Celebrating the Life of Michelle Swenarchuk

CELA Bulletin 
61: 2-April-2008

Periodic E-News from the Canadian Environmental Law Association

  1. Celebrating the Life of Michelle Swenarchuk
  2. Dairy Farmer Wins Pollution Lawsuit Against the Province of Ontario
  3. International Outcry: Fire Safety “standards” Geared to Boosting Toxic Chemical Sales Not Preventing Fires
  4. Regulating Toxic Substances in Products
  5. Chemicals Management Plan - Responding to Batch One
  6. Calling for Action to Save the Rotterdam Convention
  7. CELA Calls for Tough Standard for Tritium in Drinking Water
  8. Progress in Ontario Towards Toxics Use Reduction: Early Leadership in Toronto
  9. Full Steam Ahead for Ontario-Wide Cosmetic Pesticide Ban
  10. Children’s Environmental Health – Policy Recommendations and Public Outreach
  11. CELA Welcomes Clotheslines in Ontario

CELA continues to play a leading role in Canada providing legal services and promoting health and environmental values. Our core mandate derives from our principal role as a specialized legal clinic. Funded in part by Legal Aid Ontario, CELA is engaged in efforts to help low income people and disadvantaged communities with environmental problems. We represent groups and individuals in the courts and before tribunals, and we conduct law reform and public legal education campaigns to further our public interest objectives. 

1.  Celebrating the Life of Michelle Swenarchuk

On Sunday April 6th at 1:30 PM, CELA staff and board members, friends and colleagues will celebrate the remarkable life of Michelle Swenarchuk, October 30, 1948 ~ February 27, 2008. Friends who will map the legacies of Michelle’s life include Marjorie Cohen, Ursula Franklin, Rick Lindgren, Judith McCormack, and Mel Watkins. The event will be held at Wilson Hall, 2nd Floor Lounge, New College. 40 Willcocks Street, University of Toronto  (NE Corner of Spadina Avenue and Willcocks Street). Please RSVP to Sharon Fleishman at fleishms@lao.on.ca. Written tributes can be sent to the same email address to be gathered for Michelle’s daughter Larissa.

 2.      Dairy Farmer Wins Pollution Lawsuit Against the Province of Ontario

In one of CELA’s longest-standing cases, an Ontario judge recently ordered the provincial government to pay compensation to the Berendsen family for damages arising from asphalt-related contamination of the family's farm near Teviotdale, Ontario. The 160 page judgement concludes that the Ontario government acted negligently resulting in chemicals from buried waste asphalt contaminating the farm’s wellwater, noting a “cavalier and careless attitude… to what was obviously a serious problem.” The matter is being appealed.

For more information: Rick Lindgren, 613-385-1686, r.lindgren@sympatico.ca

 3.      International Outcry: Fire Safety “standards” Geared to Boosting Toxic Chemical Sales Not Preventing Fires

Environmental and health organizations worldwide are endorsing The Case Against Candle Resistant Electronics, objecting to a set of proposed fire safety “standards” to be decided upon in late April by the International Electrotechnical Commission. CELA has written to the Canadian National Committee of the IEC, one of dozens of national committees who will cast a vote, expressing grave concerns that there is no valid fire safety reason for these standards. Rather, they are about expanding markets for the bromine chemical industry. This “standard-setting” process will dramatically influence the toxic properties of products that people bring into their homes. Yet, decisions by such committees are remote from directly affected citizens who are unable to hold their government or elected officials accountable for such bad policy. Late yesterday, CELA learned that the US Consumer Electronic Association has recommended against the candle flammability requirement noting insufficient data to warrant a hazard and recognizing the health and environmental concerns that have been raised. CELA has encouraged the CNC/IEC to vote against these "standards." In a media release issued today, CELA also encourages concerned citizens to write to the CNC/IEC, to the federal Ministers of Health and Environment and to their MP.

For more information: Kathleen Cooper, cell: 705-341-2488, 416-960-2284, ext 221 kcooper@cela.ca

 4. Regulating Toxic Substances in Products

In Regulating Toxic Substances in Products, CELA’s response to the federal government’s proposed Consumer Safety Action Plan, we collate and integrate multiple aspects of CELA's work on toxics, products, children’s health, international trade, cancer, risk assessment and precaution from the last three to four years. CELA’s recommendations seek a far more proactive approach to reforming the Hazardous Products Act than is thus far contemplated in the government’s plan. A bill amending the Act is expected in the House in the near future.

For more information: Kathleen Cooper, 416-960-2284 ext 221 kcooper@cela.ca

5. Chemicals Management Plan - Responding to Batch One

CELA continues to be involved in the deep details of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) through participation on two Advisory Councils, the National Advisory Committee to an NGO project addressing the CMP, and the government-sponsored Stakeholder Advisory Council. CELA recently responded to the Results of Batch 1 Screening Level Risk Assessment and Proposed Risk Management Options, the first of several rounds of chemicals short-listed in the CMP process.

