Staff Blog

Toxic Torts Update: Ontario’s Class Action Law under Review

Since the 1970s, CELA has called for class action reform to enable individuals to bring civil claims on behalf of large groups of people whose health or property has been adversely affected by polluting activities.

Other stakeholders, academics and entities – including the former Ontario Law Reform Commission – also advocated the need to enhance access to justice, ensure judicial efficiency and deter harmful conduct by establishing an effective class action regime.

Where you live should not harm your health

RentSafe outreach resources and baseline research reports in production

For people of comfortable means, home typically means well-being and security. Statistics confirm that wealthier people are healthier with lower levels of chronic disease, including precursor conditions like stress and hypertension.

Ontario releases 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan

On October 26, the Ministry of Energy released the Ontario’s 2017 Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP). While there was no mention of building new nuclear reactors, the Ontario government maintains its commitment to refurbishing ten nuclear units at Darlington and Bruce, and committing to keeping Pickering open until 2024. Absent was any discussion about nuclear waste and storage.

Reflections on Gord Downie’s Green Legacy

I have my hands in the river
My feet up on the banks
Looked up to the Lord above
And said hey man thanks.

“New Orleans is Sinking”, The Tragically Hip (1989)

In the days after Canadian icon Gord Downie passed away, numerous heart-felt tributes praising Gord were expressed across the country by the Prime Minister, politicians, musicians, First Nations representatives, and countless other persons from all walks of life.

Waste Reduction Week 2017: An Ontario Perspective

Since 2001, “Waste Reduction Week” (October 16-20) has been coordinated by non-governmental organizations across Canada to highlight the national need to reduce the volume of waste being generated in communities and sectors throughout the country.

Fish don’t need Prozac: Protecting the Great Lakes

A recent U.S. study found that fish in the Great Lakes are on drugs. It turns out that human antidepressants are building up in the brains of 10 fish species in the Niagara River, which connects two of the Great Lakes--Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

Federal EA Reform: The Perils of Overpromising and Underdelivering

Earlier this year, things looked promising for long overdue Parliamentary action to undo the regressive changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) enacted by the previous government.

However, recent developments now call into serious question whether the current federal government is still willing to honour its public commitment to fix the broken CEAA regime.

Replacing the Ontario Municipal Board: A Public Interest Perspective

For many decades, the independent Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has held public hearings and rendered binding decisions on appeals, applications and other matters arising under numerous provincial statutes, including the Planning Act.

Herb Needleman – a public health hero

One of my heroes died last week. Dr. Herbert Needleman has inspired me since the early 1980s when as an undergraduate I first learned of his work on the effects of lead on children’s brains. His groundbreaking study published in 1979 measured lead in the shed baby teeth of low-income children, finding an association between what were then considered to be very low levels of lead exposure and negative impacts on brain development and functioning.

Committee report recommends major reform of Parliament's control of toxic substances

If the recommendations of a Parliamentary committee are adopted by the House of Commons, Canada will move closer to enshrining environmental rights, substituting safer alternatives, and strengthening protection of vulnerable populations in the regulation of toxic substances.

The recommendations are contained in a 162-page report released by the House Standing Environment Committee following a year long review of Canada's primary law on toxic substances, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

Hefty New Water Charge for Bottled Water Facilities Starts August 1; Meanwhile No Progress is Made Toward Full-Cost Recovery from Other Commercial and Industrial Water Users in Ontario

Effective August 1, 2017, bottled water facilities will be subject to a significantly higher fee for the water they pump from Ontario’s groundwater sources – going from $3.71 to $503.71 per million litres. While Canadian Environmental Law Association is encouraged by the government’s commitment to full-cost recovery in this instance, we remain deeply disappointed by the lack of progress toward expanding the water charges program.

Is Energy East a bad deal for Canadians?

