May 2022 Bulletin

Support and Investment for Water

This month’s Bulletin focuses on water – law reform campaigns to protect our drinking water, presentations on federal water legislation, a Freedom-of-Information win in the five-year-long battle to obtain Environment Ministry records on water well safety, an upcoming webinar on protecting lands and waters, and more.

Underpinning all of CELA’s important casework and law reform efforts to protect freshwater quantity and quality is the importance of sufficient government support and investment. Freshwater protection in Canada involves federal, provincial, territorial, and Indigenous government cooperation and leadership.

CELA provided a breakdown of some highlights of the recent federal budget in this blog post, looking at clean drinking water for First Nations, freshwater protection, and monitoring of plastic waste in water systems. 

Leading up to the 2022 federal budget, CELA and the Green Budget Coalition provided recommendations to the Government of Canada. You can read our original recommendations on our website

CELA also provided budget recommendations to the Ontario government, including freshwater protection measures. You can read CELA’s Ontario-focused budget recommendations on our website.

Case Updates

Hearing for ‘First Ever’ 25-year Nuclear Power Plan License 
Canada’s nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), recently held a 3-day public hearing of public utility NB Power’s request for a 25-year renewal to its operating license for its nuclear reactor on the Bay of Fundy.  This hearing considers the first-ever request for a 25-year nuclear operating license.  

CELA appeared jointly with the New Brunswick community-based Coalition for Responsible Energy Development in New Brunswick (CRED-NB), asking the Commission to deny the 25-year license request, citing concerns about reducing public scrutiny and engagement in nuclear oversight.  

CELA and CRED-NB wrote daily blogs from the hearing room, capturing reflections and reactions from the nuclear licensing hearing.  You can read the blogs and learn more about the Point Lepreau case and the nuclear licensing process on CELA’s casework page here.

The Commission will make a final decision on NB Power’s application by June 30, 2022.

Members of the Passamaquoddy Nation, CRED-NB and CELA

Law Reform Updates

Safe Drinking Water for All

18% of people in Ontario don’t have sufficient legal protections for their drinking water.  That’s over 2.6 million people whose water is at risk of contamination – from sewage works, landfills, manure application, road salt… the list goes on.

Despite passing legislation over 15 years ago that provides the mechanism to protect drinking water, it still hasn’t been implemented everywhere in Ontario.  In 2006, the Ontario Legislature enacted the Clean Water Act (CWA), which allows for a multi-barrier approach to protecting drinking water and establishes a process for developing enforceable source protection plans that protect drinking water sources.

But those plans generally only safeguard people who are served by municipal drinking water systems located within source protection areas. Even within those source protection areas, not everyone’s water is protected. Many of the people and communities left out of the CWA’s safety net are the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities in the province.

CELA continues to call on the provincial government to:

  1. Develop appropriate CWA reforms to better accommodate or assist source protection planning for drinking water systems serving Indigenous communities.
  2. Expand the application of the CWA to non-municipal systems, such as private well clusters in settlement areas and domestic wells serving vulnerable persons (i.e. schools, day camps, retirement homes, etc.).
  3. Substantially improve Ontario’s Regulation 903 (Wells) to provide effective and enforceable provincial standards for establishing, disinfecting, maintaining and decommissioning water supply wells.

Check out our new law reform page calling for Safe Drinking Water for All to learn more about this important issue.

Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water

We’ve known for a long time that exposure to even very low levels of lead can have serious health consequences, especially for fetuses and young children. Although there is widespread recognition of the health impacts of lead, we’re not doing nearly enough to address it.

CELA renews its call to action. It’s time to get the lead out of drinking water once and for all. Just because we can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there – and causing real harm.

Check out our law reform page to learn more about lead and our recommendations to eliminate lead from our water.  You can also read our recent blog that looks at lead level test results in 47 communities, and underscores why it’s critical that the province of Ontario adopt the safer, more stringent Health Canada lead standard for safe drinking water.

Federal Toxics Law Needs Rigorous Pollution Prevention Measures

On May 17th, CELA gave testimony before the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources on Bill S-5 amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).
CELA testimony focused on the failure of the Bill to address the need for more rigorous pollution prevention measures. National pollution data shows cancer-causing substances identified in CEPA’s Schedule 1 List of Toxic Substances are merely being shifted by industry from being emitted to air to being deposited on land. In one extreme example, on-site disposal and land release of arsenic and its compounds increased an astounding 10,800% between 2006 to 2018.
According to the CELA evidence, moving a carcinogen from one environmental pathway to another does not represent progress in protecting human health and the environment. It merely represents putting a different part of the environment and a different group of people at risk.
CELA urged the Senators on the committee to adopt CELA’s proposed March 2022 amendments to Bill S-5 that would: (1) make pollution prevention mandatory under the Act for all Schedule 1 toxic substances; (2) not let pollution abatement measures be used as a substitute for pollution prevention; and (3) make examination of safer alternatives to such substances a central pillar of amendments to CEPA.

