76(1) Expanding CELA's Reach Through Innovative Partnerships

CELA Bulletin

76:1 29-January-2010

Periodic E-News from the Canadian Environmental Law Association

As we enter our 40th year at CELA, 32 of those years as an Ontario Legal Aid clinic,
this 3-Part CELA Bulletin looks back at 2009, some highlights of the "00" decade, and looks ahead to 2010.

In this issue, 76(1): Expanding CELA's Reach Through Innovative Partnerships
See also: Issues 76:2 Focus on Campaigns and 76:3 Casework Highlights
  • Working in Partnership; Focusing on Equity
  • Low Income Energy Network, Renewable is Doable, Green Prosperity
  • PollutionWatch, Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, Home Safe
  • Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition, Take Charge on Toxics, Ban Asbestos Canada, Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network
  • Great Lakes United, International POPs Elimination Network 
  • Water Guardians Network

Working in Partnership; Focusing on Equity
Through the past year and decade, CELA continued a leadership role in developing and nurturing highly innovative partnerships of organizations, applying our legal, policy and scientific expertise to multiple issues, and greatly extending our reach to policy makers, the media and the public. In accomplishing all of this work, we place primary importance on CELA’s mandate to assist low-income people and disadvantaged communities. Increasingly, our partnership work has included collaboration with our colleagues in specialty and community legal aid clinics. In this work we are addressing issues such as access to affordable green energy and sustainable and affordable water supplies. CELA is also participating in campaigns (led by the Wellesley Institute) in Toronto and province-wide to address the equity and human rights issues embodied in inclusionary zoning, a critical aspect of land use planning.

CELA is a member of the Canadian Network on Environment, Health and Social Equity (CNEHSE) and hopes to collaborate with CNEHSE researchers in the coming months. Meanwhile our Making the Links project is moving forward into a second busy year addressing environmental health, equity and legal issues in six communities across Ontario.

Low Income Energy Network, Renewable is Doable, Green Prosperity
As a founding member of the Low-Income Energy Network, CELA works with numerous partners including multiple legal aid clinic colleagues and many other social justice advocates, to ensure universal access to affordable green energy. Since its inception in 2004, LIEN has helped Ontario's low-income households access energy assistance programs and has continued to advocate for progressive law reform. LIEN's efforts contributed to the passage of Ontario's Green Energy and Green EconomyAct  and the Ontario Energy Board's ongoing work to develop a Low Income Energy Assistance Program. This work also informs our active participation with the Renewable is Doable coalition and the work of Green Prosperity - building Ontario's  recovery in a changing climate.

PollutionWatch, Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, HomeSafe
 PollutionWatch partners recently published a new report on the Great Lakes: Protecting the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence River Basin and Drinking Water Sources (view Jan 7/10 media release, and on-line collection of all of PollutionWatch reports on the Great Lakes). The popular website continues to provide useful tools to analyze and map pollution at the scale of individual communities up to provincial or national levels using National Pollutant Release Inventory data.

The Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment (CPCHE), a collaboration of environment, health and child care organizations, expanded last year to include the Canadian Pediatric Society. CPCHE originated from the multiple recommendations of the report prepared by CELA and the Ontario College of Family Physicians - Environmental Standard-Setting and Children's Health , published ten years ago this spring. Within CPCHE's acclaimed publications, the most recently released is Advancing Environmental Health in Child Care Settings - A Checklist for Child Care Practitioners and Public Health Inspectors (Jan 18/10 media release, report). This new guide was developed by CPCHE partners in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Public Health Inspectors - Ontario Branch and the Ontario Association of Supervisors of Public Health Inspectors. CELA is also playing a leadership role within CPCHE's current project with the Ontario Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance investigating links between early exposures and chronic disease.

CELA staff have always been asked for help by people who experience various forms of environmental or chemical sensitivities and such requests have increased dramatically in recent years. The Ontario Human Rights Commission has recognized these sensitivities as disabilities. CELA has begun work with a coalition of housing, vulnerable and impacted people, other legal clinics and agencies called HomeSafe. The coalition is drafting requirements and advocating for new housing to be built for this vulnerable group. As well, the Canadian Partnership for Children's Health and Environment, with CELA as the lead partner, is embarking on an exciting new "Healthy Retrofits" project, funded by the Trillium Foundation. This two year project will seek to prevent toxic exposures and ensure indoor air quality during and after energy efficiency retrofits in Ontario, with a particular emphasis on the needs of low-income residents.

Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition, Take Charge on Toxics, Ban Asbestos Canada, Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network
Throughout the last decade, like all Canadians, CELA staff and board members lost many cherished family members, colleagues and friends to cancer, often passing in what should have been the prime of life. A key focus of our work addressing toxic substances is the precautionary regulation of cancer-causing substances. CELA helped found the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition (TCPC) in 1998, a collaboration of health, environment and labour groups and municipal representatives. Among numerous activities, the Environmental and Occupational Carcinogens Working Group of the TCPC worked to ensure passage in December, 2008 of Toronto's progressive community Right-to-Know bylaw (on Environmental Reporting and Disclosure). Additional partnership work to reduce exposure to toxic substances occurs at the provincial level with the Take Charge on Toxics campaign led by the Canadian Cancer Society, at the national level with Ban Asbestos Canada, to seek a ban on mining and export of asbestos, at the international level to seek the inclusion of chrysotile asbestos in the Rotterdam Convention and to advance the principles of green chemistry through the Great Lakes Green Chemistry Network.

Great Lakes United, International POPs Elimination Network
Also at the international level, and flowing from CELA's long involvement with Great Lakes United and advocacy for chemicals policy reform in the Great Lakes basin, CELA was a founding member in 1998 of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) that coordinates the efforts of over 800 health and environmental organizations world-wide. IPEN was instrumental in the negotiations and eventual entry into force of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in 2004, a global agreement to eliminate persistent organic pollutants including PCBs, several chlorinated pesticides, hexachlorobenzene, dioxins and furans. Ongoing advocacy seeks to ensure effective implementation of the Convention. Recent efforts have involved the listing of nine additional chemicals/chemical groups to the Convention including lindane, two brominated flame retardant mixtures and PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate). However, important exemptions threaten the integrity of these listings (for more details see: NGO letter on Canada's ratification process on POPs, IPEN May 10/09 media release, IPEN Guide to New POPs, and CELA's on-line collection).

Water Guardians Network
May of this year marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic events in Walkerton, Ontario where contaminated drinking water caused seven deaths and over 2300 illnesses. The resulting public inquiry and recommendations established a major reform agenda for drinking water safety in Ontario. Although many progressive changes occurred very quickly after the Inquiry ended, by 2005 the Province had yet to address key aspects of drinking water source protection prompting CELA to work with other public interest groups across Ontario to form the Water Guardians Network.

                                               - 30 -