CAREX Canada’s e-RISK tool for policymakers, cancer researchers, and NGOs

CELA has a longstanding and valuable relationship with CAREX Canada, the Vancouver-based national surveillance project engaged in estimating occupational and environmental exposure to carcinogens. Among the on-line tools on the CAREX website is e-RISK, an interactive – and recently updated - tool that lets site users explore the excess cancer risk associated with exposures to carcinogens in the enironment.

Guest Blog - From dialogue to accountability: A call for Canadian leadership on business and human rights

Reposted from the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

As members of the United Nations Working Group on business and human rights finish a 10-day visit to Canada, Karyn Keenan discusses what's next for corporate accountability in the country.

Guest Blog: March4Science/Earth Day Address - Parliament Hill, Ottawa

In tenth grade, I watched a documentary about how the organization and movement of the microscopic cellular universe reflects the organization and movement of our galaxy. I was changed forever.

Encouraging radon policy advocacy in the child care sector

As you might expect, child care professionals have busy schedules and a lot of important safety rules to follow. Not included in this work is radon safety but it can and should be. We are encouraging child care professionals to advocate for updating child care licensing rules to require radon testing and mitigation in child care facilities.

Greater investments are needed to protect the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance calls on the governments of Canada and the United States to ensure federal funding for freshwater protection and restoration of the Great Lakes – St Lawrence River Basin recognizes the region’s importance.

Science Under Siege at the Commons Agriculture Committee

Pesticide companies are miffed with the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) for doing its job. The agency recently completed a scientific review of the pesticide Imidacloprid. This pesticide is one of the heavily used neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in the decline of bees and other pollinators. Looking beyond pollinators, the recent PMRA review found this chemical to be an unacceptable risk to aquatic ecosystems.

Guest Blog: Ontario’s big secret – the real cause of rising electricity rates

Since 2002 Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) price of nuclear power has risen by 60%. And to add insult to injury OPG is now seeking a 180% price increase to pay for the continued operation of its high-cost Pickering Nuclear Station and the re-building of Darlington’s aging reactors.

MPs Vote to Continue Marathon Talkfest as “Strategy” for Disposal of Mercury in CFLs

When I was about seven years old I recall my mother getting very upset upon breaking a thermometer. On her knees and chasing shiny globules of mercury across the kitchen floor, she told me it was poison. Suitably impressed I did not forget. But, she put it in the trash unknowingly allowing the release of mercury vapour into our home until garbage day.

Trash Talk: The Provincial Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario

In 2016, the Ontario Legislature enacted the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. The overall intent of the Act is to divert more waste materials from disposal, and to ensure that diverted materials are reintegrated into the economy in order to reduce the use of raw resources.

Guest Blog: Phase-in of Ontario's neonic regulation hits new milestone

First report on neonic-treated seed sales measures widespread use

Looking for information about Canadian pesticide use and sales is frustrating. But in a leap forward for transparency, Ontario has published its first report on sales of corn and soybean seed treated with neonicotinoid insecticides ("neonics"), as required by the recently-amended provincial pesticide regulation.

Ontario’s Coal Plant Phase-out Produced Many Health and Environmental Benefits

Guest Blog

Source Water Protection 2.0: Strengthening Ontario’s Drinking Water Safety Net

In May 2000, seven people died, and thousands of people fell seriously ill, after bacteriological contamination of a municipal well that supplied drinking water in Walkerton, Ontario.

Sunny Ways for EAs? The 2017 Forecast for Federal Law Reform

In mid-2016, the Government of Canada established a four-member Expert Panel to undertake cross-country consultations and to provide recommendations on how to fix the broken federal environmental assessment (EA) process.

CELA Applauds Report by Ontario’s Auditor General On EA Reform

Ontario’s Auditor General has recently released her 2016 report, which deals with climate change, environmental approvals reform, and other key challenges facing the provincial government.

Challenging all MPs whose ridings have high radon levels – support a radon tax credit!

