Environmental groups intervene before Supreme Court in criminal case Canada’s highest court to hear case on how broadly environmental laws may be interpreted to protect the public
For Immediate Release May 15, 2013
Ottawa, ON – On Friday, May 17, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada will consider how broadly environmental laws may be interpreted to protect the public.
The case raising this issue involves 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”). A blasting operation the company conducted for a highway-widening project in eastern Ontario 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. In late September 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear the company’s appeal that will argue the EPA does not apply if the natural environment (air, land, water) is not also harmed by its conduct.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper (“LOW”) and the Canadian Environmental Law Association (“CELA”) are concerned that such an interpretation could restrict the application of the EPA and similar provincial and territorial environmental laws across the country and leave under-protected certain other aspects of the environment as well as human health and safety. CELA and LOW sought and were granted leave to intervene by a single judge of the Supreme Court of Canada in March 2013.
The case – Castonguay Blasting Ltd. v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario as represented by the Minister of the Environment – Court File No. 34816 – will be argued before the full Court on Friday morning commencing at 9:30 a.m.
The case may be viewed live on the Supreme Court’s webcast here.
The LOW-CELA factum to the Supreme Court may be viewed here.
For more information contact:
Joseph F. Castrilli or Ramani Nadarajah, CELA Counsel at: (416) 960-2284; 1-647-234-4424; (613) 236-4479
Mark Mattson, LOW President and Waterkeeper at 416-861-1237.
Which beaches should you swim at this Victoria Day long weekend? Lake Ontario Waterkeeper can tell you, with its newly updated, free Swim Guide app.
The Waterkeeper Swim Guide app and Swim Guide website www.theswimguide.org shows the closest public beaches and provides up-to-the minute information on which ones are the best for swimming, this weekend and all through the summer. Most beaches are not sampled until June, but Swim Guide’s archive helps you identify the best and worst options in Ontario quickly and easily. During the summer season, water quality information is updated daily, based on data from government agencies.
Talk to Waterkeeper President and Vice President
Talk to Mark Mattson, President of the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Krystyn Tully, Vice President, about protecting Lake Ontario’s waterways and which water is cleanest for swimming and to drink. Mark and Krystyn built the Waterkeeper Swim Guide, now used in hundreds of communities across Canada and the United States.
In addition to the new Swim Guide app, there’s also a new Waterkeeper Drink Guide, which alerts users when there are drinking water advisories. These advisories fall into four categories: Boil Water, Blue-Green Algae, Water Shortage and Do Not Consume. They are updated daily by The Water Chronicles, based on information from official government sources.
Mark Mattson and Krystyn Tully are available for interview:
About Lake Ontario Waterkeeper
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is a grassroots, non-profit charity dedicated to creating a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario. It was started after contaminated drinking water caused seven deaths in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000. Waterkeeper’s goal is for communities where it is safe to touch the water, where the water is pure enough for drinking, and where it is clean and wild enough to toss in a line and pull out a fish for your family. The organization educates the public about the Great Lakes, connects people to the water through initiatives like Swim Guide, participates in decision making and conducts research in science, law, policy and culture. Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is a member of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s internationally-recognized Waterkeeper Alliance. To learn more about Waterkeeper, visit www.waterkeeper.ca or Facebook. Follow us on Twitter (@LOWaterkeeper).
For further information: Allie Kosela, allie [at] waterkeeper.ca, 416.861.1237
On May 10, 2013, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Ottawa Riverkeeper submitted a joint comment on the proposed, “Application for Authorization under Paragraph 35(2)(b) of the Fisheries Act Regulations”.
We were very concerned last spring about the extensive rollbacks to the Fisheries Act that were inserted in omnibus budget bills in 2012 with no public notice or consultation. This new regulation confirms that many of our concerns were well-founded. If passed as drafted, this regulation will result in the end of enforceable fish habitat protections across Canada.
1. It is completely inappropriate to allow proponents to determine whether affected fish are part of a recreational, commercial, or aboriginal fishery.
2. The regulation does not provide for any public notice or consultation.
The proposed changes shift fish protection to a self-regulation model, wherein it is up to private industry to determine whether the fish their project affects are worth protecting – or not. These changes render the fish and habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act impossible to enforce. These changes will be devastating for aquatic life in Canada’s rivers, lakes, and oceans. These changes create a ‘paint-by-numbers’ framework to help industry destroy fish and fish habitat behind closed doors.
