Our new look, global asbestos ban, preparing for nuclear mishaps, and more

Welcome to CELA’s September 2012 Bulletin

We’re gradually rolling out some changes to our communications materials, starting with this e-bulletin. (For more on our exciting rebranding, see the first article in this e-bulletin.) You can keep up to date on our activities, by visiting CELA’s Facebook page and clicking the “Like” button. And if you’re on Twitter, be sure to follow us @CanEnvLawAssn and our Executive Director @TheresaMcClenag.

CELA's new look

Careful observers may notice some changes to CELA’s communications materials. We’re excited about our new makeover, courtesy of designer Sherri Gallowitz of G Strategic. Sherri helped update our image with an eye-catching logo that captures CELA’s mission to strengthen environmental policies that promote equity, justice, and health for all Canadians. Drop us a line and let us know what you think of our new look!

CELA continues to call for global asbestos ban and celebrates change in federal government position

CELA is celebrating the position of Québec Premier-elect Pauline Marois’ position to cancel the Quebec government’s promised subsidy to the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, and recent statements from the federal government that it will no longer block efforts at the international level to include chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam convention, the UN treaty that places restrictions on hazardous substances.

In a 25-page Statement released in July, national and international epidemiology organizations, for the first time, called for a global asbestos ban. CELA joined over 150 public health, civil society organizations and individual scientists from 20 countries in endorsing the Statement. This international body of experts that study the causes and prevention of disease epidemics noted the public health disaster of asbestos-related illness and deaths that can be expected in coming decades from the continued mining and export of asbestos from Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

The Statement calls upon these countries to stop the mining, use, and export of asbestos and to provide transition assistance to asbestos-mining communities. The Statement provides details of the irrefutable scientific evidence of harm from all forms of asbestos and calls upon these top asbestos-producing countries and governments of additional asbestos-producing countries to stop recklessly ignoring this evidence and putting their own citizens and those of other countries in peril. The Statement also urges public health organizations to support the right of scientists and academics to carry out their work in the public interest free from intimidation by the asbestos industry. CELA has extensive information on the dangers of asbestos: http://www.cela.ca/collections/justice/ban-asbestos.

Ontario unprepared for large-scale nuclear mishaps

In July, CELA teamed up with Greenpeace Canada and Durham Nuclear Awareness for a joint press conference in Durham, Ontario, to warn the public that Ontario has no emergency plan if a Fukushima-¬style nuclear disaster occurs. We argued that the province shouldn’t proceed with its planned Darlington refurbishment until a detailed large-scale emergency plan is in place.

“The current CNSC (Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) environmental review of Darlington only considers small-scale accidents,” CELA Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan told reporters. “But post-Fukushima the different levels of governments must stop pretending large-scale accidents can’t happen in Ontario.”

Although the Pickering nuclear plant is nearing the end of its life and the government will not refurbish the facility, Ontario Power Generation is asking for approvals for the Darlington plant to undergo a $10 ¬billion refurbishment. The project is already in its early planning stages.

Canadian radioactive steam generator waste could be destined for Sweden or the U.S.

In August, CELA and Sierra Club Canada withdrew our applications for a judicial review of permits issued by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) allowing Bruce Power to export 1,600 tonnes of radioactive waste through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to Sweden.

We turned to the courts in 2011 after the CNSC issued two permits to Bruce Power without conducting an environmental assessment in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that in-effect at the time. The permits were issued despite numerous objections from organizations, individuals, municipalities, and First Nation communities. Although the permits expired last January, media reports from Bruce Power have indicated they may still proceed with plans for shipments in the future.

The judicial review applications have been discontinued without being heard by the Federal Court because they were rendered moot by the federal government’s recent passage of Bill C-38. The new Bill repealed the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in its entirety and replaced it with new environmental assessment legislation (now in force) that no longer requires a federal environmental assessment for this type of project. CELA has now sent a submission to the federal government asking it to list this type of project in the new regulations for environmental assessment. Read more: http://www.cela.ca/newsevents/media-release/bill-c-38s-first-victim.

Renovate Right brochure available in seven languages and now online

The Renovate Right brochure details the best ways to renovate homes to protect children and is now available online. It is available in seven languages including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Punjabi, and Tagalog and was produced by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and Environment (CPCHE). Renovate Right provides tips for homeowners, do-it-yourselfers, and contractors to repair or upgrade their homes and explains why extra care is needed. It describes four steps that should be taken: isolating the work, busting the dust, choosing and using products carefully, and taking care of the air. For more detailed content including FAQs and information for tenants: http://www.renovate-right.ca.

Connecting environmental health, equity, and the law

CELA concluded our three-year outreach program to increase capacity and coordinate efforts among service providers addressing environmental health issues in six Ontario communities. Recognizing the fact that low-income communities are hardest hit by environmental contaminants, we developed a legal toolkit and six community-specific resource kits to help Ontario residents. The toolkits are available online: http://www.cela.ca/collections/justice/making-links-environmental-health-equity-and-law.

CELA holds injured worker advocacy training classes

Thanks to funding from Legal Aid Ontario, CELA held a 15-week injured worker advocacy training program in Sarnia, Ontario’s so-called "Chemical Valley". The Injured Workers Speaker School trained injured workers and family survivors in the Sarnia and Aamjiwnaang communities to become advocates by using their stories to inspire others and lobby for change to environmental regulations. Students were provided with information on the history and legal framework of the workers' compensation system, as well as material on the impacts of environmental health. Follow-up classes will help graduates of the program collaborate on advocacy related to injured workers and future project planning processes. Read more: http://iwss-sarnia.blogspot.ca/2011/09/announcing-injured-workers-speaker.html.

Inspiring a Local Food Act for Ontario

CELA has been working with Sustain Ontario to develop recommendations to the Ontario government that will guide the creation of a Local Food Act. We hope the Act will ensure that all Ontarians have the access and means to obtain safe and healthy local food. Dozens of organizations have endorsed the creation of this Act, and it promises to improve food security, local economies, and access to food for vulnerable communities throughout the province. Read more: http://www.cela.ca/publications/local-food-act-drafting-notes.

Updated Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement signed

After eight years of negotiations, Canada’s Environment Minister Peter Kent updated the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the shared waterways from invasive aquatic species, habitat degradation, and the effects of climate change.

The 40-year-old agreement was last updated in 1987, and calls for developing plans that will protect and restore near-shore areas, the primary source of drinking water for millions of people in communities near the Great Lakes. Phosphorus-reduction targets for Lake Erie should be drafted within three years and there’s a two-year deadline for the development and implementation of an early detection and rapid response system for invasive species.

However, we are concerned about the agreement’s implementation. “CELA questions whether adequate science capacity remains in Canada after recent layoffs of Federal scientists and the loss of the Experimental Lakes Programs which were responsible for many of the past solutions found for Canadian fresh waters,” said CELA Counsel Rick Lindgren in our media release. For more than 30 years CELA has sought to strengthen and implement the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Read more: http://www.cela.ca/collections/water/great-lakes-water-quality-agreement.