Happy World Environment Day!

Happy World Environment Day! The planet needs us to show up, participate, and work hard together to make change happen.

Here's what we're following:

  • Yesterday marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It's a good time to reflect on our right to protest; it is one we should exercise often. Remember those who stand up to tyrants.

  • The kids are doing alright - we're loving Greta Thunberg's movement of Friday school strikes for climate action. When progress is threatened - our health, education, Indigenous peoples, climate - we must show up and protect communities and our future.

  • This week, the final report and the 231 Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released. As we head into a federal election, it's also good to remember our power to push those seeking our votes to commit to ending gender-based violence, colonialism and racism in our governance systems, and centre the knowledge and insights of Indigenous women and girls in our policies and decisions.

  • Last week the Ford government felt the massive public pressure and reversed its cuts to Ontario's municipalities, public health and child care. In this daily onslaught of cynical and scary news, it's important to connect to these stories of resistance and impact.

As for WHEN, here are a few ways you have helped to create change so far in 2019:

Toxic Beauty advocacy: we are so proud to be an advocacy partner of the documentary Toxic Beauty, which premiered this spring to sold-out audiences in Toronto and Vancouver, and help channel these audiences towards action and seek a ban on talc-based personal care products. If you haven't signed on to our call to get ovarian cancer-linked talc out of our personal care products you can send a letter here: https://www.bantalc.com/

Great Lakes Protection: We participated in the bi-national Great Lakes Summit, to provide feedback on recommendations to the Canadian government. WHEN continues to engage on water issues with our Great Lakes Protection Alliance partners, to support stronger protections for watersheds, communities and aquatic ecosystems.

Environmental Rights: WHEN, along with our co-hosts Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation, held a symposium on environmental rights with a broad range of community organizations, and welcomed the insights of Maude Barlow, Dianne Saxe, Aamjiwnaang First Nation youth Vanessa Gray and Beze Gray, David Boyd and Olivia Chow during the panel discussion. You can find a local group working on environmental rights at http://bluedot.ca/

Green New Deal for Canada: WHEN has endorsed the Green New Deal for Canada, joined the massive coalition of organizations working to bring it to Canada, and hosted a town hall discussion for 150+ signatories at our office space. You can join the 50,000 people who have signed on: https://greennewdealcanada.ca/

Election toolkit: A shout-out to our colleagues at Breast Cancer Action Quebec for this great Election Toolkit, for individuals and groups to help shape the conversation this election on toxics laws in Canada: http://acsqc.ca/sites/default/files/bcaq-activism_toolkit2019w.pdf

Representing women and environmental health: We were delegates to the Chemicals Management Plan meetings in Ottawa last week, and we also met with the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and Toxics ahead of their report release this Friday.


(Also, if you want to celebrate World Environment Day and help WHEN win $10,000, every dollar you give in June during the Canadian Giving Challenge puts us in the running: https://www.womenshealthyenvironments.ca/give)

Toxics in Recycled Plastics

WHEN stands with our colleagues at HEJSupport, IPEN, CELA and Arnika in seeking action on contaminated recycled plastics in Canadian toys and products.

From the joint press release:

“A recent analysis of consumer products sold in Canada made from recycled plastics has revealed toxic flame-retardant contamination in some hair accessories, children’s toys, and other plastic products. Canada is one of the few countries that registered a recycling exemption for toxic polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) persistent organic pollutants (POP) after they were banned under the Stockholm Convention in 2004 (7 out of 182 Parties registered these exemptions). The exemption has permitted to recycle materials such as plastics from discarded computers and other products containing PBDEs in the recycling stream for the past ten years and to continue this practice until 2030. Environmental health organizations are urging the Canadian government to end the practice and withdraw the recycling exemptions because the resulting contamination of the recycling stream allows banned chemicals in products and poses a threat to public health, particularly children.”

“Canadian consumers should be able to purchase products made of recycled materials without having to worry that they contain substances that are globally banned. This is not the case at the present time,” said Olga Speranskaya, HEJSupport Co-Director and IPEN Senior Advisor. “We hope that Canada will announce its withdrawal of the recycling exemptions for PBDEs at UN Stockholm Convention meeting in Geneva (April 27-May 10).”

Ontario's aggregates: social licence and healthy communities

The Ontario government is soliciting feedback on the aggregates industry.

You can also provide feedback - the survey link is here, comments are open until May 1, 2019: https://www.ontario.ca/form/ontarios-aggregate-reform

We submitted the following comments (feel free to use and adapt them):

What is the greatest challenge facing aggregate resource management in Ontario today and in the future?

