September 2015 Bulletin

Grassy Narrows sues over health threat from clearcut logging

CELA is representing the Grassy Narrows First Nation in legal proceedings against Ontario, asking the Divisional Court to overturn provincial plans for a decade of clearcut logging on its homeland. This small Indigenous community fears that clearcut logging will release mercury into local waterways that will further contaminate local fish and harm the health of people consuming the fish who already bear the burden of mercury that was dumped into the river by a paper mill in the 1960s. Grassy Narrows alleges that the logging plan will prolong and deepen the ongoing tragedy from exposure to mercury in their community and therefore violates their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to life, liberty and security of the person and freedom from discrimination. This could become the first case in Canada to successfully use the Charter to protect people against harm and discrimination arising from environmental degradation. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is providing financial support for this litigation through its test case funding program.

Organizations disappointed by ruling on new nuclear projects

Along with other public interest groups, CELA is disappointed by the Federal Court of Appeal’s rejection of a ruling requiring the full effects of building new nuclear reactors in Ontario to be publicly assessed before the Darlington new nuclear project can proceed. The majority decision held that the proposed reactors were adequately assessed, despite the lack of information on environmental impacts in the environmental assessment process.

OPAL files challenge against approval of quarry discharges

CELA, representing the Oxford People Against the Landfill (OPAL) Alliance, has applied to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal for leave (permission) to appeal an environmental approval recently issued to Carmeuse Lime (Canada) Limited. The approval from the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change allows Carmeuse to start discharging quarry effluent into a large lake that exists on the company’s property near Ingersoll, Ontario. The next step in this legal proceeding is for the Ministry and Carmeuse to file written responses to the evidence and arguments submitted by the OPAL Alliance and Oxford County. After considering the parties’ materials, the Tribunal will then decide whether leave to appeal should be granted. It's anticipated that the Tribunal’s leave decision may be released in October or November. If leave is granted, the Tribunal will hold a public hearing on the discharge approval.

CELA takes The Leap

CELA has signed on to The Leap manifesto, launched by a broad-based coalition of progressive organizations and individuals. The manifesto calls for governments and industry to respect the rights and title of Indigenous communities at the forefront of protecting rivers, coasts, forests and lands from out-of-control industrial activity. The manifesto calls for bolstering this role by fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with the end goal of obtaining 100 per cent of Canada's electricity from renewable resources within two decades.

BLOG: The Truth about cosmetic regulations

CELA intern Olivier Couttolenc explains the need for the federal government to strengthen regulations that will protect consumers against harmful chemicals in cosmetics.

COLLECTION: Nuclear phase-out

CELA strongly supports the phase-out of Canada's nuclear power program on environmental, health and safety, economic and ethical grounds. We have an extensive collection of research materials that is freely available to the public on our website.

Faces of CELA: Jacqueline Wilson

We caught up with new CELA counsel Jacqueline Wilson to learn more about why she joined our team and her plans for the future.

So what do you do at CELA?
I am a new lawyer at CELA (and thrilled to be here!). I work on both law reform and litigation files. Right now, I'm working on some great projects, including research for the Grassy Narrows constitutional challenge and updates to the Green Budget Coalition's recommendations on infrastructure in First Nations communities.

What’s the path that brought you to CELA?
I have always had an interest in environmental law issues. During law school, I was co-president of the environmental law club and volunteered with progressive environmental law NGOs, including CELA. After law school, I articled and worked as litigation counsel at the Department of Justice in the Business and Regulatory Law Division, developing my litigation skills and learning about federal statutes and regulations. Now, I'm very excited to be using those litigation skills to fight for progressive environmental causes.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law?
I think most environmentalists have understood the urgency and importance of protecting the environment for decades. The urgency is only increasing. The implications of poor environmental policy are vast, and particularly acute for low-income people. Protection of the environment is an important piece of the social justice struggle and links up with other important social issues, like workers' health and safety and indigenous rights.

What is the most important environmental regulation you'd like to see implemented?
There are a lot of new environmental regulations we desperately need and I'd certainly like to see the recent rollbacks to federal environmental laws and regulations reversed. As one of my first cases at CELA, I have been working on a case involving lead-based paint and lead-dust in a residential apartment. There is no regulation that governs the level of lead acceptable in residences. I'd like to see a regulation that addresses that issue and reflects current scientific understanding that no level of exposure to lead is acceptable in homes, especially for children and expecting mothers.

When you’re not at CELA, what do you like to do?
I teach an adult literacy class at West Neighbourhood House. I also sit on the Board of Directors of two wonderful legal aid clinics - Industrial Accident Victims' Group of Ontario and Willowdale Community Legal Services. I love living in Toronto and enjoying what the city has to offer. I spend lots of time trying out new restaurants, and going to plays, concerts and movies. I also love to travel. I'm off to Italy for two weeks this month and can't wait!

EVENT: Upcoming Legal Toolkit presentation in October 2015

On Tuesday, October 27, CELA and the Sustainability Network will present a one-day training session to educate environmental nonprofits about the legal tools available to protect our air, water, land, and human health. The workshop will be hosted by John Swaigen of Ecojustice. For more information: http://sustainabilitynetwork.ca/the-legal-toolkit