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Environmental Legal Aid

Lemon creek environmental charges demonstrate the power of a little legal help

On July 22nd, 2016 eight charges were laid against those allegedly responsible for a massive 33,000-litre jet fuel spill in pristine Lemon Creek, in BC’s Slocan Valley – a great example of how our Environmental Legal Aid program works with local residents to protect the environment.

Slocan Valley resident Marilyn Burgoon contacted us after learning that the Province of BC was planning to close its investigation without laying charges for the spill. Our legal experts helped her explore political and legal options. When she (with some help from former DFO biologist, Otto Langer) decided that she would like to lay her own charges, we connected her with a legal team and helped fund her legal fees through our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF).

After the provincial court approved Marilyn’s charges – including against the BC government itself – we helped her develop an online strategy to ask the Canadian government to take over the charges. Marilyn took the lead in mobilizing her community, liaising with media and fundraising to cover the additional costs of the case.

With the federal government finally laying new charges, there’s a chance for justice for Lemon Creek and the communities and fish that depend on it.

Environmental lawyers are not white knights riding to the rescue. Rather, we provide citizens like Marilyn with the tools that they need to achieve their goals – from initial strategic advice to funding for a legal team to campaign support. 

"Beginning in late 2009 until mid-2016, the CoalWatch Comox Valley Society was engaged in a campaign to protect our watershed and shellfish beds from damage by the proposed Raven Coal Mine Project near Fanny Bay, BC. Funding from WCEL’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) played an important role in CoalWatch achieving our goal and protecting our community.

CoalWatch is a prime example of a small grassroots organization who met their goals with the unwavering support of WCEL and the EDRF grant program. Quite simply, the EDRF grant program was invaluable."

- John Snyder, President, CoalWatch Comox Valley

Milestones:

  • September 2015:  The BC Environmental Appeal Board revoked a water licence granted to Nexen Inc. for the purpose of fracking, agreeing with an EDRF-grant recipient, the Fort Nelson First Nation, that there would be impacts on the nation’s rights.
  • March 2016:  A strata council in Metro Vancouver dropped plans to apply pesticides in condominium hallways after a resident – with advice from West Coast staff – insisted on compliance with legal requirements.
  • April 2016:  A legal opinion provided to Divest Victoria formed a crucial part of the group’s campaign to get a Union of BC Municipalities resolution calling on BC’s Municipal Finance Authority to offer a fossil-free investment option.
  • April 2016:  After years of EDRF support for Coalwatch Comox Valley, the environmental assessment of the controversial Raven Coal Project was terminated.

 

Our Access to Justice work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Association and the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund Society