A high-profile Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge over the Ontario government’s wind farm approval process has received some significant local support.
Lambton County council has authorized staff to apply for intervenor status on behalf of the county in the Charter challenge spearheaded by three Huron County farm families.
This Charter challenge, to be heard in divisional court in London, is believed to be the first of its kind to be argued at this high of a level in the justice system, county solicitor David Cribbs told council Wednesday.
County staff have up to $60,000 to apply on behalf of the county to become an intervenor, and if successful, raise local landowners’ concerns over the provincial approval process as part of the Charter challenge.
“I believe this money is going to be well-invested for Lambton County taxpayers,” Deputy Warden Bev MacDougall told fellow councillors Wednesday.
The Huron families claim their Charter rights are being violated because the government doesn’t study the potential health impacts of proposed wind projects before it issues renewable energy approvals for them.
If families choose to appeal the granting of a provincial approval, they also claim they face the difficult task of proving a project can cause serious harm to human health.
However, the Ontario government is currently holding off on approving offshore wind projects until studies are done studying the potential impacts on both human health and the environment, noted Santo Giorno, of We’re Against Industrial Turbines Plympton-Wyoming.
“We don’t begrudge the fish having protection, but we should too,” he told council.
Health studies for on-land wind farms are “only a reasonable request,” noted St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold, adding “every other industry when they’re expanding have to go through proper health studies.”
Cribbs cautioned council he may not be able to argue the case for the county because he is set to be representing them at an appeal over the Suncor’s Cedar Point wind farm.
“The two happen at the same time and I can’t clone myself, so that’s a problem,” he told council.
Council approved the $60,000 budget – including $20,000 of county funds already earmarked for local anti-wind activists – in the event outside legal counsel will have to argue the case.
MacDougall said she has seen the empty homes and the overall impact of wind turbines through her own drives across Huron County.
“This [Charter challenge] is the tip of the fight.”
The Charter challenge is expected to be heard in London court Nov. 17 to 19. A preliminary hearing for the Suncor appeal is slated for the Camlachie Community Centre Oct. 6. The hearing is expected to begin Nov. 6.
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