Over 600,000 homes across Canada are estimated to have above-guideline radon levels. That’s a lot of houses where lung cancer risk is elevated. It turns out many of those homes are in the ridings of 93 Members of Parliament with sixteen of those ridings of particular concern. But the elevated risk is nation-wide.

Guest Blog: Too much power? Then why keep Pickering running?

Citing a surplus of power, the Wynne government pulled the plug Tuesday on its Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) process for acquiring wind and solar power at highly competitive prices.

But what the Minister of Energy didn’t mention was that the reason we have a glut of power is the government’s insistence on keeping high-cost nuclear plants running despite plenty of better options.

Time to Get Serious about EA Reform in Ontario

While the Government of Canada’s review of federal environmental assessment (EA) legislation is well underway, the Ontario government has not announced or commenced a comprehensive public review of its own problematic EA regime.

Ontario Should Commit to Spending Cap and Trade Revenue on Low-income Ontarians

CELA challenges Ontario to follow California's example and legislate that 35% of cap and trade revenue be invested in low-income and vulnerable communities.

Federal EA Reform at the Cross-Roads

In recent weeks, the Government of Canada has ramped up the long-awaited public review of federal environmental assessment (EA) processes.

Destabilizing Tenancy Rights Is Not the Solution to Ontario’s Housing Shortage

This article was first published on Huffington Post and has been reposted with the author’s permission. For more information on CELA's involvement in this issue, please visit our RentSafe page.

LEDs vs CFLs - Missed Opportunity by Hydro One to Limit Mercury Exposure

As a Hydro One customer, last week I received a snappy little brochure with my electric bill extolling the virtues of LEDs. Light it Right – Your whole-home guide to LED bulbs is a great source of information. Going room by room I learned about lumens vs watts and how to tailor and optimize my choices from the wide range of highly energy efficient LED lighting options available.

Ontario’s Review of the EBR: Why it Matters to You


Canada's main environmental law isn't working

Originally published in The Toronto Star, July 29, 2016

Emissions of some of the most harmful chemicals are on the rise in Canada. We need to update the federal law that’s supposed to curb them.

For the first time in a decade a committee of Parliament is examining how the nation’s primary environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), is working. What we are learning about CEPA is not good news.

Ottawa River’s Best Kept Secret

I visited the beautiful waterfront on the Ottawa River in the town of Deep River last week, following site tours at Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories and Rolphton. A sign at the waterside park says it is Ontario’s “best kept secret” and it’s all too true .

The Ontario Climate Change Action Plan

The government of Ontario released its Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) this week which outlines the province’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fighting climate change for the next four years. The Low-Income Energy Network (LIEN) and the Canadian Environmental Association (CELA) are pleased that the CCAP includes actions that would support low-income households and vulnerable communities during Ontario’s transition to a low-carbon economy.

$900 Million from Ontario's Cap and Trade Program to Help with Energy Retrofits and Energy Efficiency

While Ontario will not begin auctioning greenhouse gas allowances under the new Cap and Trade program until 2017, the Province has committed close to $1 billion of the possible proceeds under the program to redress the burden borne by low-income households and vulnerable communities in mitigating climate change.

Getting FIT: How Ontario Became a Green Energy Leader

Guest Blog

We’ll always have Paris? How the Trans Pacific Partnership threatens Canada’s climate commitments

Canada’s environmental commitments can only be successful if they’re not undermined by other policies. In April of this year Canada signed the Paris Agreement, which binds us to hold the increase of average global temperature to less than 2 ºC, and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 ºC. Canada’s simultaneous commitment to signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) is completely at odds with our greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Radionuclides are Turning Our Lakes Into Radioactive Toxic Sewers

Guest Blog
(originally published as a letter to the editor in Bruce Peninsula Press (Issue #5, 2016, May 3-17, 2016)

Amendments to cap and trade bill make gains for low-income and vulnerable communities

Yesterday’s amendments to the proposed cap and trade bill (Bill 172) saw real gains for Ontario’s low-income households and vulnerable communities. Yesterday, the government carried motions that bring low-income households and vulnerable communities’ needs to the fore when the Minister considers how to use cap and trade auction revenues.

