Law Commission Launches Important Public Consultation on Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights
Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) came into force in 1994 and significantly improved public participation in environmental decision-making. EBR tools have also been used by residents of Ontario to safeguard the environment and hold government officials to account for their environmental decisions.
The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) has recently started public consultation on environmental accountability, rights, responsibilities, and access to justice. The LCO believes the time is right for an independent, interdisciplinary, and balanced review of Ontario’s EBR legislation and environmental accountability strategies generally, to respond to increasingly urgent concerns about the health of our environment and the future of our planet.
As a long-time advocate of the EBR, CELA agrees that it is time to review the decades-old law, and we welcome this important initiative by the LCO. Over the years, it has become increasingly clear that the EBR requires key updates and substantive amendments.
A review of the EBR could, at a minimum, confer upon Ontario residents the right to a healthy environment. It could also entertain new approaches such as environmental justice mechanisms and enforceable “rights of nature”.
This consultation is not just for legal and policy experts. The LCO hopes to hear from environmental advocates, government leaders, Indigenous communities, and all individuals interested in environmental issues. To engage in this important consultation, you can:
Bob Rae, former Ontario Premier; Bud Wildman, former Minister of Environment and Energy; and Ruth Grier, former Minister of Environment, at the proclamation of the Environmental Bill of Rights (Photo Credit – Environmental Beginnings)
CELA Reviewing Province’s Omnibus Bill
Earlier this week, Bill 23, More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 was introduced in the Ontario Legislature. On the same day, numerous associated notices for public comment were posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Together, the proposed legislative amendments and associated policy and regulatory changes are an extensive package; the biggest that CELA has seen in decades.
CELA is thoroughly assessing the proposals and will be evaluating them against criteria including:
effective public participation, including transparency of decision-making and ensuring diversity of voices heard;
responsiveness to local circumstances within a clear provincial planning framework;
consistency with values articulated by the province based on public input (eg, protection of water, wetlands, forests, natural heritage, biodiversity, hazard, and flood protection);
supporting increased density around services and transit;
promoting healthy rural economies;
access to green space and walkable communities;
utilization of brownfields;
climate resilience (eg, mitigation, adaption including adoption of green infrastructure, and avoiding heat islands);
provision of high-quality safe housing for all, including young people and under-resourced Ontarians; and
meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
Once complete, CELA’s assessment will be shared with decision-makers and made public.
Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan
Law Reform Updates
Update – Reforming the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) regulates a broad range of things in Canada, from the most dangerous pollutants to plastic manufactured items to genetically engineered organisms. For the first time in 20 years, CEPA is being reviewed by the Federal government through Bill S-5, An Act to Amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
CELA urges the adoption of substantial amendments including making pollution prevention planning mandatory for the elimination of toxic substances, making alternative assessment a pillar of CEPA, eliminating the bifurcation of the List of Toxic Substances, retaining Schedule 1 as the Toxic Substances List, and making changes to section 22 of CEPA to ensure effective enforcement mechanism in the Act.
CELA’s recommendations for amendments to Bill S-5 can be found on our website, as can our recent submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development in regard to Bill S-5. CELA Counsel Joseph Castrilli and senior researcher Fe de Leon recently authored an article that appeared in The Hill Times, discussing how the failure of CEPA means there may be fewer cancerous substances in the air, but more on the ground.
To learn more about the legislative process for Bill S-5 and why amendments are so badly needed, check out the recent 4-part webinar series co-hosted by CELA and Nature Canada – all the recordings are available on CELA’s website by clicking here.
Recommended Great Lakes and Freshwater Protections for Budget 2023
In response to the federal government’s pre-budget consultations, CELA has provided recommendations related to Great Lakes and freshwater protections for consideration in Budget 2023. The focus of our recommendations was on increasing federal funding and attention to protect human and ecosystem health, and increased public engagement. Examples include prioritizing investment in federal Great Lakes programs, developing a pan-Canadian approach to freshwater management, increasing funding for water and wastewater infrastructure in First Nations communities, upholding the commitment to repeal the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, and introducing replacement legislation in collaboration with First Nations, and developing a comprehensive nuclear waste framework.
