Intervenor: Vol 23. No 1 January - March 1998

Executuve Director's Report: Truth and Consequences for our Environment

On March 5th, CELA held its annual meeting at Innis College at the University of Toronto. The evening was devoted both to outlining what CELA is up to these days and to receiving input on future directions and priorities. When listening to CELA staff make presentations on their work and activities, it is hard not to be struck by the incredible pace of activities at the clinic. What was also apparent was a number of unifying themes in the presentations.

For example, it is difficult to miss that CELA's basic mandate is to represent individuals, families and organizations with environmental problems battling the typical David and Goliath scenario. Rick Lindgren, Ramani Nadarajah and Paul McCulloch gave examples and discussed the enormous challenges that face so many of CELA's clients, whether it be attempting to stop environmentally inappropriate development or remedy an on-going situation. The lack of funding and the complexity of the legal and technical issues are two of the commonly cited challenges. Another theme pervading the evening was a discussion of what CELA has been opposing for some time now - deregulation, downsizing and devolution. All levels of government are doing all three, in misguided attempts to save money. One good example is the recent conclusion of the federal-provincial harmonization accord that will have significant implications on the capacity of governments, and in particular, the federal government, to fulfill its environmental mandate.

The third theme was perhaps the most overarching one - the implications of globalization and free trade agreements. Ken Traynor drew fascinating insights on the implications and consequences of globalization and free trade both in the developed and developing worlds.

Make no mistake, we will pay for our obsessions with bottom lines. As environmental protection is eroded, we will suffer the consequences - increased illness, higher health care costs, more severe weather patterns. These consequences are apparent now and some of them are revealed in this edition of the Intervenor.

In addition to its legal and law reform work, CELA has been active in furthering public education and community development in these areas. We believe that an informed public is one of the best defenders of the environment. As we continue our work, it is also necessary to contemplate how to become even more effective in furthering our mandate. People attending the Annual General Meeting did contribute a number of interesting ideas for CELA to consider in its planning exercises. One of those ideas seems completely right - CELA was encouraged to continue its work to ensure that the general public becomes more aware of the lack of government commitment toward the environment, and its consequences.

On behalf of CELA, I would like to thank all of those who did attend the annual meeting. For those who could not, please do not hesitate to contact us with your ideas and feedback to our work. We really would appreciate your input and need your support.

Paul Muldoon is a lawyer at CELA