September 2019 Bulletin

Maple Leaves. (Photo: Dominic Ali)

Inside CELA

The Canadian Environmental Law Foundation - The Resource Library Gets A New Name and Renewed Purpose!

With CELA undergoing significant changes in response to reduced funding from Legal Aid Ontario, CELA's sibling charitable organization, the Resource Library for the Environment and the Law (RLEL) has changed its name. It will now be known as the Canadian Environmental Law Foundation. This new name was chosen to more clearly make the connection to CELA. The Foundation will continue to hold, grow, and manage collections of books and electronic resources in addition to becoming a more active fundraising organization. The Foundation's brand-new website is celafoundation.ca and provides easy access to the extensive library catalogue as well as links to CELA's archive and other collections of the Environmental History Program. Donations in support of CELA’s critical environmental law work are also gratefully accepted through the Foundation website.

Update on Legal Aid Cuts to Clinics

Following the Legal Clinics' province wide day of action that we reported on last month, there has been no change so far in the cuts to legal clinics' budgets, including the 30% cut to CELA's budget being phased in this year and next.

If not reversed, this will present huge challenges to CELA's capacity. While we will continue to focus our work on the most needed environmental justice cases, and the most vulnerable communities, we are calling for the cuts to Legal Aid to be reversed by the province, and for the LAO cuts to clinics including CELA, to be reversed. The additional cuts planned for next year will have even more devastating consequences right across the province.

In addition, a Legal Aid Modernization Project is now underway, including a review of the community clinic model, with proposed amendments to the Legal Aid Services Act. Please write to your MPP to stress the need to preserve the fundamentals of the community clinic model for both geographic poverty law clinics, and specialty clinics like the Canadian Environmental Law Association. It is especially important to point out that independence of community clinics and governance by community boards of directors are essential provisions to retain in the Legal Aid Services Act.

Presentations and Events 

Webinar: Ontario Government Reviewing Provincial Policy Statement

The Ontario government has proposed a series of changes to the Provincial Policy Statement, which is the key statement of the governments’ policies on land use planning and provides direction on all land use planning issues that impact communities. CELA is concerned that the proposed changes represent a shift away from prioritizing the protection of water, natural heritage and ensuring climate resilient communities. We are hosting a webinar on October 9th at 1pm to review and discuss the changes, and share updates about submissions, responses and campaigns. Please share broadly with your networks and register here.

Environmental Law Toolkit Workshop - October 1

CELA counsel Anastasia Lintner, in her role as a Sustainability Network board member, will be hosting this popular legal primer workshop, designed to help participants understand what laws and policies exist to protect the environment and how to use them effectively, as well as the opportunities provided by law to participate in government decision-making. Presenters include Robert Moyer with the Commission for Environmental Cooperation Secretariat, Sue Tan, Ian Miron and Charlotte Ireland with Ecojustice, and CELA’s Joseph Castrilli, Ramani Nadarajah and Richard Lindgren. This year's session is being hosted by the Sustainability Network and is already sold out, but stay tuned for next year’s session! 

Hummingbird. (Photo: Lynn Reist)

Public Legal Education This Month 

CELA’s Executive Director Theresa McClenaghan was out and about in southwestern Ontario this month discussing access to environmental justice issues including pollution and poverty, and ensuring the protection of safe drinking water with tomorrow’s leaders. Highlights included:

  • Meeting with members of the Transnational Environmental Law and Policy Clinic at the University of Windsor Law School
  • A “streamside” chat at the mouth of Whiteman’s Creek at the Grand River with graduate students from every faculty of the University of Waterloo in the interdisciplinary Collaborative Water Program
  • Using personal time, Theresa provided the keynote opening address at Wayne State University at the Global Health, Justice and the Environment Symposium where she discussed CELA’s work on pollution, poverty and equity in the Great Lakes region. A highlight of this visit included an environmental justice tour hosted by the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, located at Wayne State – a truly inspiring experience with many take-aways.
  • Joining a panel discussion at the Canadian Nuclear Law Organization’s 2019 Nuclear Law Course, discussing Canada’s brand new Impact Assessment Act and a public interest perspective on how it will impact future impact assessment of nuclear projects. Her comments stressed the need for improved transparency, public engagement and participation, whether under the current environmental assessment process, or the newly adopted legislation, in order to improve decision making in respect of future nuclear proposals and to better protect public health and safety.
  • Presenting on the topic of protection of drinking water for vulnerable communities and the broader public in the context of a climate emergency at the Water Justice in a Climate Emergency conference hosted by WaterIsLife, at the University of Western Ontario on September 28, 2019. She was joined by co-panelist Nick Leonard who is an environmental lawyer who practices in Michigan associated with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Centre.

Ontario Aboriginal Lands Association Conference

CELA was grateful for the invitation to attend a conference hosted by the Ontario Aboriginal Lands Association, where we introduced our range of legal services, and discussed environmental justice in Indigenous communities. 

CELA in the Courts 

Carbon Pricing Cases Head to Supreme Court of Canada

Earlier this year, CELA intervened on behalf of two clients in the constitutional references held by the Courts of Appeal for Saskatchewan and Ontario in relation to Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act. Both the Saskatchewan court and Ontario court rendered opinions that affirmed the constitutionality of this federal carbon pricing legislation. Both opinions are now under appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, which will hear the cases in mid-January 2020.

