November 2018 Bulletin

Photo: Heritage Dog Park Ottawa by Jamie McCaffrey/Flickr

News & Activities

CELA opposes abolition of Ontario’s environmental watchdog

The Ontario government recently introduced omnibus legislation (Bill 57) which proposes to eliminate the independent Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO) and make other regressive changes to the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). CELA and thousands of other individuals, groups, and communities have expressed strong opposition to Bill 57 because it will result in considerably less public trust, transparency, and accountability for governmental decision-making in the province. Ontarians who value the important advocacy, oversight, and educational roles played by the ECO under the EBR are encouraged to sign an online letter requesting that Premier Ford withdraw this ill-advised rollback. CELA’s legal analysis of Bill 57 is available on our website, as is the joint letter from CELA and 24 organizations sent to Premier Doug Ford.

Strengthening Ontario’s proposed climate change plan

Earlier this month, CELA made a submission in response to the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks’ consultation on Ontario’s climate change plan. We made several recommendations to improve the plan, such as requiring that at least 35 per cent of climate change mitigation funds be spent on low-income individuals and communities, the GHG reduction targets should be entrenched in law, and that the plan include programs for remote and Northern communities, a climate change risk assessment, and detailed action plans.

However, on November 29, when Ontario’s new climate change plan was released, we were disappointed to learn that it does not mention low-income or vulnerable communities at all. Climate change is fundamentally unfair since low-income and vulnerable communities have contributed least to climate change but are affected most by its impacts. It is crucial that Ontario’s programs and policies focus on fairness and equity, and target low-income households and communities with appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures.


Photo: Bee by David Short/Flickr

Protecting Pollinators – Nearly half a million Canadians agree on need to speed up neonics ban

CELA joined several environmental, conservation, and health organizations, and nearly half a million Canadians in response to federal consultations on the neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in loss of honey bees and other pollinators. The groups responded to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency proposal to discontinue all uses of clothianidin and thiamethoxam. We objected to the slow pace of phase-out, calling for it to be accelerated, and sought greater consideration of aggregate and cumulative risks of multiple neonics, as well as the potential for ecological cascade effects. We also provided comments on concurrent registration proposals for thiamethoxam products noting that they are unlawful; they do not apply the acceptable risk standard in the Pest Control Products Act; and there is no jurisdiction for the PMRA to phase out rather than immediately de-register these products in the context of a registration decision.


Photo: Cherry Beach Sunset by Martyn/Flickr

Government urged to halt push for new fleet of nuclear reactors

CELA, along with more than 25 Canadian civil society organizations, called on the federal government to reject nuclear industry pressure to spend taxpayer resources on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMR). In a joint letter, the organizations advised the Ministries of Environment and Climate Change, Natural Resources, and Science and Sport to avoid making investments in new forms of nuclear energy without public dialogue. These compact and unproven SMR designs, capable of producing 1 MW to 300 MW of electricity, are intended for communities that currently rely on diesel generation. The organizations also noted that the development of Canada’s “Small Modular Reactor Roadmap,” announced earlier this month, was led by the Canadian Nuclear Association and did not facilitate public engagement.

Despite claims that SMRs are cleaner and safer, they will still produce long-lived radioactive waste and require liability protection from the federal government in the event of an accident. In addition, Canada’s nuclear regulator has been urging Canada to exempt SMRs from federal environmental assessments. In CELA’s recent comments to the regulator, we noted the regulator “does not have a monopoly over the public interest” and absent public consultation with potentially affected communities and thorough EA oversight, the development of an SMR licensing regime should be placed on hold.


Photo: Napanee River by Liz/Flickr

Reviewing the CNSC’s oversight reports on nuclear substance and uranium processing facilities

CELA provided a submission in response to the Regulatory Oversight Report (ROR) for Uranium Mines, Mills, Historic and Decommissioned Sites in Canada: 2017, released in October 2018. CELA detailed how the radionuclide data presented in the report was not a sufficient replacement for inclusion on the federal National Pollutant Release Inventory, and recommended radionuclide emissions be included in this online database.

We repeated this recommendation to advance the public’s “right to know” in our submission responding to the Regulatory Oversight Report (ROR) for Uranium and Nuclear Substance Processing Facilities in Canada: 2017. CELA also recommended the CNSC increase the depth of its analysis in its oversight reports and crucially, include a chapter on waste management. We also highlighted areas of licensee non-compliance related to the public availability of licensee’s environmental risk assessments.

Bed bugs and pesticides: information for tenants in Ontario

As part of ongoing development of Public Legal Education resources for the RentSafe initiative, we have created Bed Bugs and Pesticides: Information for Tenants in Ontario. Bed bugs can create a serious crisis in people’s lives and demand swift and collaborative action. This fact sheet addresses strategies for bed bug control such as choosing/asking pest control companies to use the least toxic pesticide options, and describing the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords.


Photo: The Great Lakes by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr


Lands to Great Lakes – Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

Earlier this month, Special Projects Counsel Anastasia Lintner presented at this year’s Latornell Conservation Symposium called “Lands to Great Lakes – Relationship Status: It’s Complicated”. Her presentation advocated for sustainable “one water” municipal services delivery for climate resilience. This means our communities’ water, wastewater, and stormwater planning would be done on a full-cost recovery basis over the lifecycle of the assets, while being sensitive to ability to pay and ensuring “assets” include nature (wetlands, forests, headwaters). Under Ontario’s Water Opportunities Act, 2010, there is the untapped potential of working with everyone impacted to develop regulations to enable municipal water sustainability plans.

Right to healthy housing and access to affordable energy

CELA was invited to speak at two legal clinic-sponsored events earlier this month: the Northern Regional Training for Community Legal Clinic Lawyers and Community Legal Workers in Thunder Bay, and the Disrepair Despair forum convened by the Community Advocacy and Legal Centre serving Belleville and much of eastern Ontario. Kerrie Blaise and Kathleen Cooper discussed the RentSafe project which addresses housing-related health risks faced by low-income tenants. Kerrie also described the work of the Low Income Energy Network which aims to ensure basic energy self-sufficiency of low income residents in Ontario.

Using the law to protect air, water, land and human health

As part of CELA’s Northern Services pilot, CELA’s Kerrie Blaise provided a public legal education presentation at an Environment North event earlier this month at Thunder Bay’s Waverley Auditorium. The presentation, which provided updates on climate change plans in Ontario and efforts to find a host for radioactive waste in the Northwest, can be downloaded from CELA’s website.

Source water protection in Indigenous communities

At the invitation of the Nokiiwin Tribal Council, CELA met with the community of the Fort William First Nation to discuss source water protection. CELA’s presentation, which drew on its prior source water planning toolkit with Pays Plat and Grassy Narrows First Nation and reported on an ongoing project with the tri-nation of Chippewas of the Thames, Munsee-Delaware and Oneidas of the Thames, sparked discussion about the impact of legacy pollution on present day water health.


Photo: Hey ducks, you are in my shot! by Jackman Chiu/Flickr

On the CELA Blog

Guest Blog: So What If We Lose the Environmental Commissioner?

In this guest blog, Ellen Schwartzel, former Deputy Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, explains the important role of the Environmental Commissioner and why it matters to all Ontarians who make this province their home.

Province proposes abolishing Ontario’s environmental watchdog

CELA counsel Rick Lindgren explains the risks of the proposed Bill 57 omnibus legislation. The Bill proposes various amendments to the province’s long-standing Environmental Bill of Rights. Alarmingly, Schedule 15 of the Bill includes provisions which, if enacted, would eliminate the position of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.