Environment

Nesting dolls of “directly affected” in federal law under judicial review

October 18th, 2013 by Laura Bowman

Recently, the Federal Court of Appeal released a decision on a procedural issue in Forest Ethics Advocacy Association v. Canada (National Energy Board), 2013 FCA 236 (CanLII).  Forest Ethics is suing the government over recent changes to the National Energy Board Act which it claims “unreasonably restrict public comment on project proposals.” At issue is a new section introduced in one of the large conservative budget bills which limits participation on issues before the National Energy Board (NEB) to those who are “directly affected.”

In the decision, the Federal Court of Appeal had to decide whether Enbridge and Valero – two oil and gas companies – would have standing to become respondents or intervenors in the case against the government.  Ironically, the court had to interpret section 303 of the Federal Courts Act which also uses the “directly affected” test.

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After bizarre saga, Information and Privacy Commissioner decision gives hope for better access to scientific studies

July 5th, 2013 by Paula Boutis

On May 14, 2013, the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) issued a long awaited appeal decision (pdf) on the Ministry of Natural Resources’ (MNR) and the Ministry of Transportation’s (MTO) refusal to release natural heritage reports. Ostensibly access was refused on the basis of Cabinet privilege. On appeal, the IPC ordered the release of these reports to Sierra Club Ontario Chapter (SCO).

This was a bizarre case of the left hand not talking to the right hand, and the Ministries wanting it both ways.

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Lake Simcoe five years later: Limitless growth causes limitless problems

June 17th, 2013 by Laura Bowman

This upcoming December will mark the fifth anniversary of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act (LSPA), the passage of which led to the implementation of the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan. This legislation was the result of a lot of hard grassroots work by many people in the community.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment claims that actions under the LSPA and the Plan have resulted in decreasing levels of total phosphorous in the spring, more naturally reproduced sport fish and increasing deep water oxygen levels. These are important steps toward a healthy Lake Simcoe, but do these claims stand up to scrutiny? How much real progress has been made toward protecting Lake Simcoe, and is there room for improvement?

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Federal government posts proposed revisions to regulations under CEAA 2012

April 17th, 2013 by Laura Bowman

Late Friday night, April 12, 2013, the federal government posted the latest revisions to the Regulations Designating Physical Activities under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.   These regulations determine which projects are potentially subject to a federal assessment under the new Act.

The existing regulations were put in force without any public consultations when CEAA 2012 was enacted in July 2012.  The regulations were based on the comprehensive study list regulations under the old version of CEAA which was repealed in mid-2012.

The amendments to the Regulations Designating Physical Activities proposed by the government at this time are limited.  Some projects are removed and others are clarified.   Diamond mines, apatite mines, railway yards, international and interprovincial bridges and tunnels and “the first offshore exploratory wells in exploration licence area” and expansions to oil sands mines would be added to the project list.  Just being on the project list no longer guarantees an assessment is required.

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Shark Fin Ban Case: Does Biodiversity Have Anything to Do With Social and Civic “Well-Being”?

April 2nd, 2013 by Laura Bowman

In November 2012 the Ontario Superior Court of Justice held that Toronto’s shark fin by-law was ultra vires.

Eng v. Toronto (City) was an application seeking a declaration that By-law No. 12347-2011 of the City of Toronto (Shark fin by-law) was ultra vires and of no force and effect. The by-law provides, in section 3, that “no person shall possess, sell or consume shark fin or shark fin food products within the city of Toronto”. The by-law was passed by a vote of 38-4 at council. The applicants argued that the shark fin by-law’s purpose was directed against the extinction of sharks and lacked a proper municipal purpose. The court agreed that this environmental threat was a purpose of the ban on shark fin food products as it was “a theme that persists in the public record of the proposed ban” and “environmental well-being of the City” was mentioned the preamble.

The applicants submitted that the City was the “wrong level of government” for the by-law and that there was no identifiable environmental benefit to the city. The court rejected the first argument and accepted the second.

Read more in the Ontario Bar Association’s Envronews (pdf) »

Indigenous rights and the duty to consult

January 31st, 2013 by Paula Boutis and Jessica Weizenbluth

On January 8, 2013, Frog Lake First Nation and Mikisew Cree First Nation, through their respective Chiefs, launched judicial review cases in the Federal Court. They are challenging the passage of the now infamous federal government omnibus budget bills, Bill C‑38 (Jobs, Growth and Long‑term Prosperity Act, S.C. 2012, c. 19); and Bill C‑45 (Jobs and Growth Act, 2012, S.C. c.31).

Other Canadians who may oppose these bills can only express their displeasure with them at the ballot box. With Canada’s first‑past‑the‑post electoral system, and a significant fracturing of the centre and centre‑left, it seems like an uphill battle for the rest of the country to challenge these laws, widely considered to be anti‑democratic. For all the efforts of multiple environmental organizations and the actions of the opposition in the House of Commons (perhaps most poignantly, member of Parliament Elizabeth May), there’s not a whole lot the rest of us can do.

Enter, First Nations.

Read more on rabble.ca