Time is running out to fix the Cap and Trade Bill

Ontario is running out of time to make sure the cap and trade program proposed in Bill 172 reduces GHG emissions and doesn’t push more Ontarians into poverty in the process.

Needed: nationwide action plan for recovery of toxic mercury from light bulbs

  Many Canadians will be glad to see the end of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) with their harsh light and often flickering glow. Despite longstanding outreach campaigns, widespread ignorance persists about mercury in CFLs.

  Although the environment is burdened by other, larger mercury sources, a broken CFL is in direct contact with people at home, work, or alongside poorly maintained vendor take-back bins.

Ontario’s proposed cap-and-trade plan gives too much away, fails vulnerable communities

Responding to climate change is the defining challenge of the twenty-first century. Ontario, like all jurisdictions, needs to cut its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions drastically, starting yesterday. This will be difficult, but we are left with no choice: the environmental and ethical consequences of climate change are already apparent in this province. Ontarians are looking to the provincial government for climate leadership that curtails our GHG emissions and softens the negative impacts for vulnerable communities.

30 in 30: Confessions of a CELA Lifer

Incredibly, 2016 marks my 30th year at CELA. Since it is customary to sit back and reflect upon such milestones, here are 30 memories (good, bad and ugly) over the past 30 years of working on CELA cases and campaigns:

1. Arriving at CELA in 1986 fresh out of law school, but quickly discovering that I had not learned much about the day-to-day practice of environmental law.

Environment commissioner hammers Canada’s pesticide management regime

Guest Blog

Federal inaction exposes Canadians, environment to unacceptable risks, report says

A Tax Credit for Radon Remediation: Logical Next Step for Feds

Faced with a seemingly infinite number of environmental health issues to work on at CELA, we make choices. Guided by population health approaches, we focus attention on issues where the stakes are high and large numbers of people are affected. Radon qualifies.

There is no debate that radon causes cancer. It kills about 3300 Canadians a year and that’s a lot. Compared to other indoor pollutants, and using cancer risk lingo, the “lifetime excess cancer risk” from radon is orders of magnitude greater.

The Resurrection of Federal Environmental Assessment?

Over two years ago, CELA published an “in memoriam” blog to lament the untimely demise of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 1992 (“CEAA”), which had been repealed and replaced in 2012 with much weaker legislation.

The CELA blog ended with the hope that “a new and improved federal EA regime will soon be resurrected from the ashes.” Fortunately, it now appears that this plea may be answered in the coming months.

Can Words Protect Lakes?

My summer of 2015 included numerous fishing trips with family and friends on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. While we were often rewarded with fishing success, I constantly saw reminders of the diverse threats to aquatic ecosystem health.

For example, invasive species were omnipresent, from round gobies nibbling on bait, to spiny water fleas clogging up fishing line, to zebra mussels covering the lakebed, to the lamprey still attached to a salmon that I reeled to the boat.

The Truth on Canada’s Cosmetic Regulations from a Young Consumer

As Canadian consumers we expect to be protected by the administrative powers of our Federal Government. This holds especially true for young consumers (adolescents and children) because of our physical and psychological vulnerability. We assume we are being looked after by our older, wiser counterparts. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The safety of consumers is often overlooked by the cosmetics industry, and because of Canada’s untimely and unenforced cosmetic regulations, the safety of consumers is sometimes compromised.

Don't bee fooled: neonics are still toxic to honeybees

Did you hear that the honeybee crisis is over? This bold and surprising pronouncement appeared in Margaret Wente's July 22 Globe and Mail column, ""Good news: There is no honeybee crisis":". Wente cites the latest survey statistics from the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which indicate fewer losses of Canadian honeybee colonies this past winter than the previous one.

