A broad coalition of concerned citizens and environmental advocates are applauding an Ontario Court of Appeal decision that has ended a legal challenge by Lafarge Canada Inc., and that will have implications for environmental decision-making across the province. The ruling rejected the company’s attempt to shut down public hearings into the cement manufacturer’s controversial proposal to burn millions of kilograms of tires, plastics, bone meal and other waste in Lafarge’s cement kiln in Bath, Ontario.
In a decision released yesterday, the Court of Appeal rejected, without reasons, Lafarge’s attempt to appeal the Divisional Court’s decision of last June, which had dismissed last-ditch efforts by Lafarge to shut down an Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) hearing over the controversial proposal.
“We are delighted about this decision,” said Marlene Cashin, counsel at Ecojustice (formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund), which represented the Loyalist Environmental Coalition. “In denying leave, the Court has ended Lafarge’s challenge and ensured that citizens across the province have access to environmental justice.”
The decision confirms the public’s right to participate fully in environmental decision-making. It requires the Ministry of the Environment to consider the cumulative environmental effects of issuing an approval before doing so, and to apply the precautionary principle to such decisions.
“We’re very happy that the Court of Appeal has decided that no further examination of this matter is needed” said Joe Castrilli, counsel for members of the Tragically Hip. “This decision should reform the manner in which the Ministry of Environment issues pollution licenses, and should ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are taken into account.”
“We can all breathe a little easier”, stated Waterkeeper and environmental lawyer Mark Mattson. “The courts have made it clear that the Ministry of the Environment must put more effort into reviewing licences to pollute. This means more respect for public input and better consideration for the ecosystem.”
“Our right to question this proposal has been upheld, again. And even though an open and transparent public hearing is still what we Ontarians deserve, the precedent set here is a huge achievement and reason to rejoice. This is a great day for Bath, for all communities, up and down the Lake and across the Province. We have a seat at the table when the discussion between Industry and Government turns to ‘Acceptable Levels of Pollution’. Our knowledge and expertise, our perspective count,” says Gord Downie, co-applicant and Trustee for Lake Ontario.
“This litigation has clearly highlighted the need for the Ministry of the Environment to change the way that it issues approvals in this province,” stated Rick Lindgren, counsel for Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Trustee Gordon Downie. “Nevertheless, the Court’s decision enables concerned residents to protect the environment and to hold the Ministry accountable for issuing ill-conceived approvals.”
“This is a great day for the strengthening of environmental justice in Ontario” added Hugh Wilkins of Ecojustice.
Rick Lindgren of the Canadian Environmental Law Association represented Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Trustee Gord Downie. Joseph Castrilli represented The Tragically Hip. Hugh Wilkins and Marlene Cashin of Ecojustice represented Loyalist Environmental Coalition.