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Mni Wiconi: Water is life, more than ever

1 February, 2017

These simple and profound words, “Water is Sacred,” have become a call to action in North Dakota. Since April 2016, thousands of people have gathered there to protect water from “the Black Snake,” the Dakota Access pipeline proposed to bring oil under the Missouri River.

After a year of work on the RELAW project, West Coast's Maxine Hayman-Matilpi reflects on her own relationship and responsibilities to care for the sacred gift of water.

The words on this button have become my mantra: “Water Is Sacred. No Pipelines.” Isaac Murdoch’s image of Thunderwoman – the same image we see on social media, at Standing Rock, at protests encouraging divestment – is doodled into my notebook, on my calendar and emblazoned on my hoodie.

WCEL reacts to BC’s approval of Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – Today’s announcement to approve the risky Kinder Mountain Trans Mountain Expansion is a disappointing, but unsurprising betrayal for generations of British Columbians. The BC Government’s 37 conditions do nothing to mitigate the risks of the project.

2017: A Look Ahead to Protect Nature, Climate and Communities

5 January, 2017

Check out our short video to meet some of our talented lawyers and see what we're most excited about for 2017!

From providing legal aid for communities to defend their environment, to revitalizing Indigenous laws, and holding fossil fuel companies accountable for their role in climate change – this year the West Coast team will continue working toward a better future for people and the environment in Canada.

Check out our short video to meet some of our talented lawyers and program staff, and see what we're most excited about in our work for 2017.

Carrying forward lessons from Northern Gateway

8 December, 2016

Understandably, those opposed to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project have not been in a mood to celebrate this past week. At the same time as the Prime Minister announced the federal government’s approval of Kinder Morgan (and the Enbridge Line 3 project), he confirmed something that most people already knew to be true: the Enbridge Northern Gateway project is dead. In addition to rejecting Northern Gateway, last week the federal government also provided preliminary details on oil tanker ban legislation that it will introduce in spring 2017.

The fact that First Nations, communities and individual citizens who opposed Northern Gateway were successful in stopping the project, even in the face of a previous federal approval and a determined pipeline company with deep pockets, deserves a moment of reflection.

Staff Counsel Gavin Smith with Geraldine Thomas-Flurer of the Yinka Dene Alliance during Northern Gateway court hearings in October 2015

How my view of the world changed over the course of a fight against a megaproject

Field notes: A week of pipeline action and cross-Canada solidarity

6 December, 2016

Staff Counsel Eugene Kung recounts an action-packed week preparing for – and responding to – the federal government's approval of the Kinder Morgan tar sands pipeline and tankers proposal.

This is your friend Eugene, blogging from 9,753 metres in the sky.

I’m writing on my way home after a full and intense week. According to the map, we are above Treaty 1 territory, somewhere between Winnipeg and Brandon, MB. A Tribe Called Red’s incredible new album, We Are the Halluci Nation, is blasting in my ear.

Northern Gateway rejection proves communities can stop pipelines – including Trans Mountain

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


VANCOUVER, Coast Salish Territories –Today’s decision by the federal government to reject the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers proposal is an important and hard-fought victory says West Coast Environmental Law – one that paves the way for communities to put a stop to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project.

RELAW Project: Summer in review

19 September, 2016

Over the summer, the Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water (RELAW) team has been busy working with stories, and travelling to visit with participating Nations about Indigenous laws. The six participating First Nations are looking at creating water policies, marine use plans, environmental codes of ethics, consent regimes, and environmental assessment practices all rooted in their own laws.

This presentation by Articled Student Lindsay Borrows summarizes in photos and stories some of the lessons and activities to date in revitalizing Indigenous laws through the RELAW Project.



Over the summer, the Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water (RELAW) team has been busy working with stories, and travelling to visit with participating Nations about Indigenous laws.

Field notes from the Haida Gwaii Potlatch: Why government and industry should take heed of Indigenous governance decisions

14 September, 2016

I was honoured to have been invited to witness this historic potlatch, Raven Always Sets Things Right, hosted by the Yahgulaanaas/Janaas Raven Clan of Haida Gwaii. I visited Haida Gwaii for the first time just last year, and it left an indelible mark as a very special part of the world, as it does for most who are lucky enough to visit, so I was happy to return.

The potlatch was significant for a number of reasons. The primary work was to remove the hereditary chieftainships of two hereditary chiefs. The hereditary chiefs had signed a support letter for Enbridge’s request for a deadline extension on one of the 209 conditions of its approval in June 2014. No one I spoke to could remember hearing about an act as serious as removing a chieftainship before, although the possibility of the removal of a name is part of the chief naming ceremony itself.  The removal of the hereditary chieftainships in this potlatch needs to be understood by industry and governments as a legitimate and powerful response that undermines the commonly used tactic of cherry picking individuals to support their projects and “divide and conquer” communities.


Mug shot: One of the gifts from the potlatch – “Raven Always Sets Things Right”

Yo ho wee
Yo ha wee yo wee yah
Hey hi yo
Ha wee ah wee yah wee yah
Hey hi yo ha wee
Ah wee ah-ha
Ah wee-ee ah wee yah

What are we going to do about Site C?

15 August, 2016

As the Site C dam project forges ahead, West Coast's RELAW Project Manager Maxine Matilpi considers difficult questions about the future of the Peace River Valley and the Indigenous communities fighting to preserve their territories.



It's the end of the day and our shared office is hot and stuffy. My colleague on the RELAW project, Georgia, asks with all seriousness, “What are we going to do about Site C?”

Lessons from a summer at West Coast

12 August, 2016

West Coast Environmental Law Association was lucky to have four talented students join us this summer from law schools across the country. As the season winds down, our summer law students share their reflections on an exciting few months learning about the ins and outs of environmental law.

From left to right: Alex Kirby, Sina Kazemi, Monisha Sebastian and Brianna Meyer.

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