May 2019 Bulletin

Ottawa’s spectacular tulip displays at the Supreme Court of Canada in May 2019 (Photo: Kathleen Cooper/CELA)

News & Activities

CELA attends Low Income Energy Network conference


CELA executive director Theresa McClenaghan (second from right) attended the Low Income Energy Network conference.

CELA joined our sister clinic Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO) at this year’s annual Low Income Energy Network conference. CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson provided key presentations to the conference about the intersection of environmental rights and housing rights with energy poverty issues. A speaker from the province’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) which oversees a number of electricity programs, explained that since its inception three years ago, the Ontario Electricity Support Program has provided $350 million in support to low income Ontario energy consumers. The OESP was adopted in large part due to the efforts of LIEN, led by CELA and ACTO, for the benefit of hundreds of thousands of Ontario families, and as a key part of the province’s overall energy poverty strategy. Materials from the conference are available at the LIEN website.

CELA turns 50 in 2020! And we need your help

Download our 50th anniversary brochure. Please consider sharing your memories and photos with us for an upcoming exhibit!

CELA has been at the forefront in making Canada’s environment cleaner, healthier and safer for everyone! CELA helped develop Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights and better chemical regulation laws in Canada. We were instrumental in getting lead out of gasoline, banning asbestos, and achieving widespread bans and restrictions on the cosmetic use of pesticides. (Read more about our accomplishments here.) We have a favour to ask. We’re asking anyone we’ve worked with to share their best memories and photos for an upcoming exhibit. Please send your memories and photos to our office manager Tracy Tucker.

Prohibition of regulatory negligence lawsuits against Ontario

CELA counsel Richard Lindgren made a submission regarding Schedule 17 of Bill 100 known as the Protecting What Matters Most Act. If enacted, the new legislation would bar certain actions against the Crown and its agents in the course of carrying out their duties as public regulators. CELA believes the Ontario government should not enjoy blanket immunity in the civil courts in relation to regulatory negligence actions, and recommends that Schedule 17 be withdrawn from Bill 100.

Strengthening the new Technical Standard for Asphalt Mix Industry

Photo by Laura Gilmore/Flickr

Ontario’s Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has proposed the establishment of a technical standard for the asphalt mix industry to reduce emissions from asphalt mix facilities which are known to cause adverse health and environmental impacts. Despite these serious impacts, there has been inadequate enforcement of regulations against these operations. CELA believes that asphalt mix facilities should remain subject to the environmental compliance approval (ECA) process, which provides for a rigorous review of these operations by the Ministry’s engineers and technical staff and permits the Ministry to undertake preventative measures to address any site-specific concerns. The ECA process, unlike a technical standard, allows the Ministry to undertake an upfront assessment to ensure that asphalt mix facilities comply with provincial environmental laws, prior to commencing operation in Ontario. CELA remains strongly opposed to the use of a technical standard to regulate asphalt mix facilities in Ontario.

Analyzing nuclear reactor exemptions

The federal government is proposing regulations under Bill C-69, the Impact Assessment Act, that would exempt many nuclear reactors from environmental assessments. CELA joined several civil society groups in analyzing the proposal and recommended that all new nuclear reactors be subjected to formal environmental assessments. “Excluding nuclear energy projects from impact assessment means there will be no credible sustainability-based assessment of the environmental, health, economic or social impacts of new, expanded or refurbished nuclear energy projects before they proceed,” says CELA’s executive director and counsel Theresa McClenaghan.

Proposed Amendments to General Regulation 334 of the Environmental Assessment Act

CELA made a submission to a proposed amendment to General Regulation 334 under the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA). We pointed out to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services that the proposal would exempt any disposition or severance of government property carried out by the Ministry, and that the exemption removes the ability to identify and evaluate potential adverse environmental effects early in the decision-making process. Without the application of the EAA, there will be an insufficient legislative basis requiring that adverse effects of an undertaking be considered from the outset. Ontario’s EA requirements for realty undertakings are neither duplicative nor redundant, as the information gathered, and public comment opportunities provided, are unique to the EA process.