Open-pit mining and the aggregate extraction are highly unpopular due to the loss of prime farmland; truck traffic, dust and negative property value impacts; risks and damages to groundwater, and air quality issues such as dust; and massive abandoned and unrehabilitated site issues.

This largely self-regulated industry seeks to expand in Southern Ontario's most population growth-heavy, ecologically sensitive headwaters such as the Oak Ridges Moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. Yet, in 2010, 42% of aggregate sites were not doing progressive rehabilitation, which undermines their temporary land-use designation.

What are the best opportunities for managing aggregates resources in Ontario in the next three to five years?

The provincial government can support the aggregate industry by providing innovation incentives to improve recycling rates for concrete, bricks, glass and other materials. The industry must also be incentivized to improve its progressive rehabilitation rates in order to create truly sustainable aggregate management, and to rebuild their social licence to operate in aggregate-adjacent communities and municipalities.

What are the main barriers to achieve those opportunities?

Given that the industry has achieved only a 7% recycling rate, barriers include the sourcing and classification of materials that can meet the construction industry's demand - the province can support this sourcing and materials classification system.

In addition, a corporate culture of externalizing drinking water risks and rehabilitation costs on to small, rural municipalities poses a significant barrier to sustainability, and requires the province to challenge bad corporate actors while they are still in business.

How can the provincial government support Ontario’s aggregate resource development in the future?

The provincial government can define sustainable aggregate management to include protecting deposits for future use, and addressing the industry's land-use and climate impacts.

How can Ontario manage aggregate resources more competitively?

Level the playing field for good corporate citizens - the ones that undertake progressive rehabilitation, protect communities from air and water quality risks and exposures, and respect local infrastructure (roads, windrows, etc.) - and take action against those that threaten the aggregate industry's social licence before they are able to abandon sites for small rural municipalities to have to deal with.

Do you have any suggestions to help Ontario manage aggregates with regards to land use planning?

Enforcing the current requirements for progressive rehabilitation will help to rebuild the industry's social licence in conflict-laden aggregate-adjacent communities.

Acknowledgement: Thank you to Caitlin Port for her research on this issue, which formed the basis for these comments and references. https://uwspace.uwaterloo.ca/bitstream/handle/10012/7966/Port_Caitlin.pdf


Association of Manitoba Municipalities – Municipal Leader Magazine (2006). A primer on the aggregate industry, Summer 2006 edition. http://www.amm.mb.ca/PDF/Magazine/Summer2006/aggregate.pdf

Baker, D., Slanz, C., & Summerville, T. (2001). An evolving policy network in action: The case of construction aggregate policy in Ontario. Canadian Public Administration, 44(4), 463-483.

Binstock, M. & Carter-Whitney, M (2011). Aggregate Extraction in Ontario: A Strategy for theFuture. Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy http://cielap.org/pdf/AggregatesStrategyExecSumm.pdf

Caldwell, W & Hilts, S. (2005). Farmland preservation: innovative approaches in Ontario. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 60(3), 66-69

Chambers, C., & Sandberg, L. A. (2007). Pits, peripheralization and the politics of scale: Struggles over locating extractive industries in the town of Caledon, Ontario, Canada. Regional Studies, 41(3), 327-338.

Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (2011). Land-Use Planning in Ontario. Recommendations of the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario from 2000-2010

Gunningham, N., Kagan, R. A., & Thornton, D. (2004). Social license and environmental protection: why businesses go beyond compliance. Law & Social Inquiry, 29(2), 307-341.

Markvart, T (2009). Understanding Institutional Change and Resistance to Change Towards Sustainability: An Interdisciplinary Theoretical Framework and Illustrative Application to Provincial-Municipal Aggregates Policy. http://www.env.uwaterloo.ca/research/biosphere/Documents/Markvart_Tanya.pdf

Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal (2006). Places to Grow: Better choices, Brighter Future. Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2006. https://www.placestogrow.ca/images/pdfs/FPLAN-ENG-WEB-ALL.pdf

Ministry of Natural Resources. (2010b). State of the Aggregate Resource in Ontario Study: Consolidated Report. http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Aggregates/2ColumnSubPage/286708.html

Ministry of Natural Resources (2010c). State of the Aggregate Resources in Ontario Study, Paper #6: Rehabilitation. http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/en/Business/Aggregates/Publication/STDPROD_067784.html

Patano, S., & Sandberg, L. A. (2005). Winning back more than words? power, discourse and quarrying on the Niagara escarpment. Canadian Geographer, 49(1), 25-41.

Ontario Stone, Sand, and Gravel Association (2010). Study of Aggregate Rehabilitation in Ontario, 1971-2009, Part 1.

