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BLOG – Chronicles from the North

Last month, CELA was excited to announce its expansion of legal services in Northern Ontario. Six weeks into the pilot project, we are happy to share what we’ve heard and how we are responding. Having traversed Ontario’s watersheds, from the French to Northwestern Lake Superior to meet legal aid clinics in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay, and non-profits whose on the ground efforts span Ignace to Porcupine Lake, CELA is greatly appreciative to the individuals and communities who have taken time to speak with us so that together, we can work towards environmental justice.

What we’ve heard

Indoor environmental health issues in rental housing was a key issue raised by our colleagues at legal aid clinics across the North. Mould was one the most commonly raised issues, followed by concerns about asbestos and radon.

We’ve also heard from citizens that they want to know more about their environmental rights and how they can participate in local planning decisions in order to protect their air, local waterways and ecosystems.

Community-based non-profits have also expressed areas where CELA can lend its expertise, be it in reviewing industrial emitters’ compliance with their environmental compliance approvals or, drafting comments for an environmental assessment which builds on local knowledge and expertise.

 

                                                                   

How we’re responding

In November, CELA has been invited to speak at the Northern Regional Training for Community Legal Clinic Lawyers and Community Legal Workers. With reference to the RentSafe project, which seeks to strengthen intersectoral collaboration and capacity to help tenants obtain healthy and adequate housing, and the Low Income Energy Network which aims to ensure basic energy self-sufficiency of low income residents in Ontario, CELA will draw on developments in the law and highlight practical efforts which can protect the environment and Northern residents.

On Tuesday November 6 from 7-9pm, CELA will co-host a Public Legal Education (PLE) event with Environment North, at Thunder Bay’s Waverley Library Auditorium. Topics of discussion will include ways in which citizens can access information about environmental issues in their community, and in light of changes to Ontario’s climate change plan, the need for a framework which not only sets stringent greenhouse gas reduction targets but includes mitigation measures which are geared to low-income and vulnerable communities.

Next steps

In the months ahead, CELA Counsel Kerrie Blaise will be based in Sault Ste. Marie, having accepted the Algoma Community Legal Clinic’s generous offer of office space. CELA will also be visiting Thunder Bay early in November and Timmins, later in the month.

Watch for further announcements on our website about events throughout the North and as always, please get in touch for inquires or to arrange a Public Legal Education event in your community.