Assessing this first batch of fifteen substances, many with wide applications in industrial processes, consumer and food products, the government’s final decisions, expected by July, may include regulatory action to reduce, phase-out or ban specific chemicals. Already on the table are government proposals that 12 of the 15 substances should be considered “toxic” as defined under the Canadian Environmental Protect Act.  CELA raised concerns that the assessments did not adequately consider exposure or toxicity to children or the cumulative impacts of multiple exposures to similar chemicals. CELA also noted inconsistent approaches to reviewing life-cycle impacts of the substances including disposal methods and production of by-products.  CELA continues to monitor the federal government’s activities on toxic substances in light of international (including in the Great Lakes ecosystem), provincial and municipal level implications.

For more information: Fe de Leon, 416-960-2284 ext 223 deleonf@lao.on.ca

 6. Calling for Action to Save the Rotterdam Convention

In collaboration with environment, women’s, labour and health groups from around the world, CELA called for action to save the Rotterdam Convention, the purpose of which is to control the international trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides. The groups charge that this UN Environmental Convention is subject to interference and political sabotage by a handful of countries, including Canada.

For more information: Fe de Leon, 416-960-2284 ext 223 deleonf@lao.on.ca

 7. CELA Calls for Tough Standard for Tritium in Drinking Water

The Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council (ODWAC) consultation on a revised standard for tritium in drinking water is, refreshingly, taking the long view. In seeking public input ODWAC is revisiting important recommendations for tritium made nearly 15 years ago by the Advisory Committee on Environmental Standards, a committee whose existence, and tritium recommendations, were casualties of Harris government cuts. CELA has called for ODWAC to adopt the ACES recommendation of ultimately achieving a tritium standard of 20 Becquerels per Litre (Bq/L), far lower than the current limit of 7000 Bq/L. With nine additional recommendations, CELA has called for a comprehensive approach to eliminating these cancer-causing exposures in line with our long-term support for nuclear phase-out in Canada.

For more information: Sarah Miller, 416-960-2284, ext .213 millers@lao.on.ca

 8. Progress in Ontario Towards Toxics Use Reduction: Early Leadership in Toronto

 CELA continues to work with the Province of Ontario on new toxic use reduction initiatives. A major focus of this work is drafting of a model law on Toxic Use Reduction for Ontario focusing on best practices in the US and EU applying new tools such as pollution prevention plans, the substitution principle and materials use accounting. A key pillar of such a law would be a Toxics Use Reduction Institute following the Massachusetts experience.

 Early progress is occurring in Toronto with a proposed Environmental Reporting and Disclosure Program. CELA provided detailed comments on this proposal, celebrating the leadership of Toronto Public Health in recognizing the need for far more detailed reporting on the use and release of toxic substances in the city than is currently provided by the National Pollutant Release Inventory. CELA’s comments were echoed by PollutionWatch partners. We see Toronto’s efforts as a key step towards promoting best practices in community right-to-know, pollution prevention, improving environmental compliance and also see this effort as parallel and complimentary to ongoing provincial efforts.

For more information: Sarah Miller, 416-960-2284, ext. 213 millers@lao.on.ca

9.  Full Steam Ahead for Ontario-Wide Cosmetic Pesticide Ban

CELA continues to work in partnership with health and environmental groups in support of Ontario’s stated commitment to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. In an on-line collection, see our response to the Environmental Bill of Rights consultation, an op. ed. published March 26th in the Hamilton Spectator, and a brief statement debunking industry opposition to the ban.

For more information: Kathleen Cooper, 416-960-2284 ext 221 kcooper@cela.ca

10. Children’s Environmental Health – Policy Recommendations and Public Outreach

On March 25, Dr. Kellie Leitch, the federal Health Minister's Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth released her long-awaited report Reaching for the Top. In a comprehensive treatment of environmental issues, Dr. Leitch summarized key issues facing children and included recommendations made to her by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE), of which CELA is a member. Specifically, Dr. Leitch included CPCHE recommendations for a Canadian longitudinal cohort study, banning toxic substances in children's toys, an immediate ban on non-essential uses of mercury in consumer products, and the need for reform of the Hazardous Products Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act - see pages 85-92 of the report.

CPCHE’s public outreach and educational activities continue with the on-line posting of six new fact sheets in the Playing it Safe series. Included are fact sheets on safe home renovations, carpets, and lead in consumer products. Six additional fact sheets are in preparation.

And, CPCHE bids a fond farewell and thank you to Tonya Surman, our dynamic Partnership Director of eight years. Tonya is replaced by Erica Phipps, an environmental health consultant and former head of the children’s health and environment program for the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation. 

For more information: Kathleen Cooper, 416-960-2284 ext 221 kcooper@cela.ca

11. CELA Welcomes Clotheslines in Ontario
CELA has expressed strong support for a proposed regulation under Ontario’s Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 to allow the use of clotheslines and disallow various measures to restrict them. In responding to the draft proposal, CELA recommends extension of the regulation to high-rise dwellings and wide-spread public outreach and education to ensure that Ontario residents know that any prior legal restrictions will no longer prevent their use of outdoor clotheslines.

For more information: Theresa McClenaghan, 416-960-2284 ext 219 theresa@cela.ca