Read our full comment here.
Mark Mattson spent his summers growing up on Wolfe Island, near Kingston, where his family has owned property since 1865, swimming, fishing and watching the ducks scudding across the lake.
Water was his baptism into the wonders of nature, a passion he maintained even while attending law school to become a criminal lawyer as his father had done before him.
While in the courts, water again held him transfixed – but this time for all the wrong reasons.
In Walkerton, a rural town of 5,000 in Southwestern Ontario, seven people died and many more were sick as a result of contaminated water that flowed unchecked into the public system in 2000. Mattson served as counsel for an environmental public interest group.
A public inquiry followed in 2001, with high-profile arrests made in 2004.
There were other headlines of the day, also involving water, and they were equally depressing.
Mattson determined to converge the two main tributaries of his life – law and water – in creating Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a 2001 charity aimed at keeping the province’s water systems clean.
“It was in part created in reaction to my disgust to what happened in Walkerton and [a] concurrent sewage spill in Kingston, Ont., that fouled Wolfe Island shores and waters,” Mattson says. “This underscored my lingering feeling that Lake Ontario and other water bodies across Canada, U.S. and the world need full-time defenders.”
One of his main collaborators in the war against water pollution is Robert Kennedy Jr., a scion of the famous Kennedy clan, who invited Mattson to serve on the board of directors of the Waterkeeper Alliance in New York.
Mattson, 51, also serves as head of the new U.S.-Canada alliance, Waterkeeper Council, which tackles problems on the Great Lakes.
To help his Waterkeeper cause, he and his team have created smartphone apps that have put environmental issues in the hands of more than 100,000 people. “Environmental law and processes are meaningless unless we have a public that cares about the benefits of these laws, which is swimmable, drinkable, fishable water,” says Mattson, who today resides with his wife in a house on the Scarborough Bluffs in eastern Toronto, overlooking Lake Ontario, his long-time inspiration.
“The apps help us build this community and also reach out to younger generations with important information that impacts their right to clean water and empowers them with free information and evidence.”
Location: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Toronto, Ontario
Principal: Mark Mattson, President & Waterkeeper
Deadline for Application: Friday, July 5, 2013 at 5:00 PM EST
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper is for a lake that you can swim, drink, and ﬁsh. We dream of living in communities where every person can safely touch the water, where the water is pure enough for drinking, and where it is clean and wild enough to toss in a line and pull out a ﬁsh for your family. We are a registered Canadian charity that works to realize our dream by connecting and empowering people in order to stop pollution, protect human health, and restore habitat. Our programs bring together law, science, culture, and digital media.
In our twelve year history, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has spearheaded a number of legal initiatives that have helped to shape environmental law in Canada, including investigations, private prosecutions, industrial pollution licensing reviews, and administrative appeals.
As an articling student with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, you will have an opportunity to explore a variety of areas of law, including environmental law (administrative, quasi-criminal, and/or civil), trademark law, and constitutional law. This is a unique and exciting opportunity to article in a fast-paced and grassroots not-for-profit environment.
The Ideal Candidate
As an Articling Student, you will be part of a close-knit team of dedicated staff
working for a swimmable, drinkable, ﬁshable future.You are our ideal candidate if:
Description of Responsibilities
As an Articling Student with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, you will work directly with our staff lawyer on the organization’s numerous legal files. You will conduct legal and substantive research on topics such as nuclear waste, beaches, landﬁlls, emissions to air and water, illegal dumping, energy development, invasive species, navigation rights, and environmental policy. You will also conduct research and report on legal issues relating to operating a charity, including federal and provincial charity law, trademarks and copyright, and some human resources and business law.
You may also have the opportunity to:
Beneﬁts: Basic health coverage through the insurer of your choice; reimbursement for your
Licensing Process and Licensing Application fees; and funding for continuing legal education.
Each application must include one copy of each of the following documents. All documents should be submitted electronically (PDF preferred) to the email address below.
Please submit your application before Friday, July 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM EST to:
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper ℅ Joanna Bull at admin [at] waterkeeper.ca.
We will contact candidates selected for an interview on July 19, 2013. Interviews will be held in Toronto beginning August 12, 2013, in accordance with the Law Society of Upper Canada’s 2014-2015 Articling Recruitment Procedures.
This position is supported by The Law Foundation of Ontario’s Public Interest Articling Fellowships program.
