October 2021 Bulletin

Celebration Changed, Not Cancelled

CELA is at the forefront in making our environment cleaner, healthier, and safer for everyone — and that has now been our story for 50-plus years! Since our beginning, we have been passionate about seeking innovative legal approaches.

Today, we can be proud of our impact on Canada’s environmental laws, including, in 1978, the recognition of environmental law as a matter of social justice, when CELA became a specialty clinic within the Legal Aid Ontario clinic system. We continue to work for the people who are most impacted by air pollution, unsafe water, or contaminated land – and who are often the least able to avoid such threats. CELA is recognized as a source of helpful, actionable advice and specialized skills. Through our representation of clients in cases large and small, and our work with other ENGOs, health organizations, government, and other service providers and professionals, we have advanced environmental law protection in Ontario, in Canada, and internationally.

A cause for celebration, to be sure. But with COVID restrictions in 2020 and continuing uncertainty in 2021 about large physical gatherings, we’ve made the tough decision to cancel the party. Instead, we’ll be celebrating with a documentation of our history – and you’re invited to share it with us! We are digitizing early CELA scrapbooks and the fascinating early history of environmental law struggles, and anticipate having this collection available in early 2022. Watch for upcoming notices in this newsletter and in your email inbox.

The cancellation of the anniversary gala has put a damper on the festivities and on our fundraising. To sustain our unique programs not funded by Legal Aid, such as our articling student program, public outreach, and webinars for environmental advocates, we need your continuing help. Please support the CELA Foundation this fall with your donation. Thank you!

Case Updates

What’s Next for the Ring of Fire?

Any day now, we are expecting the release of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Regional Assessment for the Ring of Fire. This is the second regional assessment to have been conducted in Canada under the Impact Assessment Act. CELA, along with our client and Indigenous grassroots group, The Friends of the Attawapiskat River, will be watching to see if our comments have factored into the Crown’s decision.

This decision will come months after the Friends and other Treaty 9 First Nations called for a moratorium on mining development in the Ring of Fire until:

  1. ᑲᐧᐃᑐᒋᑲᑌᐠ ᑭᒋ ᒪᓇᒋᑕᓂᐧᐊᐠ ᐅᑌ ᐃᑌᑫᐢᑲᒥᐠ ᑲ ᐃᔑ ᓂᐱᐧᐊᒐᐠ ᓀᐢᑕ ᓯᐱᐧᐊᐠ ᓀᐢᑕ
    Protection plans for the region’s sensitive wetlands and watersheds are in place, and
  2. ᑭᒋ ᑭ ᐃᑕᐧᑲᐠ ᓂᐱᔾ ᐁᐸᔦᑲᐠ ᐧᐊᐢᑲᐃᑲᓂᐠ᙮ ᒥᓄᐱᒪᑎᓯᐧᐃ ᐊᑐᐢᑫᐧᐃᓂᓂᐤ ᑲ ᐊᑐᐢᑲᑕᒋᐠ ᐊᔕᔾ ᑭᑭᐱᒋᑕᐧᐊᐠ ᒥᓯᐧᐁ ᐣᑎᒥᐠ ᓀᐢᑕ ᒪᒥᐠ ᐃᑌᑫ ᓯᐱᐠ ᑲ ᐃᔑ ᐃᑕᐧᑲᓂᓂᐠ ᒧᓇᐃᑫᐧᐃ ᐊᐸᑎᓯᐧᐃᓂᓂᐤ ᕆᐣᐠ ᐊᑊ ᐸᔭᕐ ᑲ ᐃᒋᑲᑌᓂᐠ᙮
    Access to clean water, housing, and health services have been secured for all upstream and downstream communities from the proposed Ring of Fire.

To date, this moratorium request remains unfulfilled.

Law Reform Updates

Underscoring the Need for Impact Assessment

CELA, joined by MiningWatch Canada and Ontario Nature, are asking the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada to conduct an impact assessment for a proposed gold mine near Kirkland Lake, Ontario. The open pit project, which would see the Misema River diverted and used for effluent discharge, raises questions about impacts to the watershed and Canada’s ability to meet climate targets and environmental obligations.

We also called on the federal government to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction, as there’s a yet-to-be used power in the Impact Assessment Act that enables the Minister to enter into agreements with Indigenous governments so they can exercise certain powers and functions during the assessment process. Enacting an Indigenous jurisdiction regulation, we argued, would further Canada’s accountability to upholding the principles within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and provide greater protection for Indigenous rights and interests.

Lawyers for Climate Justice Publish Open Letter to Prime Minister and Attorney General

A group of lawyers from across Canada is warning that an increasingly destabilized climate threatens Canadians’ fundamental rights, leaves prison infrastructure vulnerable, and exacerbates systemic injustices.