Governments Action to Protect the Great Lakes Basin from toxic chemicals failing

The Great Lakes are enjoying an anniversary of sorts. It’s been almost three years since Canada and the United States signed a revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with the intention of working together to make the lakes cleaner and safe for drinking. For over 40 million people who rely on the lakes, achieving these goals is essential. Unfortunately, though, our governments are not taking adequate action despite the fact that the Great Lakes remain under siege from an overwhelming number of polluting sources.

The Alternative Fuels Environmental Three-Step: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Mandate. What the dictionary defines variously as “an official order to do something”, an “authoritative command”, a “formal order”, a “directive to act”. That is what the Premier of Ontario issues in the form of a letter, a “mandate letter” every time a minister is appointed to government.

A Balanced Federal Budget Over the Long-Term

Finance Minister Joe Oliver today announced that Economic Action Plan 2015 will be tabled on April 21, 2015 and reiterated the Government of Canada’s commitment to a balanced budget.

The Green Budget Coalition has offered up some timely advice to make the necessary investments in protecting Canada’s environment and … … to secure balanced federal budgets over the long-term.

Yes, environmental stewardship is not only compatible, but essential for sustaining Canada’s economic prosperity and ensuring balanced federal budgets in the future. T

Keeping Lake Erie Viable as a Source of Drinking Water

  On the weekend of August 3, 2014, the people of Toledo woke up to find they couldn’t use their tap water. Ohio Governor, John Kasich, declared that Lake Erie was not fit to drink, and 400,000 people scrambled to find alternative sources. The reason: cyanotoxins, produced by blue-green algae blooming profusely in Lake Erie.

Theo Colborn 1927 - 2014

I suspect that most of you have heard by now that Theo Colborn died on Sunday at the age of 87. The book that she co-authored, Our Stolen Future, awoke the world to the devastating impacts of endocrine disruptors on wildlife and humans. Many people have referred to her as the second Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring had woken us to the tragic effects of pesticides. As with Silent Spring, Our Stolen Future drew out the chemical industry in an unsuccessful effort to destroy her reputation.

Ontario Government Introduces Anti-SLAPP Bill

Twenty years ago CELA called for the introduction of legislation to address strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) (See Intervenor: The Newsletter of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Volume 19, Issue 4, July/August 1994). SLAPPs are civil lawsuits that are filed, often by large corporations, against individuals or local citizens’ groups for speaking out or taking a position on a matter of public interest.

Plastic Microbeads in Consumer Products – Growing concern in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin

On every hot summer day of my childhood, I walked two blocks down the street to Lake Ontario and splashed around. On those days, I couldn’t have imagined a future in which the lake would fill up with microbeads, tiny plastic particles that for the last two decades have been accumulating in lakes and oceans around the world. Particles so small they are almost invisible -- tiny but with big effects.

Antibacterial Chemicals are Polluting Our Waterways

Most people are unaware of how widespread triclosan and triclocarban chemicals are in their daily lives. Many products labelled as ‘antibacterial’, ‘fights odours’ or ‘kills germs’ may contain triclosan or tricocarban. In fact by 2001, 76% of commercial liquid hand soaps in the U.S. contained triclosan and a wide variety of cosmetics, drugs, clothes, school products and kitchenware also now contain this antibacterial chemical. Plastic products such as toys, toothbrushes, shower curtains and cutting boards may contain triclosan as well as mattresses, carpets, tents, and even garbage cans.

Federal Government Has Head in the Sand on Fracking and the NPRI

Webster’s Dictionary defines the ostrich as a bird that when pursued hides its head in the sand and believes itself to be unseen. The behaviour, according to Webster’s, is analogous to attempting to avoid difficulty by refusing to face it.

Triclosan and the Great Lakes

Dollars and Sense: Who Pays Costs in Public Interest Cases?

When an environmental class proceeding is unsuccessful, should the representative plaintiff be ordered to pay the defendant’s legal costs; if so, what is the appropriate amount of costs that should be payable?