Catherine Porter loves her Great Lake. She, like many others from the region, are deeply concerned about waterlevels in the Great Lakes. In this article, published by the Toronto Star, Porter tells us about the latest news from the International Joint Commission and what it means for water levels.
You can get there in 1.5 hours, if you drive fast out of Toronto, up Highway 400, preferably at dawn. When the wall of trees on your left opens up to a tableau of rocky islands, fainting red pines and blue water, you have arrived.
After attending the inaugural Waterkeeper Gala presented by RBC last year, Kenneth Irving donated his family home to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. The home will be used as Canada’s first centre dedicated to swimmable, drinkable, fishable water.
Mr. Irving, former chief executive officer of Saint John-based Irving Oil Ltd., was impressed by the dedication of the people he met. “Since they were also committed to making a difference through Waterkeeper, I thought to myself, ‘There has to be something special about this organization,’” he said in an e-mail.
Toronto Island Airport has defended itself from allegations by two city coucillors that the agency “may have lied” about conspiring with Porter Airlines plans to expand the runway. Karen Howlett, The Globe and Mail, April 18, 2013.
The controversy revolves around the Port Authority’s plans to fill in the marine zone in the harbour with rock and sediment excavated from the construction of a pedestrian tunnel connecting the island airport to the mainland.
Residents of the waterfront and some councillors have questioned whether the Port Authority’s proposal to dump excavated soil into the harbour off Billy Bishop Airport is really a “ploy” to extend the runway.
Filling in the harbour at the east end of Billy Bishop – the so-called marine exclusion zone off limits to boats – will enhance safety by creating a physical buffer so boats cannot get too close to the airport, Mr. McQueen said in the letter, posted on the Port Authority’s website. The lakefill project has nothing to do with Porter Airlines’ announcement last week that it plans to buy jets capable of long-haul flights and lengthen the island airport’s runway, the letter said.
Editorial by Lee Willbanks, Executive Director of Save the River aka the Upper St. Lawrence Riverkeeper. The EPA has finalized regulations that only limit but do not eliminate the number of invasives that can be dumped in the river. The disappointing regulations set out weaker standards and weak timelines. Watertown Daily Times, April 16, 2013.
Since 1959, when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened the river and lakes to direct ocean-going shipping, 65 percent of species discovered have been attributed to ballast water release. River communities know the serious impact aquatic invasive species have on the health of the St. Lawrence River and our local economy.
The cost of zebra and quagga mussel control alone is estimated at $500 million per year over the next five years, and the impact on indigenous species such as bass from invaders like the round goby cannot yet be calculated.
While we have applauded incremental steps to clean up ballast water in the past, such as the Seaway’s requiring saltwater flushes of ocean-going vessels, we have steadfastly maintained that the goal must be zero discharges of non-native species in ballast water. The Environmental Protection Agency had an opportunity to make significant progress toward that goal. Instead it finalized regulations that limit, but do not eliminate, the number of organisms that can be dumped into our river.
The Great Lakes are constantly facing new threats to its ecosystem and health. New solutions need to be found instead of adapting outdated plans. Douglas Turner, Buffalo News, April 15, 2013.
As a leader of the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, has soldiered hard to advance the Water Quality Act and jawboned Ohio into cutting in half its planned extractions from Lake Erie.
The National Wildlife Federation keeps plugging for lakes cleanup funding. But it is working off an old system of binational treaties and interstate compacts that have holes in them as large as Asia’s Aral Sea. Once the world’s fourth-largest lake, it has lost 80 percent of its volume.
When the ice goes, millions of Americans and Canadians can see, and often smell, proof that the century-old model of protecting this resource isn’t working at all.
NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair speaks up against Canadian government for pulling out of Kyoto and stripping protection from Canadian rivers and lakes. National Post Staff, National Post, April 22, 2013.
“Will the Prime Minister commit to reinstating protection for all Canadian waterways that used to exist under a 100-year-old piece of legislation admired around the world called the Navigable Waters Protection Act?”
Harper said Mulcair should understand that previous legislation didn’t actually protect the waterways.
“Ninety-eight percent of all projects were approved but only after long delays and unnecessary bureaucracy,” Harper said. “This government is making sure we focus our actions on real environment needs while not blocking projects that are needed by Canadian municipalities.”
Researchers say that cod stocks have been depleting for the last 20 years and it is likely that our failure to act has now made the species beyond recovery. Most fish species are resilient enough to recover within a decade if immediate rebuilding plans and legislation are put in place. Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press, April 18, 2013.
