November 2015 Bulletin

Supreme Court asked to overturn nuclear assessments ruling

CELA and other public interest groups are asking the Supreme Court of Canada to overturn a Federal Court of Appeal ruling that could set a dangerous precedent for the future of environmental assessment law. Earlier this year, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that federal authorities only had to give “some consideration” to serious environmental and human health impacts associated with a plan to build new nuclear reactors at the Darlington site on Lake Ontario.

Brant residents seek environmental appeal

Citizens in Ontario’s Brant County are seeking to appeal an industrial sewage works approval and a water taking permit that would allow a company to operate an aggregate washing operation at a gravel pit close to the wellhead protection area for the water supply in Paris, Ontario. (The company is relying on a license it received more than 40 years ago but had never used until 2014.) Represented by CELA, Concerned Citizens of Brant (CCOB) is arguing that the government's decision to issue a permit to take over 10 million litres of water per day for 6 months of the year for 10 years in an area that experiences droughts is unreasonable.

CELA outlines priorities on federal environmental laws

CELA outlined the most pressing issues facing Canada’s environment to the Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders. We gently reminded them about their campaign promises on topics such as climate change, chemicals management and major energy projects. We also suggested ways they might address these issues to usher in a new era of environmental protection in Canada.

CELA addresses unreasonable delay in EBR Review

In 2010, CELA applied for a review of Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993 (EBR) on the basis that the law was outdated and required various improvements. In 2011, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change agreed to carry out the requested EBR review. However, during the past four years, there has been no tangible progress on the EBR review. This unreasonable delay has recently prompted the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario to conclude that environmental rights are being denied in this case. CELA continues to call on the Ministry to complete the review in a timely and public manner.

Raising concerns about Waste Standard Offer program

CELA joined six other environmental organizations to raise concerns with the Standard Offer Program for municipal Energy From Waste being developed by the IESO at the direction of the Minister of Energy and Minister of the Environment and Climate Change. We are urging the government to cancel this program. In its current form, it runs counter to the government’s goals to address climate change through clean, renewable energy.

CELA helps FACT-MB win in asphalt plant dispute

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) recently denied Miller Paving Limited (Miller), a quarry operator, permission to install a permanent asphalt plant at its limestone quarry in the Ottawa Valley's McNabb/Braeside. The Board also ordered Miller to provide a 300-meter setback from the proposed quarry expansion and neighbouring properties. During the hearing, CELA represented Friends Addressing Concerns Together (FACT- MB), a local citizens’ group which opposed the permanent plant. “We are ecstatic that we won the hearing and eternally grateful for CELA’s work on this case,” said FACT-MB’s Norma Moore.

CELA applauds new Anti-SLAPP Law

CELA celebrated the passage of Bill 52, Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015 which recently came into effect. The new law addresses the growing problem of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs), which are legal proceedings initiated to silence discussion on matters of public significance. The purpose of SLAPP suits is to intimidate and silence defendants by forcing them to spend time and money defending these meritless lawsuits. CELA has worked on this important legislation for many years.

CELA's Annual Report is now available

CELA’s 2015 Annual Report has just rolled off the presses, and it can be downloaded from our website.

Strengthening Canada’s toxic substances and pesticides laws

CELA joined other environmental organizations in producing briefing notes outlining current federal laws governing the management of toxic substances and pesticides. These regulatory frameworks need improvements to bring these laws up to date. We proposed several legislative amendments that would strengthen these laws to protect human health.

Applications are being accepted for the OESP

The new Ontario Electricity Support Program (OESP) has started accepting applications to help make electricity more affordable to low-income families. Developed by the Ontario Energy Board, 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. CELA is a founding member of the Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN), and an energy affordability program has been a key component of LIEN's proposal to alleviate energy poverty for many years.

BLOG: Protecting the Great Lakes

Are well-intended legislative words sufficient to safeguard and restore the Great Lakes? CELA Counsel Rick Lindgren explores this issue in a blog post.

Faces of CELA: Barbora Grochalova

We caught up with CELA's hardworking 2015-2016 articling student to learn how she got to CELA and her plans for the future.

So what do you do at CELA?
As the only articling student at CELA, I am usually the first point of contact for members of the public who have environmental concerns. I take phone calls, respond to emails and guide those interested through our application process. I also get a lot of questions about what articling is, and why do we call it that.

The majority of my time is spent helping lawyers with legal research to support their case work and law reform files. I'm particularly excited right now to be helping with CELA's submissions on the Cap and Trade consultations.

What brought you to CELA?
During the summer after my first year of law school, I worked for a community legal aid clinic in Toronto, and saw how important it is to fill that gap in access to justice. I always saw myself at a public interest organization, so CELA was the best of both worlds. I had been following the amazing work of the staff and volunteers here, and I'm so grateful that I get to play a part in it.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?
Law was not on my radar right away, although even in high school I knew that whatever I would end up doing would have environmentalist undercurrents. Thanks to the interdisciplinary structure of my Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree I dabbled in many interests, including a foray into ecological economics. Law seemed like an interesting field to try next. When I started my JD at Dalhousie, I was hooked. It was the combination of learning more in depth about social justice issues, and feeling like I was better able to affect change: couple of months in, I was part of a group that acted as legal observers during the Occupy protests in Halifax, and in my second year I gave a deputation to the Nova Scotia Law Amendments Committee on the international right to food. Though I'm not sure about actually affecting change, these experiences shaped my optimism and appreciation of hard work, which led me to environmental law.

What do you plan on doing when your articling stint is finished?
I'm going to pack my tent, and either try a new canoe route, or catch up on my favourite parts of the Bruce Trail. Career-wise, I'm looking forward to exploring where I can take my law practice next. Working with a like-minded team in the environmental law field would be my top choice, but I'm also interested in environmental issues in a broader sense. There are so many inspiring projects that provide solutions to environmental justice issues, from access to food, to community-based examples of a truly collaborative sharing economy. If I can use my skills to facilitate these kinds of positive change, I will be content.

What is the most important environmental regulation you'd like to see in Canada?
I don't like to pick favourites, but I've been feeling the urgency of addressing climate change very strongly. The first step is a strong set of targets, and programs that deliver them without disproportionately affecting already marginalized communities. In a more comprehensive way, however, I think it's important to use a positive vision of a more equitable low-carbon future as a lens against which we evaluate all policies. Environmental Assessment legislation is the prime venue for these questions, but by no means the only one. Anything from municipal planning to electoral reform to international trade should be considered with that image of a more inclusive and healthy low-carbon society in mind.

When you’re not at CELA, what do you like to do?
I like to get outside as much as I can, and I try to cycle to work at least a few times a week. I also like to ski, and I can't wait for the first snow fall! (Sorry... well, I'm not actually sorry!) Otherwise, I'm probably curled up with a hot chocolate and a good book.