The group, Lawyers for Climate Justice (L4CJ), has published an open letter urging the Prime Minister and incoming Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to protect Canadians from these threats by taking four specific steps.  CELA signed on to the letter along with other legal organizations including West Coast Environmental Law and East Coast Environmental Law.

Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water – The View from Hamilton

CELA has launched a campaign to “Get the Lead Out of our Drinking Water”. We are concerned about lead in drinking water because it’s a toxin that is particularly harmful to young children and disproportionately impacts low-income people. Despite recent attention on lead in drinking water, it remains a persistent issue across the province. It’s time to solve the problem once and for all.

As part of CELA’s campaign, we have looked at how lead in drinking water is affecting Ontarians across the province, focused on low-income and vulnerable people in our communities. This month, CELA co-hosted a webinar on lead in drinking water in Hamilton with Environment Hamilton. 

CELA will continue to work toward legislative and policy changes to keep low-income and vulnerable people in Hamilton, and all of Ontario, from being exposed to lead in drinking water.  Read the full blog on our website.

70 Groups Call for a Moratorium on New Nuclear to be Included in Cabinet Mandate Letters

Seventy groups and organizations have called on the Prime Minister to include a moratorium on federal funding for nuclear expansion in the mandate letters to cabinet. Prime Minister Trudeau is expected to announce his new cabinet next week.

In their letter, sent October 4, the groups cite the latest expert analysis conducted by independent researchers in the 2021 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. The report found that the industry’s proposed small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), like large reactors, will continue to be subject to delays and cost overruns, not ready for deployment in the next decade, if ever, and highly unlikely to be economical. Clearly, SMRs have no role to play in fighting the climate crisis.

Inside CELA

Healthy Great Lakes

CELA is thrilled to welcome Krystal-Anne Roussel to the Healthy Great Lakes team! Krystal-Anne joins April Weppler (Engagement Coordinator) and Anastasia Lintner (Special Projects Coordinator) in the role of Water Policy Coordinator

Krystal-Anne is a newly called lawyer in Ontario, who articled with CELA (2020-2021) and has continued as counsel ever since. Krystal-Anne, during her time as a law student, interned with Wolastoqey Nation in New Brunswick and demonstrated a clear and continuing commitment to understanding Indigenous law and relationships with water. Krystal-Anne was featured earlier this year on our “Faces of CELA” blog.

Webinars & Resources

Environmental Law Toolkit 2021

Hosted by Anastasia Lintner of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) and including numerous lawyers from CELA, Ecojustice and The Commission for Environmental Cooperation, the Toolkit is designed to educate nonprofits active in the environmental field about the legal tools available to protect our air, water, land, and human health.

Participants will receive a nuts and bolts overview of the laws that protect our environment, as well as access to a dozen recordings.  For more information and to register, visit the Sustainability Network’s website here.

Book Review: Not on My Watch by Alexandra Morton

CELA counsel Richard Lindgren reviews field biologist Alexandra Morton’s recent book that chronicles her decades-long battle to protect migratory wild salmon in British Columbia from the ecological threats posed by raising Atlantic salmon in net-pens in the Pacific Ocean.  Read the full review here.

Recording: Get the Lead Out of Drinking Water – Hamilton Case Study

The presence of lead in our drinking water is a crucial public health issue – this webinar provides a brief overview of the health impacts of lead and identifies recommendations for a permanent policy solution that protects everyone. Focusing on the community of Hamilton but open to everyone, this webinar features a discussion with participants about how is lead impacting the places they live, learn, work and play. The full recording is available on our website.

Recording: Effects of Toxic Substances on Great Lakes Fish Health 

The Toxics-Free Great Lakes Binational Network, Blue Fish Canada, and the Fish Health Network hosted a binational webinar on the impacts of toxic substances on the health of fish. Learn about past and emerging toxic substances in the Great Lakes basin, how fish health is being impacted, and what this means for human health, indigenous cultures, and the social and economic sustainability of shoreline communities.  Access the recording on our website.

Recording: “Making the Links” in Northern Ontario

“Making the Links” highlights the connections between environment, health, and industry in Northern Ontario, and demonstrates how you can use the law to prevent harm to you, your community, and the environment.

This webinar provides snapshots from a community legal toolkit CELA will be releasing soon. It also:

  • Highlights pressing issues facing Northern Ontario from forestry and aerial spraying to industry exemptions from air emission standards
  • Discusses impacts on food sovereignty and treaty rights
  • Presents legal tools and opportunities for public engagement

Access the recording on our website.