October 2013 Bulletin

Supreme Court affirms applicability of precautionary principle in relation to Ontario environmental legislation

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Canada held that environmental laws may be interpreted broadly to protect the public. The case raising this issue involved a company acquitted in 2010, but convicted on appeal in 2011, for failing to report to the Ontario environment ministry under the province’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA). The company in question conducted a blasting operation for a highway-widening project in eastern Ontario that damaged a nearby home and vehicle with fly-rock from the blast-site, but did not harm the natural environment. The company’s conviction for failing to report the incident to the environment ministry was upheld by a 2-1 majority in the Ontario Court of Appeal in early 2012. The company was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and argued before the Court in May 2013 that the EPA does not apply if the natural environment (air, land, water) is not also harmed by its conduct. A unanimous Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the company’s appeal and agreed with the majority of the Ontario Court of Appeal that the company was required to report the incident to the environment ministry. Read more here.

CELA encouraged by Ontario's decision to back away from new nuclear plants

CELA was encouraged by reports in the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star that revealed Ontario wouldn't proceed with plans for new nuclear plants. In its forthcoming Long Term Energy Plan, Ontario should clearly explain that there will be no new nuclear power plants built in the province. Ontario should also cease all aspects of licensing and procurement in pursuit of building new nuclear plants. We also encourage the province to avoid making any firm commitments on refurbishing the Darlington nuclear power plant, especially since the province currently has an excess supply. In addition, other sources of power that are cheaper, safer, and more sustainable are growing rapidly. CELA provided submissions to the Ministry of Energy on its Long Term Energy Supply in August and we hope to see even more action taken on abandoning nuclear energy in the near-future.

Canada–EU Trade Deal drastically undermines environmental protection

The Canadian and European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is a bad deal for Canada's environment. The Agreement is said to be the most comprehensive trade agreement to which Canada has been a party. It will dramatically impact environmental protection in Canada, through the unprecedented liberalization of essential public services and provisions with regards to government procurement. Under CETA, essential public services such as municipal water and waste water would no longer have to remain in the public domain. CETA could, thus, lead to the privatization of essential public services and compromise Canadian governments’ willingness to impose environmental, health and safety costs on providing those services to the public. Read more here.

Toronto’s hard-won Community Right-to-Know bylaw

As a parting gesture, recent retiree CELA’s Sarah Miller tells the story of achieving Toronto’s Community Right-to-Know bylaw. Read her blog post noting the many important milestones since at least 1985 that brought this bylaw to life and the remaining challenges to its successful implementation.

CELA calls on Canadian government for quick ratification on Minamata Convention on Mercury

Earlier this month, Canada signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Kumamoto, Japan. We urge the Canadian government to ratify the Convention in a quick unimpeded manner to protect Canadians, global populations and the environment from harmful exposures to mercury. For more information, read our media release.

CELA celebrates passage of Skin Cancer Prevention Act

In a move long advocated by the Canadian Cancer Society and others working on cancer prevention, the Ontario government unanimously passed the Skin Cancer Prevention Act. This new law will prohibit the use of tanning beds by youth under age 18 in Ontario. CELA has worked for many years with the Toronto Cancer Prevention Coalition (TCPC) in efforts to reduce and prevent exposure to carcinogens. Read our media release

Saying no to unsuitable landfill applications

CELA is concerned that Ontario is not moving forward on long overdue amendments to the Environmental Protection Act that would help to prevent inappropriate siting of landfills. Using The Application for Review tool provided under the Environmental Bill of Rights, CELA described the compelling environmental reasons why landfilling should no longer be permitted on fractured bedrock sites. Drawing upon our research into other jurisdictions and extensive casework in this area over many years, we noted that groundwater flow systems at such locations are complex and difficult to predict, and it may be virtually impossible to effectively monitor, contain or clean up leachate contaminants which escape into vertical or horizontal fractures, folds or faults (especially if they are within karstic rock formations). During October, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment announced that it would not undertake the requested review and did not respond to the legal and technical issues described in the EBR Application. Rather, the Ministry offered to simply review landfill-related policies and guidelines, to see if changes are warranted. CELA challenges this approach, noting that non-binding and generally unenforceable guidance does little to address the current gap in the law. In addition, the guidance materials already caution against landfilling at hydrogeologically unsuitable locations. Therefore, it is time to incorporate this common sense policy into the law itself. For more information, read Rick Lindgren’s blog post.

Legal implications of listing air pollution as a human carcinogen

Earlier this month, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a specialized agency of the World Health Organization, announced that it classified outdoor air pollution and particulate matter as carcinogenic to humans. This decision followed an extensive scientific review of available literature. So what does this mean for Canada and for you? Find out here.