Legal Action Launched Against Ontario’s Omnibus Bill 197

Defending the health and prosperity of communities and the environment

Toronto, August 31, 2020 — In the wake of the passage of Ontario's controversial Bill 197, a legal challenge against the legislation has been commenced by Earthroots; Canadian Environmental Law Association; Ontario Nature; Cooper Price, a 16-year old activist; and Michel Koostachin, who was born and raised in Attawapiskat.

These parties have jointly filed an application for judicial review that asks the Divisional Court to issue declaratory relief and other remedies in relation to the omnibus legislation, which overhauls the Environmental Assessment Act and amends other provincial laws.

“Bill 197 holds true to an insidious pattern of environmental deregulation that reflects neither the values nor the long-term interests of Ontarians who understand the importance of a healthy environment,” says Caroline Schultz, Ontario Nature’s Executive Director.

The application alleges that Bill 197 was enacted in a manner that failed to comply with the public notice/ comment requirements of Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR). Moreover, it is inconsistent with international law conventions, principles and norms on environmental assessment, public participation, and human rights applicable in Ontario.

Gord Miller, Chair of Earthroots says, "As Environmental Commissioner of Ontario for 15 years, I constantly had to work to protect and maintain the EBR rights of the people to participate in government decision making about our environmental heritage. Bill 197 has gutted those rights and set public policy back decades. We must react. We must defend those rights for the sake of future generations."

Represented by Joseph Castrilli, Richard Lindgren and David Estrin of CELA, the applicants are seeking a declaration by the Court that the Government of Ontario violated provincial and international law in enacting Bill 197, and an order from the Court directing the Government of Ontario to conduct meaningful public consultation on the environmentally significant aspects of Bill 197 before they are proclaimed into force.

“The government is removing space for youth input on our own futures,” says youth climate activist Cooper Price. “This lawsuit is a fight to uplift the youth voice and a fight for the environment.”

Says Michel Koostachin, “Our Natural Laws are greater than man made laws, we live in harmony with the animals and have respect for our Mother Earth.”

"It is critically important that we have robust environmental assessment and planning laws that allow for strong public participation, and that protect health and the environment for generations to come, especially for those who don't have a 'seat at the table' where many decisions are made," stated Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Citizens from Across Ontario Gather in Temagami's Wilderness to Celebrate the Changing of the Seasons

(Obabika Lake, Temagami).  Today a group of 80 people, standing in solidarity for the permanent protection of Temagami's ancient pine forests, gathered in the wilderness to celebrate the fall equinox.  The annual event was hosted by First Nations Elder Alex Mathias on his family's traditional land and included a ceremony, a group meal and guided hikes on the old-growth trails.

"The Changing of the Seasons ceremony is about giving thanks for everything the Earth provides.  Every year I invite others to join me in recognizing the importance of our ties to the land", explains Mathias.  "The ceremonial site is located in a very special place, one of the last stands of ancient red and white pine", Mathias adds.

Temagami is home to half of the world's remaining stands of endangered ancient red and white pine forests, and contains 4,700 kilometers of First Nations canoe routes and trails that have been used in the region for thousands of years.


Ministries Must Learn to “Say No!” to Safeguard Water, Forests, Biodiversity and the Public Interest

Media Release

(Toronto). Today at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner released a sobering appraisal of the province’s handling of a wide variety of environmental policy issues.  In his Report, Ontario’s non-partisan environmental watchdog, Gord Miller, makes several critical recommendations regarding the provincial government’s handling of declining water levels, forestry practices, biodiversity and environmental assessments. 

The Commissioner’s Report effectively negates the myth that our province has a limitless supply of fresh water. Echoing concerns articulated by Earthroots in August, the Commissioner called for the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to “revise its Permit to Take Water (PTTW) regulation…to include mandatory water use reduction rules consistent with the Ontario Low Water Response plan.” Pushing further, the ECO called for the expansion of the plan to include “an explicit rationale for allocating water in extreme drought conditions” and that “PTTWs should only be issued in accordance with…the capacity of each watershed to support water takings.” 


Major Controversy Sparked Around the Temagami Forestry Plan – Calls for Significant Revisions

Media Release

The environmental group Earthroots is calling on the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to delay the September 3rd public release of Temagami’s Draft Forest Management Plan. The Draft Plan outlines logging, tending, and renewal operations in Temagami between 2009 and 2019. Temagami is world renowned for its pristine ancient pine forests, canoe routes and aboriginal scared sites; it contains some of the largest stands of old-growth red and white pine remaining in the world.

Seven formal requests for Issue Resolution have been filed with the MNR in relation to the Temagami Forest Management Plan. Issue Resolution requests have been filed by local businesses, landowners, cottagers, trail users, and environmentalists who feel that the forestry plan will damage important forest values. Issues raised include:
- increased level of logging and more large clearcuts;
- logging near aboriginal spiritual sites;
- unknown impacts on species at risk in violation of the government’s own policies;
- logging across approved cross country skiing and hiking trails;
- increases in road density;
- decreases in no-cut buffers around heritage trails, canoe routes, and viewpoints.


Ontario's Water Hazard - the cumulative impact of golf courses on our water resources

TORONTO – An investigative report was released today highlighting the toll golf courses are taking on Ontario’s water resources. A joint report by Earthroots and Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund), Ontario’s Water Hazard reveals that golf courses located within environmentally sensitive watersheds are taking billions of litres of water each year and that there are serious inadequacies in how the Ontario government manages water taking permits.

“There are serious problems with how the province allocates water taking permits,” said Hugh Wilkins, staff lawyer with Ecojustice. “Our investigation has revealed that inadequate reporting methods and regulatory lapses have allowed some courses to continue operating with an expired water taking permit for as long as 17 years.”

The report specifically investigated provincial Permits to Take Water given to nine golf courses in the Aurora and Newmarket area, north of Toronto on the Oak Ridges Moraine. The analysis presents an unsettling picture of how much of the province’s water resources are being allocated for the use of golf courses.

“Ontarians would be shocked to learn that these 9 golf courses alone have been allocated more than 3 billion litres of water each year,” said Josh Garfinkel, campaigner for Earthroots.  “This is enough to supply all annual water needs for a community of nearly 25,000 people.”