Critiquing changes to the Environmental Assessment Act

Enacted in 1975, Ontario’s Environmental Assessment Act imposes legally binding environmental assessment (EA) obligations to certain public or private undertakings such as landfills, incinerators, highways or transit projects. The Ontario government is currently considering several potential changes to its EA program outlined in a Discussion Paper that fails to persuasively explain how or why these changes will be implemented. CELA believes these proposals are inconsistent with the public interest purpose of the Environmental Assessment Act. In addition, the Discussion Paper does not address the previous EA reforms put forward in recent years by various stakeholders. We suggested that the Discussion Paper’s changes should not be pursued but should instead follow other forms to transform the province’s EA program into a robust, credible and participatory regime. CELA also filed a critique of the Environmental Assessment Act changes proposed in Schedule 6 of Bill 108.

Photo by Jesse Christopherson/Flickr. The Transverse lady beetle is listed as “Endangered” in Ontario, meaning the species lives in the wild but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.

Strengthening amendments to the Endangered Species Act

CELA counsel Kerrie Blaise prepared a briefing note regarding Schedule 5 of Ontario’s Bill 108, which proposes amendments to the Endangered Species Act, 2007. If enacted, the amendments would delay new at-risk species being classified and listed on the Species at Risk in Ontario List, remove requirements to consult with experts, and impede the public transparency of plans regarding at-risk species. The analysis identifies various adverse legal consequences if this Schedule is enacted and recommends that it should be immediately abandoned by the Ontario government. We also produced a joint submission with Ecojustice and Lintner Law. (Learn more about the species at risk in Ontario.)

Conservation authorities modernization (incl. Schedule 2, Bill 108)

Endorsed by 11 individuals and 18 organizations, CELA and Environmental Defence authored submissions to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry regarding conservation authorities modernization, including amendments to Schedule 2, Bill 108 (Environmental Registry of Ontario numbers: 013-5018 and 013-4992). We made eight recommendations the government could adopt to ensure Ontario’s climate resilience, such as avoiding “low-risk” development exemptions, providing adequate resources for conservation authorities across Ontario’s watersheds, and delaying amendments to Schedule 2 until more meaningful public consultations can take place.

Strengthening Ontario’s land use planning regime

CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson made a submission to the Provincial Planning Policy Branch regarding Ontario’s land use planning regime, suggesting that it should ensure access to justice for members of the public and promote sound decision-making. Schedules 9 and 12 of Bill 108 amend the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal Act, 2017 and the Planning Act. CELA supports a return to more fulsome hearings and broader appeal grounds for matters to be heard at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). However, we recommend removing other amendments that restrict the rights of participants in LPAT hearings, such as making written submissions only, restricting the ability of the public to appeal certain types of decisions including plans of subdivision, and shortening timelines for decisions.

Photo by Theresa McClenaghan/CELA

CELA welcomes new Canadian IJC Commissioners

CELA is pleased to welcome Chair of the Canadian Section, Pierre Béland and Canadian Commissioners, Merrell-Ann Phare, and Henry Lickers to the International Joint Commission (IJC), which resolves disputes between the United States of America and Canada under the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. The three Commissioners were appointed for four years at an IJC meeting earlier this month.

Updated referral list of Ontario environmental lawyers

CELA’s update to our referral list of Ontario lawyers practising environmental law is now available. (Unfortunately, we aren’t able to provide a similar list for all of Canada.) Inclusion on this list in no way implies an endorsement or recommendation of these firms. To be included on the list, please contact us at

On the CELA blog

Approaching CELA’s 50th Anniversary – Back to Basics

While environmental law is becoming increasingly complex, technologically sophisticated, and innovative, we fear that some of the basic laws that CELA has fought for over 50 years to establish and defend are at risk of being forgotten by environmental agencies. In this blog post, CELA executive director Theresa McClenaghan explores how we are addressing these concerns.

Reflecting on the connection between law reform and litigation

In anticipation of CELA’s upcoming 50th anniversary, CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson has been reflecting on the relationship between CELA’s law reform and litigation work. The best analogy that comes to mind is the relationship between public health and health care, she explains. While public health is about preventing disease and promoting human health, health care is about providing treatment to people who are already sick.