The study, to be published Friday in the journal Science, was compiled by researchers who examined 153 fish and invertebrate stocks from around the world.
Most fish species are resilient enough to recover within a decade if swift action is taken to reduce pressure on depleted stocks, the researchers say.
“But when you don’t take action rapidly … not only does it result in a much longer potential recovery time, but the uncertainty as to whether recovery will happen at all increases exponentially,” said Jeff Hutchings, a professor of biology at Dalhousie University and one of the authors of the study.
Hutchings said that may explain why cod hasn’t bounced back more than 20 years after Ottawa declared a moratorium on the commercial cod fishery, a once thriving Atlantic Canadian industry.
Many municipalities in Quebec, including Montreal are concerned over the possibility of an oil spill and what would be done, and are calling for a environmental review of a proposed Enbridge pipeline reversal. The pipeline proposal is aiming to expand its capacity and transport heavy or bitumen oil from Western Canada to Montreal, crossing the entire Lake Ontario watershed. Monique Beaudin, The Montreal Gazette, April 22, 2013.
The 37-year-old Line 9B pipeline crosses the Ottawa River, whose waters empty into the rivers around Montreal where island municipalities get their drinking water, said Projet Montréal councillor Josée Duplessis, who holds Montreal’s environment portfolio.
“That’s the part that we’re concerned about,” Duplessis said.
The city has other questions, she said, such as the impact on air quality on the eastern end of the island from refining oil delivered through the pipeline.
Enbridge wants to reverse the flow of the pipeline, which now carries oil from Montreal to Ontario refineries. That oil arrives from overseas at ports in Quebec City and Maine and comes to Montreal through pipelines.
Homes on the Scarborough Bluffs have been losing inches off their backyards for years due to erosion. Land owners have handed over their condemned homes in hopes that the shoreline protection project will open up the beautiful Lake Ontario waterfront view for the public to enjoy. Jeff Green, Toronto Star, April 22, 2013.
Five years ago, the wreckage would have hit the water. Today, the blue cabin would hit a beach. With enough steam, it might roll as far as the tracks of one of several construction rigs on site that are carefully arranging rock embankments to protect the shore.
The work is part of a $6.5-million city-funded project to prevent further erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs properties.
Scinocca recognizes that, at first glance, it seems an excessive cost to protect 600 metres of the bluffs, but the homes that line Meadowcliffe Dr. gave up something precious for it: their private waterfront.
For $6.5 million, the city saved a bluff and bought a beach.
“Yes, it’s saving our homes, but it’s also saving the bluffs, which is absolutely a magnificent hidden part of our city,” Scinocca said.
The Enbridge Line 9 pipeline has become a sensitive issues in Canada’s french speaking province, the company denied claims that they tried to buy residents’ silence. The proposed pipeline reversal will see crude and heavy oils flowing through it from Western Canada to Montreal and crosses the entire Lake Ontario watershed.
As the National Energy Board sorts through who should be heard in its public review of the Line 9 project (the deadline for participation requests was Friday) the divergent views underscore the public relations challenge Enbridge will face in the weeks ahead – and how sensitive the issue of oil and gas has become in Canada’s French-speaking province.
Enbridge has been present in Quebec for decades. The pipeline at the centre of this debate has been in the ground for nearly 40 years. And yet, the company is staring at an entirely new dynamic as it seeks to maintain the local relationships and trust it has built: that of a cynical citizenry wary of big business, one willing to challenge development like never before.
Nearly three years ago, Enbridge sent Sainte-Justine a letter inviting the municipality to apply for funding under its community investment campaign, Ms. Domingos said. She said she and her councilors were aware at that point that the company wanted to reverse the flow of Line 9 in order to pump Alberta crude east.
Three years after it was introduced, Ontario’s 20-year energy plan will add increased local control over renewable projects. However the majority of the plan will remain unchanged, such as the allocated commitments to both renewables and nuclear power. John Spears, Toronto Star, April 16, 2013.
The plan, presented in 2010, called for a significant boost in renewable power – with wind alone generating 10 per cent of the province’s electricity by 2030.
It also said nuclear plants should continue to supply about half Ontario’s power. But with the Pickering nuclear station due to close by about 2020 and the Darlington station needing a mid-life refit, maintaining that output will require massive investment.
Ontario Power Generation proposes to spend many billions – precise cost estimates haven’t been made – in overhauling Darlington. It also proposes to build two new nuclear units at the station.
