CELA''s Service and Law Reform Priorities
CELA in the Courts
CELA has a long history of involvement in some of the most important environmental litigation in Canada. As a legal aid clinic in Ontario, client representation focuses on the needs of low income communities and citizen-based organizations working in the public interest. CELA’s lawyers appear before all levels of federal and Ontario courts and tribunals on matters of statutory law and civil litigation. Topical collections are provided here containing summary and detailed publications related to CELA’s casework, including links to relevant materials located elsewhere on-line.
DISCLAIMER: The legal documents posted to this website are a matter of public record. Please be advised that all statements of fact or law in these documents are allegations that must be proven before the court or tribunal in question. These documents are posted on this website for public information purposes only, and do not constitute legal advice or opinion. If you require legal assistance, please contact CELA (see Services) or other legal counsel.
Access to Environmental Justice
CELA advocates for public rights of access to environmental decision-making and strong environmental laws. Environmental issues are rarely simple. Information is often incomplete and controversial and those at risk are rarely the same as those who benefit from activities that create environmental risks or harm. The poor, or other vulnerable groups such as First Nations, are often disproportionately affected.
Decisions made under conditions of uncertainty are political decisions. Those affected by political decisions made on the basis of value judgements, about health or environmental risks, should have a say in such decisions. Public scrutiny and consultation is essential. Good environmental protection laws include measures to ensure equitable access to information and to fair decision-making processes. Alongside good decision-making, the public needs strong environmental laws that should provide remedies for harmful activities or, better still, the means to prevent harm in the first place.
CELA conducts extensive work on issues of water quality and quantity in the Great Lakes and beyond. The United Nations Environment Program has identified the provision of water as the most important global challenge of the new millennium. As global economic pressures transform the way governments manage water resources, planning is essential to ensure drinking water source protection and equitable public access. Adequate water resources are crucial to population health, food security, biodiversity and ecosystem health. With one-fifth of the earth’s freshwater resources, Ontario must play a key role in planning for world water sustainability and protecting water resources from pollution.
The Water Sustainability area of this site contains numerous collections, organized thematically, with CELA’s detailed and summary materials on diverse issues of water quality, quantity, management and protection.
Pollution and Health
CELA recognizes the intimate link between the environment and human health. New scientific information and newly recognized sources of contamination are challenging traditional approaches to the control of toxic substances. Alongside well-know sources like air and water pollution, consumer products are an increasing particularly as indoor sources of contamination. Children are at greater risk than adults and are not adequately protected by existing laws and standards. In addressing the large backlog of toxic substances and pesticides that have never been evaluated, or require re-evaluation, to account for children, a precautionary approach is necessary. Alongside health and environmental partners, CELA is at the forefront of the debate over the adequacy of standard-setting practices and efforts to improve laws governing toxic substances.
The Pollution and Health are of this site contains collections, organized thematically, providing a range of materials, about CELA’s advocacy for the protection of human health, particularly child health, from exposures to toxic substances in the environment and consumer products.
CELA works towards a sustainable energy future that will include equitable access to clean, renewable sources of energy and the phase-out of nuclear power. In collaboration with multiple partners in environmental, public interest and social justice organizations, CELA has assisted in developing detailed analyses to show that a green energy future for Ontario is entirely reasonable and doable. At the federal level, we focus a public interest lens on the activities of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
A major focus of CELA’s work on green energy strategies is to ensure equitable access. As such, CELA was a founding member of the Low Income Energy Network - LIEN, formed in 2004, which allows a variety of legal aid clinics, poverty activists, grass roots environmental organizations, shelter advocates, and more, to develop a priority action agenda to fight energy poverty and its impacts in Ontario.
On the Land
CELA has a long history of involvement in environmental planning and environmental assessment. Population growth, settlement patterns and developmental pressures can cause environmental damage. Natural areas and agricultural lands are lost. It is increasingly recognized that urban sprawl needlessly wastes billions of dollars of public money on hard and soft services. Policy and planning tools are needed to curb sprawl and to protect natural resources. The Walkerton tragedy revealed similarly costly and dangerous problems with poor planning rules in rural areas. Alongside advocacy for better land use planning law and policy, CELA continues a longstanding involvement with environmental assessment law at the federal level and in Ontario.
The On the Land area of this site contains collections of information, organized thematically, with CELA’s summary and detailed publications, along with relevant on-line resources, about land use planning and environmental assessment.