Decommissioning of nuclear reactor in Manitoba moving forward absent completion of Federal Environmental Assessment

CELA has been granted intervenor status to appear before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Using resources from the CNSC funding program, CELA staff counsel will appear on October 2 in response to the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' (CNL) request for a 10 year decommissioning licence for its Whiteshell laboratories site in Manitoba. This site is currently undergoing a federal EA, for the proposed in situ (in place) decommissioning of the Whiteshell research reactor. In its detailed comments to the CNSC, CELA argued it would be premature for the CNSC to grant this licence, prior to a final decision on the merits of the federal EA. CELA has requested the CNSC only grant a one-year licence extension for CNL's Whiteshell site.

News and activities 

Federal Impact Assessment Law Now in Force

Canada's new Impact Assessment Act came into force on August 28, 2019, and establishes new requirements for evaluating certain "designated projects" (e.g. mines, pipelines, disposal facilities for radioactive waste, etc.) that may affect areas of federal interest. CELA has prepared an updated briefing note about the legislation, and CELA continues to undertake public legal education and outreach activities to explain how the Act will work in practice.

47 Groups Call for Toronto to Declare a Climate Emergency

CELA recently joined with dozens of social justice, health and environmental groups to call on the Mayor and Council of Toronto to formally declare a climate emergency. The signatory organizations work across many sectors, and their unity on this call to action underlines the need for swift, equitable and deep climate action.

Sandhill crane. (Photo: Lynn Reist)

CELA's Staff Lawyer Kerrie Blaise Appointed to International Environmental Advisory Committee

CELA welcomes the Government of Canada's appointment of CELA's Northern Services Counsel, Kerrie Blaise, to the new Canadian Environment Domestic Advisory Group (CEDAG) under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The CEDAG is responsible for advising the Government of Canada and making recommendations on the implementation of the Trade and Environment Chapter of CETA.

Update: 20+ Groups Sign-on to Comments on Draft Canada-Ontario Agreement

The Canada-Ontario Agreement (COA) on Great Lakes Water Quality and Ecosystem Health is the key agreement that outlines how the provincial and federal governments will work together to conserve, protect and restore the waters and wetlands of the Great Lakes-St Lawrence Basin. In response to the government’s recent release of the draft 2020 COA, CELA and Environmental Defence conducted a detailed review of the draft agreement and submitted comments to the governments of Ontario and Canada. 22 organizations signed on to the submission.

CELA Objects to Proposed Expansion of Canada's Nuclear Fleet

In a recent call for comments on the project description of Canada's first small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), CELA highlighted a number of shortcomings with the proponent's plan to develop and site an SMR in Chalk River, Ontario. CELA not only argued that the CNSC, as an authority for conducting environmental assessment, lacked the independence and expertise to conduct the review, but the proponent, had failed to provide all required information as set out in regulations of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. CELA was also deeply concerned by the proponent's lack of discussion about the unique proliferation risks accompanying SMRs and their failure to consider the impact of new radioactive wastes on Canada's current management plans.

Loon. (Photo: Lynn Reist)

Chronic Disability Triggered by Environmental Factors: Critical Obstacles Remain

CELA and the ARCH Disability Law Centre have reviewed the legal rights and challenges faced by people with chronic disability triggered by environmental factors. The report reviews the law in multiple areas and makes recommendations, including echoing those of the Ontario Task Force on Environmental Health. CELA and ARCH conclude that, despite some recent progress, much more needs to be done to address significant hurdles faced by people with environmental health disabilities.

Ensuring Protection of the Amazon

Environmental and labour organizations joined forces earlier this month to petition Canadian Ministers to ensure the Mercosur trade agreement being negotiated with Brazil and the other Mercosur countries protects the Amazon from escalating deforestation. The groups called on the government to ensure that the trade deal prioritizes the sustainability of the Amazon as one of the most important tools for mitigating climate change and cooling the planet by absorbing global carbon emissions. CELA signed on to the petition letter supported by 11 organizations.

The Faces of CELA: John Jackson

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I have been a board member of CELA since March 1998 because of my experience as a client of CELA and because of my broader environmental policy and activist work over the past 35 years. I'm also a member of CELA's Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee, the Legal & Priorities Committee, and the Personnel Committee.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?

My work in the environmental field began when I was living in Windsor where our community was downwind of the Fermi Nuclear Power plant in Monroe, Michigan. One of the units at the Fermi plant had a partial nuclear fuel meltdown in 1966. We formed Downwind Alliance to oppose nuclear power plants.

I also at that time became involved in occupational health issues in Windsor, especially those related to asbestos, diesel emissions in the salt mines and plants producing plastics. I began working with community groups concerned about dump site contamination and waste disposal facility proposals in their communities.

As we discussed the problems, we came to realize that communities all across the province were experiencing the same barriers. We formed the Citizens' Network on Waste Management to work at the provincial level for legislative and policy changes. Through this we hoped to be able to avoid other communities from having to confront the same problems that we did.

What's the most rewarding part of working/volunteering with CELA?

CELA is unique in that it works at the provincial and federal level for policy and legal changes while also working with local communities to provide them with legal support as they address local struggles. Being part of this is very satisfying. Being involved with CELA also deepens and broadens my knowledge of what is happening in local communities and at the provincial level.

What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today?

There isn't one issue that is more important than the others. It is essential that we have people across the basin working on a wide range of different issues.

The challenge affecting all issues is to make governments, industry and the public realize that we cannot and should not even try to manage nature. The system is much too complicated for us to ever do that; the challenge is to switch our focus from managing nature to managing human activities to reduce and minimize our negative impacts on the natural world.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

We have to change the language, e.g., refuse to use terms like "resource management" and focus on changing human behaviour.

When you're not working on Great Lakes issues, what do you like to do?

Go out and walk and sit in natural settings. Cook meals for company at my house. Explore family history.