Chiarelli said those plans probably won’t be affected by the energy plan review.
“It’s not likely that there will be major changes in the base nuclear policy,” he said.
This tiny invasive species, the spiny-water-flea can do a lot of damage, its a carnivorous creature which eats native zooplankton in the lake. Oftentimes it has no natural predators to keep its populations in check, thus it can have a big effect on the entire food chain. Megan Hopps, Great Lakes Echo, April 23, 2013.
Researchers believe that anchors and fishing lines can help spread the invasive spiny water flea, and Great Lakes fishermen may need to follow stricter equipment cleaning regulations.
While spiny water fleas are not harmful to humans, they shift the biodiversity of the Great Lakes ecosystem, said Donn Branstrator, an ecology professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The spiny water flea arrived in Lake Ontario in 1982 and spread to all of the Great Lakes by the late 1980s.
“They came from the Black Sea area and were transported via ballast water from ships,” said John Lindgren, coordinator of the Great Lakes Lake Sturgeon Collaboration, part of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Office.
Branstrator, a specialist in invasive zooplankton, explains what makes the spiny water flea so influential on the aquatic food web.
The economic importance of the Great Lakes region can not be overstated, it is a vital driver or North American output, employment and trade – accounting for 1/3 of Canada and U.S. economic activity. It is crucial then, that the protection of the vital resource and its ecosystems is recognized as the highest priority. Jennifer Kwan, Balance Sheet, April 12, 2013.
Here’s an attention-grabbing fact: the economic output of the Great Lakes region is so big it ranks ahead of Germany, France, Brazil and the United Kingdom. Further, if the region were a country it would rank as the fourth largest economy in the world behind the United States, China and Japan, according to BMO Capital Markets.
“Quite simply, the economic importance of the region can’t be overstated,” writes Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at the bank, in a report released this week. No kidding.
The good news, according to Kavcic, is that the region is undergoing a slow and steady recovery after a brutal downturn during the recession, which saw nominal output tumble 2.2 per cent between 2007 and 2009. That compares to a 1.2 per cent fall for all of Canada and the U.S.
That’s especially welcome news for Ontario as the surrounding states are collectively the province’s single largest trading partner, accounting for more than $160 billion of total trade last year. That represents some 36 per cent of Ontario’s international imports and exports, says BMO.
The Kingston area is one of the most biologically diverse parts of the country, it is transition zone between central Ontario and the Adirondacks and thus hosts a large variety of flora and fauna species. It is also an important area for research, helping us to better appreciate nature. Tricia Knowles, Napanee Guide, April 19, 2013.
“We live in this transition zone. It adds a lot of biodiversity to this area, a lot of different habitats,” he said.
Since it was established in the mid 1940s, many new discoveries have been made at the Elgin Biological Station, some of them cutting edge.
“Virtually everything we know about black rat snakes and warblers comes from the research done in this area,” he said. “The data being collected is important for conservation, without it that natural history of what’s abundant and where wouldn’t exist. We’re trying to establish these baseline measurements to get an idea of what is here now, so when we want to understand population changes in the future we can look back at this data.”
Conboy oversees the maintenance and property management of the centre’s 3000 hectares of protected land in addition to teaching, training and performing research for professors and himself. He said right now there is a particular interest in birds.
Port Colborne is taking an early lead for the title of Ultimate Fishing Town in the World Fishing Network competition. There is a lot of support pouring in for the town and the organizers are cautiously optimistic. If the city wins WFN will air a feature about it and donate $25,000 to the Port Colboune and District Conservation Club. Victoria Gray, Niagara Falls Review, April 22, 2013.
Port Colborne is sitting pretty with almost 16,000 votes in the first week of World Fishing Network’s 2013 Ultimate Fishing Town competition.
Port Colborne’s Ultimate Fishing Town committee member Keiran Wittmaier is cautiously optimistic about the initial spike in votes.
“We are really excited,” he said. “The pride and support is really, really showing, but one thing about these contests is you can never get complacent because you can get burned real fast.”
With 11 days left to vote in the first of two rounds of voting, Port Colborne is more than 10,000 votes ahead of Gananoque, Ont., which had a little more than 4,000 votes on Monday morning.
Voting for the Ultimate Fishing Town first round happens four times a day until 11:59 p.m. Friday, May 3. Vote at www.ultimatefishingtown.com/portcolborne-on.
The second round will run May 3 to May 24.