January 2013 Bulletin

Welcome to CELA’s January 2013 Bulletin

Upcoming toxics webinar series
Join CELA's Kathleen Cooper for an upcoming webinar series taking place in January, February, and March. Participants will learn how early exposures to hazardous pollutants may be associated with later development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

CELA discusses First Nations' Environmental Governance
CELA's Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan recently spoke to the Southern First Nations Secretariat in St. Thomas, Ontario about First Nations' Environmental Governance. She addressed the question of whether section 35 of the Constitution is applicable to exercise of environmental governance by First Nations. She also provided background and views on the current attempt by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to site a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel waste. Her presentation is available from our website.

Meet the people behind CELA
We got in touch with CELA board member Professor Miriam Diamond, a well known University of Toronto environmental scientist.

So what do you do, Professor Diamond?
We (my lab group) look at chemical contaminants, tracing them from source, through to their transport indoors and outdoors and finally exposures to humans and wildlife. We've focused on persistent organic pollutants such as brominated flame retardants and new flame retardants, PCBs, also phthalates and musk fragrances. We also look at metals such as copper, cadmium and zinc.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental research?
The early 1970s, when I was an undergraduate student at University of Toronto, was a time of growing environmental awareness. Donald Chant, the founder of Pollution Probe, David Suzuki, Doug Pimlott and Harold Harvey, titans of Canadian environmental science and advocacy, were all professors in the Department of Zoology at University of Toronto. I had the privilege to be in that atmosphere and was infected by their passion and sense of duty for tackling important, life-challenging issues such as acid rain and chemical pollution.

Why did you get involved with CELA?
In 1991, I was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto with a mandate to teach environmental science and studies. Involvement with CELA allowed me to learn first-hand about pressing environmental issues and to bring them into the lecture hall so that the next generation of students would be inspired to tackle these issues.

What is the most important environmental regulation you'd like to see implemented in Canada?
At the Federal level, reinstate the full intent and regulatory strength of the powers of the Fisheries Act, Environmental Assessment Act and other Acts that have been eviscerated in the recent omnibus bills. But the agenda is broader than environmental regulation. The agenda needs to include the strengthening of evidence-based policies and regulations, borne from government science and fact-gathering, and implemented by a neutral and well-respected civil service.

As a scientist, what advice would you give to Canadians about reducing their risks from toxic chemical exposure?
Three things: First, vote locally, provincially and federally for representatives that "get" the importance of the proliferation of chemical contaminants in our environment and in us. We need to press our elected representatives for a legislative agenda that understands that prosperity includes human and environmental health. Second, vote with your money if you are able to. We increasingly see that consumer pressure moves the environmental agenda that otherwise, is locked in a polarized, political boondoggle. Third, support an organization such as CELA. Environmental non-governmental organizations play a powerful role in ensuring that voices for environmental security and sustainability are heard.