cause significant adverse environmental effects. 

Lake Superior, Marathon ON. Photo Credit – Kerrie Blaise

 

Action Alert!

Time to Fix Amendments to Toxics Substances Law

Canada’s cornerstone environmental legislation needs to be fixed. The federal government recently introduced Bill S-5 in the Senate, an Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Containing the first major amendments to CEPA in over 20 years, the Bill seeks to fix things in the Act that aren’t broken and fails to correct things that aren’t working.  

CELA urges the federal government to substantially improve Bill S-5 by adopting amendments we have drafted that will strengthen CEPA and better protect human health and the environment from toxic substances.  We sent these amendments to the federal government, and we are asking you to add your voice.

If you haven’t already, send an email to Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos today, asking them to add CELA’s recommended amendments to Bill S-5 before the Bill goes to Committee. You can use content from the blog post that CELA Counsel Joseph Castrilli recently wrote, outlining the key amendments that are needed to strengthen the Bill. We would be grateful if you would copy CELA (info@cela.ca) on your email so we can track responses.

Our sincere thanks to those of you who took the time to send an email earlier this month – the response was galvanizing, and we hope the government listens!

Growing the Greenbelt Consultation

Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently announced Phase 2 of consultations on Growing the Greenbelt. During this phase, feedback is desired on proposals to add 13 new and expanded Urban River Valleys, as well as seeking ideas for adding more Urban River Valleys to the Greenbelt. Notably, the Grand River is excluded from the Greenbelt expansion proposal. The 30-day consultation closes on April 23, 2022. 

CELA will be submitting comments to the provincial government in support of growing the Greenbelt and asking the government to ensure fulsome protection of these areas. Further, given that many communities within the Grand River watershed are both designated as urban growth areas and have groundwater as a key drinking water source, we will be urging protection of critical recharge areas such as the Paris-Galt Moraine immediately.

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

To learn more and for developments on this topic, please check out our action alert page.

Photo Credit – Kichigin, Canva

 

Law Reform Updates

Updates on Water Policy Public Consultations

The government of Ontario recently posted public consultations on three water-related planning documents, and CELA submitted comments on all three.

1) The Draft Subwatershed Planning Guide, which provides information on recommended steps, approaches, and best practices for undertaking subwatershed planning in Ontario. CELA believes that watershed and subwatershed planning can play a significant role in building climate-resilient communities, protecting water quantity and quality, and mitigating risks to drinking water sources.  However, the often vague and voluntary language used in the Draft Guide undermines this potential and CELA made a number of detailed recommendations for improvements.

2) The Low Impact Development Stormwater Management Guidance Manual that is meant to guide municipalities, property owners, developers, and others to manage rain where it falls, reduce flooding risks, and increase resilience to climate change.  
CELA continues to support the shift away from conventional stormwater management practices in Ontario towards an approach designed to control and treat precipitation where it falls, but made a number of recommendations for improvements to the manual.

3) The Municipal Wastewater and Stormwater Management in Ontario Discussion Paper sets out the challenges and opportunities for improving wastewater and stormwater management and water conservation in Ontario. CELA, via its recommendations, reiterates that the absence of a supporting legislative framework undermines the potential of stormwater and wastewater management to play a significant role in building climate-resilient communities.

World Water Day

Were you inspired by all the water talk on World Water Day 2022? Want to learn more? You can find all of CELA’s Great Lakes blogs, webinar recordings, policy submissions, and more, on our Healthy Great Lakes webpage

Photo Credit – Kelly Mathews

Ontario Releases “Best Practices” on Source Water Protection

Certain types of drinking water systems serving millions of Ontarians (e.g., private wells, Indigenous systems, and even some municipal systems) are not covered by the mandatory protective policies set out in Source Protection Plans approved under the Clean Water Act (CWA).

However, rather than extending the coverage of the CWA to such systems, the Environment Ministry has instead released guidance materials that simply identify discretionary “best practices” to help safeguard sources of water supplying non-municipal systems. The Ministry is also soliciting public feedback on these measures in an online survey until April 18, 2022.

While public education and outreach is important, CELA maintains that non-binding “best practices” guidance is an unacceptable substitute for effective and enforceable protection of such systems under the CWA.

Expanding Administrative Penalties for Environmental Contraventions

CELA recently submitted a brief to Ontario’s Environment Ministry regarding proposed changes to administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) that may be imposed by Ministry officials if a person or company contravenes environmental legislation. CELA generally supports the use of AMPs in appropriate cases, and our brief identifies opportunities to enhance the effectiveness and availability of AMPs for environmental compliance purposes.

