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March 2012

Defending Canada’s Environmental Laws is just common sense

29 March, 2012

Or “What your Mom taught you about Canada’s environmental laws”

With a wide range of Canada’s environmental laws apparently on the chopping block in the coming weeks, and environmentalists under attack across the country, it has never been more important for Canadians to stand up for our environmental laws. Unfortunately, while 84% of Canadians agree that we need stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment, many of them find that their eyes glaze over when you talk to them about the Fisheries Act.  But perhaps that’s because environmental lawyers tend to over complicate things.  Much of what environmental laws do is simply common sense.  When you were a kid, I’m sure that your Mom taught you common sense lessons like:

  • Look before you leap
  • Two heads are better than one
  • Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg

These words of wisdom are not specifically about the environment, but are good advice for anyone who wants to plan for the future.  And, not surprisingly, they are key concepts in many of the environmental laws that the Canadian government is currently looking at gutting. 

Or “What your Mom taught you about Canada’s environmental laws”

(Cross-posted at www.envirolawsmatter.ca)

Fisheries Act amendments would be an attack on Salmon

19 March, 2012

Last week fisheries biologist, Otto Langer, went public with a leaked draft of proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act which would remove any mention of fish habitat from the Act.  When asked about these rumours in Parliament the government seemed to confirm that changes along these lines have not been ruled out. We don’t know the truth of these reports, but if they are true, their impact are easy to understand: removing legal protection for fish habitat will harm fish.  And, in BC at least, that will harm what is an iconic species – the salmon.  The federal government would have a tough time selling these amendments to Canadians. 
 

Last week fisheries biologist, Otto Langer, went public with a leaked draft of proposed amendments to the federal Fisheries Act which would remove any mention of fish habitat from the Act.  When asked about these rumours in Parliament the government seemed to confirm that changes along these lines have not been ruled out, although in a s

How to support a new Public Interest lawyer

15 March, 2012

No, that title is not an invitation to donate to West Coast Environmental Law.  Law students who want to work as public interest lawyers face massive student loans.  Perhaps we can support them better in making the choice to forego salary in favour of working for public interest organizations.  In the U.S., newly graduated lawyers looking to work in public interest law have a number of tools at their disposal. 

No, that title is not an invitation to donate to West Coast Environmental Law (although if you insist, you can donate here).  This Environmental Law Alert is about what Canada can learn from the U.S. about how to support newly graduated lawyers who want to use their skills on behalf of the public good – whether in the service of the environment, poverty, Aboriginal communities, or human rights. 

Headlines, Pipelines and Time Spent on the Front Lines

7 March, 2012

Reflections of two legal interns from Australia

As part of our internship with West Coast Environmental Law, we recently travelled with staff counsel to some of the Northern BC communities that would be affected by the proposed Enbridge pipelines and supertankers project,  to the community hearings being currently being held by the National Energy Board. After several years sharpening our minds at Macquarie University in Australia, we were eager to engage with the reality, not just the theory, behind legal issues in which we both strongly believe: empowering communities to engage with decision making processes, strengthening environmental laws and promoting recognition of, and respect for, Aboriginal title and rights.

Reflections of two legal interns from Australia

As part of our internship with West Coast Environmental Law, we recently travelled with staff counsel to some of the Northern BC communities that would be affected by the proposed Enbridge pipelines and supertankers project,  to the community hearings being currently being held by the National Energy Board.

Enbridge linked to PNCIMA cancellation

7 March, 2012

Revelations on Sunday that Enbridge had actively, and successfully, lobbied the federal government to walk away from funding for a decade long planning process with Coastal First Nations and the Province of BC do nothing to help the company’s embattled pipeline and tankers project, or its reputation with First Nations.  Meanwhile, since the federal government unilaterally announced a dramatically scaled back abandoned the planning process, the Coastal First Nations and the Province of British Columbia launched their own process to develop a science-based plan for the Pacific North Coast with broad public consultation and buy-in.

Revelations on Sunday that Enbridge had actively, and successfully, lobbied the federal government to walk away from an agreement that was central to a decade long planning process with Coastal First Nations and the Province of BC do nothing to help the company’s embattled pipeline and tankers project, or its reputation with First Nations. 

Lessons from the world’s top Environmental Law Conference

6 March, 2012

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference held each year in Eugene Oregon is, perhaps, the Mecca of environmental lawyers.  It brings together literally thousands of lawyers, law students, community activists, and others to discuss whether and how the law can be used to protect the environment.  This year – the 30th Conference – West Coast Environmental Law had a good contingent: Lawyers Josh Paterson and Andrew Gage, and Interns Nicole Petersen and Julia Martignoni.  Andrew and Julia pool their collective impressions, lessons and views, to talk about some of the things that they learned at the conference.

The Public Interest Environmental Law Conference held each year in Eugene Oregon is, perhaps, the Mecca of environmental lawyers.  It brings together literally thousands of lawyers, law students, community activists, and others to discuss whether and how the law can be used to protect the environment.  This year – the 30th Conference – West Coast Environmental Law had a good contingent: Lawyers Josh Paterson and Andrew Gage, and Interns Nicole Petersen and Julia Martignoni.

Caribou, Coal Mining and the world’s First Twitter Moot Court

6 March, 2012

Many were scratching their heads when they heard that West Coast was running the “World’s First-ever Twitter Moot.”  Say what?  What’s that, and how does it relate to the environment?  Just what are you trying to accomplish?  But for an hour or so on February 21st the most talked about issue on Twitter in Canada was this unprecedented event - raising awareness about caribou, coal mining and Aboriginal Rights.  In addition to public awareness, we're cultivating the next generation of public interest environmental lawyers, and raising funds for our work to protect the environment through the law.  We're already planning the second annual Twitter Moot. 

For an hour or so on February 21st the most talked about issue on Twitter in Canada was an event about caribou, coal mining and Aboriginal Rights.  I’m guessing that that’s a first in the history of Twitter.  West Coast Environmental Law also had more hits on our website in a single day than we had ever had before – by quite a bit.

And the Twitter Moot winners were...

Moot Champions: Team Osgoode
People's Choice Award: Team UVic