West, T. & Cho, K. (2006). Environmental and social issues associated with aggregate extraction: The Lafayette – West Lafayette, Indiana, and other examples, USA. Paper number 692 from the 10th Congress of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment. http://www.iaeg.info/iaeg2006/PAPERS/IAEG_692.PDF

Wernstedt, K. (2000). Plans, planners, and aggregates mining. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 20(1), 77-87.

Winfield, M.S. & Taylor, A. (2005). Rebalancing the Load; The need for an aggregates conservation strategy for Ontario. The Pembina Institute. http://www.pembina.org/pub/179

Bill 66: People and Places Matter More Than Profit

Bill 66 undermines the importance of decades of bipartisan environmental protections in Ontario.

The Clean Water Act, the Greenbelt, the Great Lakes Protection Act and the Toxics Reduction Act are important tools for ensuring land use, drinking water protection, and air quality. The Walkerton tragedy, disappearing agricultural lands and natural ecosystems - these are real risks and irreversible damages to our province.

This Bill even undermines their “Made in Ontario” Environment Plan, and the Ontario government's promise under Ford to protect the Greenbelt.

These conflicting policies demonstrate a true lack of vision for community health and environmental conservation. We must hear a commitment to public health and safety, that people and places matter more than profit, and that we will be protected by this government - and not paced at risk by selling our community's health to the lowest bidder.

What you can do: send a note by January 20 to the government and tell them you oppose this backwards bill - https://act.leadnow.ca/stop-66/

Citizens Across Canada Urge Ministers to Adopt Federal Toxics Law Changes

Toronto - The heads of over 30 civil society organizations from across Canada presented the federal ministers of Environment (Hon. Catherine McKenna) and Health (Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor) with draft legislation amending the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), and urged the ministers to introduce the amendments in the Fall 2018 session of Parliament to better protect human health and the environment from toxic substances.

“CEPA has not been amended in two decades, and the government’s June 2018 response to a parliamentary standing committee’s 2017 report on hearings conducted in 2016 on CEPA, raised concerns whether Canadians will see amendments to the law before 2020”, said Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

The amendments presented to the ministers by the groups follow a petition tabled in Parliament earlier this month signed by over 11,000 Canadians urging changes to CEPA, as well as a report by the federal environment commissioner on inadequate toxic substances enforcement under CEPA.

The amendments address five areas of concern with CEPA that were raised during standing committee hearings and reflected in the committee’s report, but not necessarily supported in the government’s June 2018 response to the report. These include: (1) control over endocrine disrupting substances; (2) establishment of enforceable national ambient air quality standards; (3) protection of vulnerable populations from toxic substances; (4) substitution of safer alternatives to toxic substances; and (5) civil enforcement of CEPA by the public in the courts.

“These five issues were recurring concerns identified by civil society witnesses appearing before the standing committee”, said Joe Castrilli, a CELA lawyer, who drafted the amendments.

“Hormone-related cancers and chronic diseases are increasing, especially in younger Canadians. These CEPA amendments would enable modern systematic science to address endocrine disrupting and other toxic substances, and to shift toward healthiest options across the board”, said Dr. Meg Sears, Chair of Prevent Cancer Now.

“Laws controlling toxic substances need to be updated more frequently than once every twenty years. These amendments address overdue issues like civil enforcement of the law’s requirements by the public and provide better opportunities for public involvement in the decision-making process concerning these substances”, said Erica Stahl, Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law.

“Establishing enforceable national ambient air quality standards as these amendments propose will contribute to a reduced disease burden for people suffering from respiratory and other ailments caused by air pollution”, said Gordon Dalzell, Chair, Saint John Citizens Coalition for Clean Air.

“A key to protecting vulnerable populations, like pregnant women, children, and workers, from exposure to harmful chemicals is to require industry, with government oversight, to examine, develop, and substitute non-toxic alternatives”, said Rohini Peris, President, Environmental Health Association of Quebec.

“The Government should seize this opportunity to make important and much needed reforms to federal environmental law enacted to protect the environment and human health from toxic substances”, stated Joe Castrilli.

The amendments, and the letter sent to the ministers explaining the rationale for them, may be found on the CELA website.

1)    Letter to Hon. Catherine McKenna and Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor at https://www.cela.ca/letter-amending-CEPA

2)    Amendments to CEPA at https://www.cela.ca/proposed-ammendments-CEPA

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For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Fe de Leon, MPH, Senior researcher

Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)

Telephone: 416-960-2284, ext. 7223; Email: deleonf@cela.ca