Photo Credit – Kathleen Cooper

An Open Letter on the proposed Ring of Fire Regional Assessment Agreement

CELA joins the many Indigenous Peoples, climate scientists, environmental organizations, legal experts and concerned citizens calling on both Canada and Ontario to pause the process described in the Draft Agreement to Conduct a Regional Assessment in the Ring of Fire between the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the provincial Minister of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry and develop an Indigenous-led comprehensive Regional Assessment.

Establishing IPCA’s – The Jurisdictional Spectrum

In this guest blog originally published on the Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic blog, CELA law student Yalda Mousavi looks at the jurisdictional spectrum relating to the establishment of Indigenous Protected and Conservation Areas (IPCA’s).

Community Reflections on the Need for Stronger Environmental Assessment Law in Ontario

In this blog by law student Adam Meadows and Northern Services Legal Counsel Kerrie Blaise, CELA follows up with individuals from a community in Northern Ontario who weighed in on the government’s recent environmental assessment reforms, to understand potential impacts on the environment and community health.

Photo Credit – CELA Collections

 

Webinars & Resources

Indigenous-led Community Floodplain Mapping Webinar Series

Over the past year, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation has been working with Green Communities Canada and other partners to develop floodplain maps, and floodplain education for First Nations along the banks of Deshkan Ziibi (Thames River). The project was made possible with funding from the federal First Nation Adapt program and was delivered in partnership with Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority,  Cambium Indigenous Professional ServicesConservation Ontario, and Canadian Environmental Law Association.
 
This Indigenous-led conservation project combined technical knowledge and skills with the rich Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) available within the local First Nation communities. The project also aimed to provide community education for First Nations across Ontario.  
 
In 2021, five community workshops were organized to share the results of ongoing monitoring, and gather feedback and share important perspectives from the Chippewas, Oneida, and Munsee Nations who live along Deshkan Ziibi (Thames River). Between February 23 to March 23, we shared the learnings from this project more broadly through a 5-part online webinar series. The series was meant to enable Indigenous communities and environmental professionals to develop their own floodplain mapping projects and explore successful protocols and effective partnership approaches.

Efficiency for All – New Report & Two Events

CELA has been supporting a collective campaign for a national energy poverty strategy, building on our work with the Low Income Energy Network here in Ontario.  Find out more about the just-released Efficiency Canada report on making sure deep energy efficiency helps reduce and avoid high energy burdens on low income and hard to reach households, while enabling participation in a net-zero emissions future.

1. DiscoverEE – Hosted by Abhilash Kantamneni (April 1st)
Join Efficiency Canada for their April 1st DiscoverEE Session on their latest report, ‘Efficiency for All’. Learn how your province stacks up in making energy efficiency programs accessible for everyone.

2. Energy Efficiency Inequality, A Panel Discussion – Hosted by Kirstin Pulles (April 7th)
Where is Canada succeeding at creating accessible energy efficiency programs? What challenges are slowing us down? Join Efficiency Canada on April 7th for a panel discussion to hear the stories of four provincial low-income energy efficiency programs, as well as the national context.

Panelists: 
Abhilash Kantamneni, Research Associate, Efficiency Canada
Areef Abraham, Founder & President, Create Climate Equity
Edmundo Fausto, Sustainability, City of St. John’s
Thea Campbell, Rebate Programs Manager, efficiencyPEI
Jacqueline Wilson, Counsel, CELA

Centre for Free Expression Virtual Forum Series – Corporate Rules: The Real Worlds of Business Regulation in Canada

CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan has written a chapter on nuclear regulation in a soon-to-be-released book about regulating hazardous industries in Canada.  The book launch and a panel discussion will take place on April 26th – register to attend.

Presentation – Ecological Crime & Access to Justice
Earlier this week, CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren delivered a guest lecture entitled “Ecological Crime and Access to Justice” to criminology students at Carleton University.

Recording – Nuclear Waste, an Environmental Justice Perspective
Originally aired March 7

CELA staff Theresa McClenaghan and Kerrie Blaise recently participated in a panel regarding environmental justice and why it is relevant. The panelists also discussed what community willingness is in the context of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization’s Adaptive Phased Management project for site selection of a Deep Geological Repository for Canada’s high-level nuclear fuel waste.

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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