June 2018 Bulletin

Photo: Martin Cathrae/Flickr

News & Activities

Environmental groups call for crack down on plastic pollution

CELA joined several environmental organizations on the eve of the G7 Summit meeting in Charlevoix, Quebec, to call on Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna to crack down on plastic pollution. A request filed by Ecojustice lawyers, on behalf of the organizations, urges Minister McKenna to add plastics—including microplastics, microfibers and single-use plastics—to the priority substances list under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA, 1999). The Minister is required by law to respond within 90 days to the request.

Achieving zero plastic waste by 2025

In Canada, nearly 90 per cent of plastics end up incinerated, or in our landfills, lakes, parks and oceans where they contaminate ecosystems, kill wildlife, and leach toxic chemicals. Furthermore, less than 11 per cent of all plastics are recycled in the Great White North. It’s time to deal with our plastic production, waste, and pollution. CELA joined dozens of organizations in calling for a national waste reduction strategy that harmonizes performance standards, measurement protocols, and national definitions that will help Canada achieve zero plastic waste by 2025.

Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr

Recommendations to limit PBDEs in the Great Lakes

CELA provided comments and several recommendations on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation and Toxics Free Great Lakes Network regarding the draft binational strategy under Annex 3 of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement – Binational Strategy for Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Risk Management. We believe a binational commitment to eliminating PBDEs requires Great Lakes Basin-specific actions and targets, strict timelines to ensure progress and accountability, a binational commitment to pollution prevention, and other initiatives.

NGOs urge binational actions to eliminate mercury in Great Lakes

Despite decades of binational efforts by the Canadian and U.S. governments to reduce mercury levels in the Great Lakes basin, the substance continues to be a chemical of mutual concern to water quality under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Mercury is a toxic substance known to contribute to range of impacts affecting wildlife and human health. Over 45 non-governmental organizations, led by the National Wildlife Federation, Canadian Environmental Law Association, and Toxics Free Great Lakes Network, urge a strong binational strategy for the virtual elimination of mercury. (Parts 1 and 2 of our comments on the strategy can be found here.) The Canadian and U.S. governments' proposed strategy on mercury should be strengthened by outlining actions that specifically target the elimination of mercury in the Great Lakes, as well as timelines for these reduction targets. The absence of these elements leaves substantial uncertainty on the effectiveness of the binational strategy on mercury.

Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council coordinates presentation on vulnerable populations

At a recent Chemicals Management Plan Stakeholder Advisory Council meeting, Health Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada sponsored a special panel presentation on vulnerable populations and the concerns associated with chemicals exposure. Panellists included an Indigenous midwife, a person who has lived with multiple chemical sensitivities, a person with experience living in low-income housing, a nail salon technician, a firefighter, and a youth representative. The discussion generated by the panellists showcased the current challenges and complexities of Canada’s chemicals management framework and demonstrated how some sectors are more directly affected by chemical exposures than others. The discussion will inform on-going consultations to set priorities for the approach and priorities for chemicals management in Canada and the review of its main environmental legislation, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Dr. Bruce Lanphear, Investigator for the B.C. Children's Hospital and a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University also shared some of his research examining fetal and early childhood exposures to a range of toxic chemicals including lead, pesticides, and mercury. Dr. Lanphear has successfully used short videos to educate the public about potential harm from chemical exposures.

Changes made to Ontario's beach E. coli standards without public consultation

Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has changed the threshold E. coli values used to assess recreational water quality in its Operational Approaches for Recreational Water Guidelines, 2018. The water quality standard is designed to protect public health and the environment but changes may have significant impacts. A public comment process must be conducted before a new standard is implemented that would drastically affect recreational water safety. We issued a media release to alert the public about these important changes.

Photo: Dominic Ali/CELA

Calling for an end to neonicotinoid insecticides in Canada

Sixteen signatory groups—including CELA—called on Prime Minister Trudeau to end the use of neonicotinoid insecticides in Canada noting a recent open letter from over 200 scientists. Published in the journal Science, the open letter explained the evidence of harm from neonics to beneficial insects and links to the massive loss of global biodiversity. European Union member countries voted in April 2018 to ban all outdoor agricultural uses of neonicotinoids by the end of this year, and Canada should do the same.

