Message from Executive Director and President
In 2016 the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation launched a groundbreaking new initiative with six First Nations partners and the advice and support of the Indigenous Law Research Unit (UVic). RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water) is a year-long capacity building program that involves teams of legally trained staff from West Coast working alongside Indigenous community facilitators and researchers to identify and apply principles from their own legal traditions to pressing environmental problems or issues of environmental governance.
This work complements closely that of our new Marine program, which seeks to ensure that innovative marine plans ratified by 18 First Nations and the province of BC are fully implemented in Canadian and Indigenous law to secure lasting protection for the Great Bear Sea.
The theme of revitalizing the environmental laws that safeguard the values and rights of all Canadians has illuminated other areas of our work this year as well. Lawyers from the West Coast Environmental Law Association have been front and centre in a series of initiatives to rebuild and strengthen Canada’s environmental laws, including:
- formalizing a Pacific north coast tanker ban;
- restoring lost protections for fish habitat and introducing modern safeguards to Canada’s Fisheries Act;
- an immediate review of environmental assessment processes and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, with a view to enacting a visionary new environmental assessment law for Canada; and,
- efforts to secure a science-based approach for national and provincial collaboration on setting and achieving ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets as part of Canada’s climate plan.
We also continued to provide environmental legal aid services to individuals and communities in every corner of the province, ensuring that their voices are heard in decisions about development like proposed oil tanker and pipeline projects, and working to enhance community resilience to climate change. We believe that by making sure all voices are heard, and the decision-making rights and responsibilities of First Nations are upheld, we have the potential to make better decisions for all.
Our vibrant community of supporters, allies and clients is critical to our continued efforts to achieve these goals. We look forward to working with you in the coming year as we move ahead with the important work described in this annual report.
This annual report is a joint publication of the West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation, the West Coast Environmental Law Association and the West Coast Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) Society.
*The name “West Coast” refers to one or all of the West Coast Environmental Law societies, depending on where the reference appears in this report (ie. references to “West Coast” on pages dedicated to West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation refer to the Research Foundation).