December 2015 Bulletin

Applications are being accepted for the OESP

The new Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) is accepting applications to help make electricity more affordable to low-income families. The OESP will provide a monthly credit between $30 and $50 starting January 1, 2016. To qualify, applicants must receive an electricity bill and meet income thresholds. Through our work with the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) an energy affordability program has been a key component of advocacy to alleviate energy poverty. CBC recently reported that just 34,000 applications have been submitted to date, although roughly 500,000 homes are eligible. Please help spread the word to encourage participation in this program. To apply: ontarioelectricitysupport.ca.

Anti-radiation pill distribution must meet global standards

CELA and Greenpeace called on Health Minister Eric Hoskins to expand on the distribution of potassium iodide (KI) pill to meet international best practices and the cancer risks highlighted by real-world nuclear accidents. Taken shortly after a nuclear accident, a KI pill can reduce the risk of thyroid cancer. Earlier this fall, KI pills were distributed for the first time to all residents within 10 km of the Pickering, Bruce and Darlington nuclear stations. We filed a request under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) to undertake an evidence-based review of current KI distribution policy. The ministry has three months to respond.

Groups appeal plan to refurbish aging nuclear reactors

Several public interest groups were in the Federal Court of Appeal to ensure that human health and environmental risks are carefully considered in a plan to refurbish four aging nuclear reactors at the Darlington site on the shores of Lake Ontario. This comes on the heels of the Toronto Executive Committee’s passing of a motion calling for a review of nuclear emergency plans. Lawyers from Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) are working on behalf of Greenpeace Canada, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, CELA and Northwatch in this case.

CELA applauds announcement of $2.65 billion climate investment

CELA applauds Prime Minister Trudeau’s pledge to contribute $2.65 billion over the next five years to help developing countries mitigate their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. Under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord, Canada committed to work with partners to mobilize US $100 billion for this purpose annually by 2020. Climate change disproportionately impacts developing countries because most lack the resources and capital required to shift fuel sources and adapt to changing weather patterns. As a developed country with a relatively large GHG footprint, Canada is ideally poised to help and has a moral obligation to do so. CELA supports this commitment from the Federal government, and we look forward to future announcements.

Offering assistance for Environmental Assessment Act review

Along with several other organizations, CELA contacted Ontario's Minister of Environment and Climate Change to seek clarification about his plans to review Ontario’s environmental assessment regime in 2016. The minister recently delivered the opening remarks at the Ontario Association for Impact Assessment (OAIA) Annual Conference in Toronto entitled "Environmental Assessment: A Critical Tool For Tackling Climate Change". The minister invited OAIA members to help him understand the environmental assessment regime and offer advice on ways to improve it. We strongly encouraged the minister to conduct a comprehensive public review in order to identify and implement the numerous reforms that are urgently needed to address the current system’s shortcomings.

Petitioning for clarification of Canada's asbestos use

CELA and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) submitted a petition to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada, seeking clarification on Canada’s continued use of asbestos in light of growing evidence demonstrating harm due to asbestos exposure. The “controlled use” of asbestos products approach currently advocated by Canada doesn’t adequately prevent harm to human health resulting from asbestos exposure for several reasons. In addition, Canada stands out from other countries that have not prohibited asbestos. Although there have been significant measures to reduce asbestos exposure at the provincial level to protect workers in the workplace, there may be inconsistencies in the scope of these regulations across each province and territory.

Update on indoor temperatures for multi-unit residences

CELA recently urged Toronto's Board of Health to adopt the Medical Officer of Health’s recommendation to explore the feasibility of implementing a health-based maximum indoor temperature of 26°C for rental multi-unit residential buildings.There is a clear inequity in requiring buildings with air-conditioning to maintain an indoor temperature of 26°C, but not creating a similar standard for buildings without air-conditioning. Toronto Public Health has found that individuals who do not have access to in-home air-conditioning are more vulnerable to extreme heat.

Groups make joint submission on Federal Court cost rules

CELA, the Environmental Law Centre and Ecojustice made a joint submission to the Federal Court Rules Committee about the possible revamping of Federal Court cost rules and practices. Our submission suggested including the presumption that each party bears their own costs in public interest judicial review applications. Lead author Chris Tollefson also outlined reasons why the Federal Court cost principles--such as deterring frivolous/vexatious lawsuits and ensuring indemnification--may make sense in private civil actions, but not in public interest environmental litigation.

CELA's recommendations for Ontario's cap and trade program

CELA staff made several recommendations to help Ontario reach its greenhouse gas emissions targets by the year 2020. Our recommendations included items such as when Ontario should start the cap and trade program, which facilities should be included, and a length of time for the initial compliance period, among others.

CELA's nuclear emergency planning presentation

CELA staffers recently presented a detailed analysis about nuclear emergency planning at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, City of Toronto Executive Committee and Durham Region Council.

 

Faces of CELA: Alisha Barron

This month we caught up with CELA's archivist Alisha Barron to learn more about her role and why she joined our team.

So what do you do at CELA?
I am the digitization archivist at CELA. I was hired as part of the two year Environmental Law Legacy project in order to preserve CELA’s historical narrative within the environmental law movement and increase public accessibility to CELA’s wealth of information by archiving and scanning their holding and making it available online.

What brought you to CELA?
I’ve always been interested in working in a corporate archive--they are significantly different from other types or archives. With a corporate archive you are creating the proverbial memory of an organization and as the archivist you become immersed in it, you become its arbiter. CELA offered me the unique opportunity to build digital archive from the ground up--something I had always wanted to do. It’s been a lot of hard work--a herculean task, even, having to go thorough 45 years of history, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?
I have always had a fascination for the law from a socio-historical context. The laws we choose to make and uphold reflect the social and cultural values of a given society. Environmental law is particularly fascinating as it is so new--an invention of the twentieth century--and really illustrates the moral and social shifts in the context of our global society.

What is the best part of your job?
Discovering hidden treasures. Some of the boxes I deal with haven’t been touched for years, and some of the stuff that’s been boxed up and forgotten is amazing. For example, my absolute favourite discovery was a bottle of water from the City of Toronto’s “Toronto on tap” promotion. The bottle had never been opened and is at least twenty years old as the “further information” phone number predates Toronto’s 10-digit dialing system.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned from working at CELA so far?
The historical scope of the environmental movement. CELA has been part of that movement since the beginning, from a grass roots organization in the early 1970s to an incorporated not-for-profit. CELA has been instrumental in how Canada talks about and relates to our environment. It’s fascinating to me to be able to review CELA’s contributions and then view them in the greater context of Canadian history and Canadian environmental legislation.

When you’re not at CELA, what do you like to do?
When I’m not at CELA I can be found hanging out with friends at various bars and restaurants around the city enjoying some local craft brews, or at home working on my various art projects, from acrylic paintings to short story writing, not to mention cooking and baking. My banana bread and quiches are practically famous in my friend group and my apple pie is a staple at family gatherings.