The waters of the Niagara Rivers and Great Lakes are cleaner today because of the legal assistance CELA provided citizens groups in Niagara and other regions of the province over the decades. And now Ford and his Tories are slashing CELA’s legal aid funding.
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted June 14th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
What if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it? Does it still make a sound?
What if Ontario’s Ford‘s government just kept on cutting and gutting environmental protection services, and too few of us out here raised a voice of protest?
Come on people!
I know there are at least some of you out there raising hell over the wrecking ball that Doug Ford and his party of right-wing, open-for-business-at-any-cost extremists are taking to up to 50 years worth of environmental programs in this province.
But where are all the rest of you? Do you care about the future? What about your kids or grand-kids?
There should be fire and fury over what these dangerous bastards are doing to programs that were put in place to protect and preserve the health of the air we breathe, the water we drink and all of the other life-sustaining resources around us. We should be marching in the streets!
Almost every week since Ford and his phony “Government for the People” dropped their budget early this April, we have learned about one cut after another to programs like tree planting, flood management, endangered species protection, not to mention the cuts to the overall budgets of the province’s ministries of Natural Resources and Environment – all while countless hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario have been experiencing their properties and livelihoods being threatened or destroyed by record or near-record floods that many scientists view as another symptom of an emerging climate catastrophe.
And now we learn that the Ford government is gutting significant amounts of legal aid funding to a Toronto-based group called the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) that, for almost 50 years since its founding, has been providing legal services to citizens across the province, which have needed legal aid to address environmental threats to their communities.
In late 1970s, through the 1980s, lawyers for CELA provided legal assistance to citizen groups like Operation Clean in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Pollution Probe out of Toronto to fight in the U.S. courts for a better cleanup of mammoth toxic chemical dumps along the American side of the Niagara River.
Lawyers for CELA also provided legal assistance to citizens at hearings in the late 1980s and early 1990s over plans by a Crown corporation to build a huge toxic waste disposal site in the west end of Niagara.
This dedicated group of lawyers has also played an invaluable role over the past four or five decades of lobbying governments to develop rules and regulations that provided more protection against polluters for all of us.
And now the Ford government and it’s Attorney General Caroline Mulroney, whose father Brian took some pride in battling acid rain and doing other good things for the environment when he was prime minister some 30 years ago, is cutting funding to CELA by almost 17 per cent this year and by 35 per cent next year.
This huge cut spells bad news for citizens across Ontario who continue to need legal assistance to battle environmental threats to their communities, but will obviously be more good news for the many businesses and industries out there who would rather go back to the dirty old days when you could pollute, bulldoze over, cut down or do whatever else they want to our natural resources for the quick buck.
Are there any businesses left in this province that give a damn about protecting our environment? Where are they and why aren’t they speaking out?
There should be far more of a public outcry than what I am hearing over this. If you care about our environment, get marching. Make some noise, and let Ford and his minions know that they are through if they don’t turn all of this cutting and gutting of our environmental safeguards around.
Now here is a media statement that the Canadian Environmental Law Association circulated this past June 12th –
CELA reacts to Legal Aid Funding Decision
While we are disappointed in Legal Aid Ontario’s decision to reduce CELA’s allocated operating funding by almost 17% this year and by 35% next year, we remain focused on, and committed to, our priority mission –seeking justice for those harmed by environmental pollution and advocating to advance policies for the betterment of the environment.
CELA is proud of our nearly 50-year history of working in collaboration with colleagues and partner organizations to represent the interests of that most vulnerable to environmental degradation in Ontario and across Canada.
Protecting the environment against increasing threats is one of the most pressing issues of our generation. Unfortunately, these challenges will only increase in severity with time.
For this reason, CELA will remain focused on advocating in support of environmental justice at every opportunity. We have been and will continue to be at the forefront in making our environment cleaner, healthier and safer.
We will continue to welcome support from those who are seized with the need to address environmental issues, and we thank both the provincial government and our donors for their continued support.
CELA looks forward to the opportunity to continue working in tandem with all partners to advance environmental protection, involve low-income and vulnerable populations in the environmental decision-making process and defend the rights of those who are experiencing negative environmental health impacts.
Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)150055 University AvenueToronto, ON M5J 2H7Canada
For more information on the Canadian Environmental Law Association and its programs, click on – https://www.cela.ca/ .
For more news on this cut, click on – https://www.nationalobserver.com/2019/06/12/news/cuts-doug-ford-slash-legal-aid-support-climate-emergency .
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