1 Environmental Laws Matter | West Coast Environmental Law


Environmental Laws Matter

For the past half-decade, Canada’s environmental legal protection was under assault. Many of Canada’s oldest and strongest environmental laws were either repealed or significantly weakened in an effort to speed up the approval of risky and controversial projects like oil pipelines and tankers.

But we helped change that. Through our online, print and in-person education and community outreach, we helped Canadians secure a commitment from the federal government to undo the 2012 environmental law rollbacks and build a strong, lasting suite of federal legal protection for the environment and democracy.

In our 2015-2016 fiscal year, we identified threats to nature and democracy posed by the rollbacks and helped communities add their voices to a national narrative about the need for stronger Canadian environmental laws. In the lead-up to the 2015 federal election, we encouraged Canadians to vote for strong environmental laws and provided tools for them to tell their constituents why environmental laws matter to them.

And we succeeded. The federal government has committed to strengthening environmental protections in the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and Navigation Protection Act, as well as to implement meaningful climate action and review the much-criticized National Energy Board. As a result, since the election we have worked closely with government departments and allies across the country to develop law reform solutions to provide stronger, lasting legal protection for nature and communities.

Photo: Mike Ambach


  • May – October 2015:  Through legal outreach materials, events, social media and our website www.envirolawsmatter.ca, we grew and mobilized our network of informed, connected British Columbians to vote for strong environmental laws.
  • October 2015:  In the lead-up to the federal election, we launched a “vote environment” pledge and released a report comparing the main federal parties’ platforms on environmental laws.
  • November 2015 – April 2016:  Post-election, we have worked closely with allies across the country to identify key environmental policy reforms. This included securing a commitment among a group of national environmental organizations to make building a next-generation environmental assessment law a collective national priority.
  • March 2016:  West Coast released our legal brief, Scaling up the Fisheries Act, making preliminary recommendations for achieving the federal Fisheries Minister’s mandated goals of restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards into the Act. We travelled to Ottawa with a delegation of First Nation, scientific, and conservation leaders from both coasts to present the brief to senior officials and politicians.


Our Law Reform Advocacy work is funded by the West Coast Environmental Law Association.