Call for a National Low-Income Energy Efficiency Strategy
The majority of low-to-moderate income Canadians are currently left out of federal energy efficiency and green building policies. And yet, to reach net zero, we need to upgrade almost every home in Canada. A national low-income energy efficiency strategy would help remove barriers to energy efficiency upgrades for those who need it most. Right now, the government is planning the next federal budget. An investment in low-income energy efficiency would provide rapid support for those who need it most — while helping secure Canada’s climate commitments.
CELA and LIEN support Efficiency Canada’s efforts towards a national energy strategy and encourage you to contact your MP, asking them to influence what’s included in a national low-income energy efficiency strategy. Learn more and send an email to your MP by clicking here.
CELA Finds Environmental Impact Statement for New Uranium Mine Deficient
CELA recently responded to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a proposed uranium mine on the Patterson Lake peninsula in northern Saskatchewan. Due to deficiencies within the Draft EIS, the requisite statutory and regulatory requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 have not been fulfilled.
CELA has requested that before the Draft EIS can be deemed sufficient, the mining proponent (NexGen) must provide greater detail and assessment of the precautionary principle, climate change and sustainability, cumulative effects, environmental effects, accidents and malfunctions, and alternative means. According to experts Luc Lance and Dr Robert Patrick, details surrounding critical worker and environmental health and safety, and plans for a source water protection program, should also be provided within the EIS.
Comments to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on a Series of Regulatory Oversight Reports
CELA recently reviewed a series of three regulatory oversight reports (ROR) released by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). These include RORs for nuclear power generating sites, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ sites, and the use of nuclear substances in Canada. CELA found issues with each report and made recommendations to the CNSC for consideration at their upcoming November 2022 meeting. The full submissions regarding each ROR can be found on CELA’s website here.
Petition Calling for Examination of Federal Asbestos Regulation and Asbestos Cement Pipes
CELA and Prevent Cancer Now petitioned the Federal Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development to seek a response from federal departments that address asbestos waste. This petition aims to examine whether harm to Canadian health is effectively prevented under the current regulation of asbestos and cement pipes containing asbestos.
Asbestos has historically been used for many construction applications and is found primarily in roofing, thermal and electrical insulation, cement pipe and sheets, flooring, gaskets, coatings, and other products. Asbestos cement (AC) became popular as a water pipe material in the 1940s. AC pipes are made of approximately 80 percent cement and 20 percent asbestos. An estimated 18 percent of water distribution pipes in Canada are constructed of AC. The possibility of exposure to workers and the public will continue to exist as long as asbestos is still present in older products, buildings, and infrastructure.
Asbestos exposure has been linked to asbestosis, a number of cancers including lung cancer, pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma, and cancer of the larynx and ovary. Evidence suggests it may also be linked to other cancers, such as colorectal, pharynx, and stomach cancers.
Photo Credit – Theresa McClenaghan
Canadian Environmental Law Foundation – Environmental Beginnings
For instance, the Environmental Beginnings project was initiated by the then Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Environmental Bill of Rights. Scroll through more than 30 stories, complete with audio and video recordings, or click here to learn about the birth of the Environmental Bill of Rights.
Webinars & Resources
Webinar – Enhancing Environmental Accountability under the EBR: Review of the Law Commission of Ontario’s Discussion Paper
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 – 12:00-1:00pm ET
The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) recently released a consultation paper that identifies issues and poses questions about how the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights could be amended to enhance environmental accountability. The LCO is currently seeking public feedback on this important topic until late November. Registration for this free webinar is required.
Clean Air Council Webinar – Municipal Climate Authority Legal Analysis
Wednesday, November 23 – 1:00 PM ET
CELA’s Theresa McClenaghan and Jacqueline Wilson will speak to the Clean Air Council about CELA’s analysis of municipal authorities to address climate change. The webinar will include CELA’s recent reports and briefs including municipal powers to address climate change, green roofs, urban tree cover, and extreme heat and rental housing. Registration for this free webinar is required.
Recording – Where’s the Protection? A Webinar Series on the Review and Reform of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act
In this webinar series, CELA and Nature Canada explore how the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), Canada’s main environmental legislation used to evaluate and manage substances, should be strengthened to protect vulnerable communities. The series included four webinars, and the recordings are all available on CELA’s website.
Photo credit – Fe de Leon
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 Canadian Environmental Law Foundation.