Suggestions to improve Information Timing Regulations

CELA responded to the federal government’s Consultation Paper on Information Requirement and Time Management Regulations. The paper outlines proposals that would make certain revisions to the current regulation under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 that prescribes information requirements for project descriptions of designated projects. Although we support the concept of an early planning phase that features meaningful public and Indigenous participation, the current regulatory proposals for the initial and final project descriptions fall short of the mark. We made several suggestions to strengthen the proposed regulations to ensure the health and safety of Canadians is taken into account.

Missed opportunity for once-in-a-generation EA reform

In late June, Bill C-69 received Third Reading in the House of Commons, and has now been referred to the Senate for review. This lengthy bill, which includes the proposed Impact Assessment Act and other new legislation, was the subject of over 100 amendments after public hearings were held in the spring by the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. However, the amended Bill C-69 does not adequately address the fundamental flaws identified by CELA in our brief to the Standing Committee.

Photo: Robert Nunnally/Flickr

Whiteshell Reactor licence renewal

CELA provided a submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regarding an application by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Limited to renew the Whiteshell Laboratories nuclear research and test establishment decommissioning licence for one year. While we don’t object to the one-year extension, it doesn’t reflect the complexity of the undertaking proposed at Whiteshell and the need for greater study and review in the context of its environmental assessment. We urged the CNSC not to approve decommissioning activities unless it verifies that the licensee has demonstrated the specified criteria in the final decommissioning plan. We also suggested that the process not move forward unless additional regulatory requirements have been met, the end state criteria reflects the highest levels of safety, the public is consulted before authorization for decommissioning is terminated, and many others.

CELA brief on Ontario Class Action Reform

CELA counsel Richard Lindgren provided comments to the Law Commission of Ontario regarding its consultation paper on class action lawsuits. Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act has now been in place for over 25 years, and it has been estimated that approximately 900 class actions have been commenced in many diverse legal areas. However, relatively few environmental class actions have been certified when compared to other types of class actions, and, to CELA’s knowledge, only one environmental class action has gone to trial on common issues. The submission includes several ideas to make environmental class action suits more accessible to potential plaintiffs.

Webinars & Presentations

Toxics Free Great Lakes Networks launches webinar on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in the Great Lakes

The Toxics Free Great Lakes Network is initiating a binational dialogue to address toxic chemicals in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin by sponsoring a two-part webinar series. The first webinar featured Michael Gilbertson, former scientist at the International Joint Commission and Meg Sears, Scientist and Chair of Prevent Cancer Now. They provided an overview of the historical and current concerns associated with the presence of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Basin. The 40-minute webinar is available on CELA's new YouTube channel and can also be downloaded as a PDF.

The second webinar featured Beverley Thorpe, Clean Production Action, who focused on chemicals in products detected in the Great Lakes and identified a range of approaches that can be assessed and evaluated to address many of the endocrine disrupting chemicals present in the Great Lakes Basin. Her 46-minute presentation can also be downloaded as a PDF.

Submission on the Pickering nuclear generating station

CELA presented its submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Pickering licensing hearing, objecting to a ten-year licence and calling for faster shuttering of Pickering due to emergency planning and safety concerns. This has been an ongoing issue of concern for CELA, and we have an extensive research collection on the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station.

Upcoming Events

Registration open for 2018 Environmental Law Toolkit Workshop

The October 2 workshop will be hosted by Elaine MacDonald of Ecojustice and is aimed at nonprofits active in the environmental field about the legal tools available to protect air, water, land, and human health. Among the confirmed presenters are CELA counsel Joseph Castrilli, Richard Lindgren, and Ramani Nadarajah.

On the CELA Blog

In Ontario, red tape reduction trumps toxics reduction

Red tape reduction, not toxics reduction, is alive and well in amendments to regulations promulgated in April 2018 under Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Act. To understand why, CELA counsel Joseph Castrilli explains the history of this once-promising provincial environmental law and what’s required to revive it.

The need for environmental class action reforms

CELA Counsel Richard Lindgren weighs in on the Law Commission of Ontario’s consultation paper to solicit public feedback on the province’s class action regime. The LCO’s research project is intended to evaluate whether–or to what extent–the Class Proceedings Act is achieving the societal goals of access to justice, judicial economy, and behaviour modification.

The 10th anniversary of the landmark Lafarge Decision

In this blog post, CELA counsel Richard Lindgren recalls the 2008 precedent-setting judgment that affirmed important public participation rights under the province’s Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). He also reveals how the case directly involved a famous rock star.