Nuclear Emergency Planning Exercise at Darlington Message to Public: Trust Us

Giving new meaning to the phrase "trust us," provincial and federal authorities and nuclear operators are conducting a major emergency planning exercise at the Darlington nuclear plant without involving the public, as reported by CityTV on May 27, 2014. There are many things wrong with this picture, but not involving the public is the biggest mistake of all.

Arsenic in Drinking Water: Ontario’s Failure to Endorse Health Canada’s Guideline

Summary: Contaminated drinking water is a threat to public health and quality of life. Despite the fact that most arsenic in drinking water arises from natural sources, it is as important to regulate as industrial sources of any toxic substance. Drinking water contaminated with arsenic has been associated with developmental effects, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity, diabetes and even death.

Ontario's Living List - A Dead Thing?

The MOE Living List Framework Proposal

Fish, Pollution, and The Rule of Law

In Canada, all persons are duty-bound to comply with the laws of the land. No one is above the law, and the “mistake of law” defence has long been rejected by Canadian courts when people are charged with contravening legal prohibitions.

Ontario's EBR Turns 20: Time for Change

A number of key milestones will occur in 2014, including: the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One; the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal chemical disaster in India; and the 10th anniversary of the launch of Facebook.

2014 will also mark the 20th anniversary of the date (February 1994) when Ontario’s ground-breaking Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) was proclaimed into force.

A Tale of Two Regulatory Approaches: European Commission Ban on Neonicotinoid Pesticides Goes into Effect While in Canada Their Sale and Use Continues

An interesting experiment in contrasting approaches to pesticide regulation is now taking place in Canada and Europe. The European Commission two-year ban on the sale and use, with some limited exceptions, of neonicotinoid pesticides in European Union countries went into effect on December 1, 2013.

The Legal and Regulatory Implications of IARC Classifying Outdoor Air Pollution and Particulate Matter as Carcinogenic to Humans

On October 17, 2013, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization, announced that it has classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), following a thorough review of the available scientific

How to say "no" to unsuitable landfill sites in Ontario

In Ontario, no person is allowed to establish, operate or expand a waste disposal site (i.e. landfill) unless an Environmental Compliance Approval has been issued under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).

New Nuclear Power Not Needed in Ontario – CELA and Ontario`s Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli Are in Agreement

On the morning of Thursday, October 10, 2013, I found on the front step our copy of the Globe and Mail with the headline, ``Ontario backs away from new nuclear plants: Fresh blow to industry looms, with sources saying province will not spend $10-billion on two reactors.``After I tweeted this story by Adam R

The hard won struggle for Community right-to-know: Toronto’s story

For forty years CEHE partner organization the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) has worked to “protect human health and our environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution and by working to change policies to prevent such problems in the first place” ( Here Sarah Miller follows the thirty year process that led to a legal breakthrough in the field of environmental health in Toronto.

The Long and Winding Road to Zero Waste

When I first joined CELA in the mid-1980s, an intense public policy debate was well underway in Ontario on what to do with the ever-increasing amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) being generated within the province.However, much of this debate tended to focus on how and where Toronto and other communities should dispose of MSW, rather than on how to prevent countless tonnes of waste from being created in the first place.

Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program – Carbon Tax

In my previous post, “Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program – Road Transportation”, I touched on how the Provincial government’s failure to address road transportation in its Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Program meant that it was ignoring the source of almost a third of Ontario’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

CEAA 1992: In Memoriam

On the first anniversary of its untimely demise on July 6, 2012, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 1992 (CEAA 1992) is being remembered by environmentalists as an important attempt to impose legally binding environmental assessment (EA) obligations upon federal decision-makers across Canada.

Ontario’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program – Road Transportation

On Venus, you can cook a 16-inch pepperoni pizza in seven seconds just by holding it out to the air.(1) As the hottest planet in our solar system, Venus is a steady 460°C day or night and owes its prodigious temperature to an atmosphere made up almost entirely of carbon dioxide (96%); The result of a runaway greenhouse effect.