January 2015 Bulletin

In lieu of a full neonics ban, Ontario’s Pollinator Health Plan a good first step

CELA would prefer the Province to go further and ban the neonicotinoid pesticides implicated in widespread death of bees. For over a decade, neonics have been conditionally registered by the federal government due to the lack of valid studies about chronic toxicity to bees. Failing a more stringent ban, CELA made comments to support and strengthen the Pollinator Health Proposal.

The Province proposes a new category 12 under Ontario’s Pesticides Act regulations to classify neonic-treated seeds as pesticides and a set of additional requirements for use of seeds in this new category including expanded training and rules for justifying the need to use the seeds at all. Starting with three neonic-treated seeds used on nearly 5 million acres of field corn and soybeans, the Province has an “aspirational” target of 80 per cent reduction of neonic-treated seed use by 2017 and a reduction of honeybee over-wintering losses to 15 per cent by 2020. In response, CELA made recommendations to ensure this new regulation is clear, fair and supported by an effective and enforceable implementation strategy.

From the CELA blog: Keeping Lake Erie Viable as a Source of Drinking Water

CELA Research Associate Anne Wordsworth contributed an insightful article to our blog about Lake Erie's decades-long recovery and subsequent return to becoming unfit to drink in 2014. She explains how phosphorus and nitrogen loadings are once more threatening Lake Erie's reliability as a source of drinking water and notes that the lack of focus on prevention strategies will continue to pose challenges in protection of the Great Lakes.

Product Safety Risk Assessment Framework – Health Canada pays limited attention to CELA’s input

CELA responds to consultations on important policy measures in our law reform priority areas. In January 2013, we sent comments in response to Health Canada’s draft framework for risk assessment in the consumer product safety program. This framework is among the finer details in support of the multi-year effort to modernize Canada’s consumer product safety legislation; an effort that includes long-overdue legislative measures such as adding product recall powers. But, new legal powers fall short of preventing the use of toxic substances in products and need to include much better labelling requirements to warn consumers when toxic substances are present. A related concern is an overly-narrow focus on individual products and inconsistent integration with the management of toxic substances under the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

Our comments noted that the draft framework for risk assessment of products barely mentions either the CMP or CEPA much less how these regulatory and policy programs are integrated. We also commented on the need to recognize real-world circumstances of multiple chemical exposures when evaluating evidence, the often greater vulnerability of the fetus to toxic substances, and the international implications of risk assessment decisions. We have received the final version of the risk assessment framework via email. Ironically, it has yet to be posted on Health Canada’s “Regulatory transparency and openness” page though a placeholder exists. None of CELA’s concerns are addressed in the document other than our comment that vulnerable populations should include pregnant women because of fetal vulnerability.

CELA produces First Nations source water protection toolkit

CELA staff member Christopher Waffle developed the First Nations Source Protection Toolkit in conjunction with the Pays Plat First Nation to assist other communities in addressing source water protection issues.

We've also produced a companion First Nations’ On-Reserve Source Water Protection: A Legal Toolkit that simplifies carrying out on-reserve source protection projects. The legal toolkit contains template by-laws and Band Council Resolutions for addressing some of the most common source water threats found on First Nations reserves.

FAQ available for SLAPP suits

Last month, CELA celebrated Ontario’s introduction of Bill 52, the Protection of Public Participation Act, designed to create a new procedure in civil litigation to help prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have created a fact sheet to answer common questions about Bill 52 that's available from our FAQs page. For more information on SLAPPs visit our online collection.

SPOTLIGHT: Pollution and Health

CELA works closely with doctors, public health experts and other organizations on a range of environmental health issues. In pointing to environmental health risks, we call for tougher restrictions on pollution and toxic substances that are still in use. We have an excellent collection of resources on effective and enforceable laws and regulations to protect public health.

Start your three-month radon wintertime test!

In Canada, Radon Awareness Month takes place in November but our U.S. neighbours have their National Radon Action Month in January. Experts recommend a minimum three-month radon test during the winter when homes are generally closed and seal in any radon that might be leaking indoors. You can take action to prevent the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Find out where to buy a test kit at Take Action on Radon or at ReduceRadon.ca and protect your family today.

Survey of climate change legal provisions across Canada

A 28-page Survey of Canadian Federal, Provincial, and Territorial Climate Legal Provisions was recently prepared by a CELA law student. It outlines provisions found in Canadian legislation intended to address climate change and related subjects, as well as legislation for other purposes. The majority of the research for this survey was conducted on CANLii and reflects search results in all jurisdictions for the following terms: 'climate change', 'global warming', 'greenhouse gas'. The table is current to October 2014.

Job opening: Manager, Green Budget Coalition

Nature Canada, one of our partners in the Green Budget Coalition, has posted a vacancy for a one-year position. The deadline is February 10, 2015

Faces of CELA: Kathleen Cooper

We caught up with CELA’s senior researcher Kathleen Cooper to get her thoughts on working at CELA and Canada's environmental regulations.

What do you do at CELA?
My recent work has involved increased support to the lawyers on case files, such as interviewing clients and preparing witness statements for hearings. I enjoy interacting with the clients and being part of the team helping them. I am also expanding my work with other clinics in several exciting areas such as the RentSafe project looking at ways to ensure safe and healthy housing for low- income Ontarians.

I’ve also written several large reports over the last ten to fifteen years mostly having to do with toxic chemicals and human health and always in collaborative arrangements with fabulous colleagues, especially in the medical and public health fields. This research provides me with a foundation that I use for more focused advocacy work and to support CELA’s public legal education mandate.

You've been at CELA a long time. What motivates you to stay?
It has been nearly 30 years! But it has often felt like five or six very different jobs. I’ve worked in many areas with lots of great people at CELA and in our many networks and partnerships. The common thread and motivator is being able to help people, to be part of the effort that has to relentlessly and collectively push for positive change to resolve the mess people have created. I am also very proud that social justice is central to our mandate. And almost every day, people are really appreciative of how I can help them when for me I am just doing my job. All jobs should be that rewarding.

What do you think is the most pressing environmental regulation Canada could implement?
It feels impossible to pick a frontrunner. To address climate change, I am increasingly convinced we need to dramatically alter and regulate agriculture, especially animal agriculture, alongside the current focus on fossil fuels. I also want strong substitution policy for addressing toxic chemicals to enable and require a green chemistry revolution. But the question makes me think about underlying causes so I want to pick a suite of reforms that are needed to address inequity, none of which are environmental regulation but that will enable better regulation to occur – a living wage, fairer taxation, a national affordable housing strategy, community right-to-know, electoral reform, etc.

What advice would you give to someone who’s new to the world of environmental law?
Always remember that it’s about justice and also don’t be intimidated by it. Environmental law and environmental issues can be wickedly complicated, just like the science they must rely on, but in every field there are specialists who know the details and the good ones can translate those details into plain English. I read somewhere that “if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I think it’s important to find a specialty you love, which can make the learning easy, but also to be a generalist in work and in life and to be open to lifelong learning including knowing how and where to rely on people that can explain complicated stuff and help you learn it too.

What do you do when you’re not working at CELA?
Living in rural Ontario allows me to foster two abiding passions - growing local food in a shared garden with two great friends, and riding horses with more amazing friends. I turned to “equine therapy” about 15 years ago. It got me through a very rough time and has developed into pure joy. Riding a horse is a magical combination of love, strength, balance, respect, trust and partnership. Not a bad set of words to live by.