Read more in the recent blog post authored by CELA Counsel Joseph Castrilli and Senior Researcher Fe de Leon, originally published in The Lawyers Daily.

Those wishing to make their views known to the Senate committee as it takes up clause-by-clause consideration of Bill S-5 should email the Committee Clerk, Ms. Chantal Cardinal, by June 2nd, at

Photo Credit – Linda Pim

CELA Wins 5-year FOI Fight on Water Well Safety

In a recent blog, CELA lawyer Richard Lindgren provides an update on CELA’s successful five-year-long battle to obtain Environment Ministry records on water well safety.  CELA looks forward to receiving these Ministry records by the mid-June deadline specified by the adjudicator and anticipates that they will be of considerable assistance as CELA continues its advocacy on the overdue need to substantially upgrade Regulation 903 (Wells) and protect drinking water for everyone in Ontario.

Radionuclides Renominated as Chemicals of Mutual Concern

In response to new binational screening criteria released in March 2021 by the Great Lakes Executive Committee, John Jackson (CELA board member and co-chair, Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network) prepared a report updating the nomination of radionuclides as Chemicals of Mutual Concern under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Court Rules that Impact Assessment Act is Unconstitutional

In a split decision dated May 10, 2022, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA) is unconstitutional. As discussed in a recent blog post by CELA Counsel Rick Lindgren, the majority opinion condemned the legislation as “federal jurisdictional overreach” that impermissibly intrudes into provinces’ exclusive authority over natural resource management and other matters under sections 92 and 92A of the Constitution Act 1867.

In contrast, the dissenting opinion concluded that the IAA is constitutionally sound. CELA lawyers represented three Ontario-based clients in this national test case, and we will consider intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada after the federal government files its intended appeal of the Alberta ruling.

Response to Proposed Amendments to the Pest Control Products Act, Bill S-6

CELA has written a letter with respect to proposed amendments to the Pest Control Products Act, contained in Bill S-6 in the 44th Parliament, first session. This letter urges the withdrawal of Part 6 from Bill S-6 before passage, in order to allow for public consultation on, and further consideration of the proposed amendments before they are debated by the Senate and House.

Photo Credit – Petri Bailey

Inside CELA

Ramani Nadarajah Receives Gold Key Award

CELA is pleased to congratulate Ramani Nadarajah, CELA Counsel, on receiving the Gold Key alumni award from the Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Osgoode alumni awards recognize graduates for their contributions and achievements in the legal profession, Law School, and legal community.  Ramani is currently on secondment this year to the Law Commission of Ontario working on their environmental rights project.

Ramani received a Gold Key award in the Public Sector category, which recognized the achievements of public sector or government lawyers and members of the judiciary. Ramani’s award recognizes that her career demonstrates a sustained and extraordinary commitment to social justice and public service. Congratulations Ramani!

Environmental Beginnings & Doug Macdonald

As the environmental community remembers Doug Macdonald, we wish to highlight the oral history contained on the Environmental Beginnings website, which includes interviews and discussions with Doug and other key participants about the beginnings of the Ontario environmental movement. Housed by the Canadian Environmental Law Foundation as part of the Environmental History program, the Environmental Beginnings project was started by Gordon Miller when he was Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner.

The Canadian Environmental Law Foundation makes it a priority to preserve Ontario’s environmental law history through our online digital and archival collections. Valuable insights are included in those histories, and we welcome continued contributions to that oral history in the future, which can be added to the collection. For more information, please contact

Webinars & Resources

Protecting Lands and Waters
Stay tuned! In June, CELA will be hosting a webinar launching a new toolkit aimed at advancing Indigenous rights through Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). Watch our events page for date and registration details.

Recording: Canadian Water Legislation
Earlier this month, CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan delivered a presentation on Canadian Water Legislation to the Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Grand Rapids, MI

Recording: Nuclear Waste – Indigenous Sovereignty & Consent
Hosted by the Indigenous Food Circle and featuring four speakers including Northern Services counsel Kerrie Blaise, this webinar explored issues of consent around storing nuclear 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.