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Environmental Law Alert Blog

Through our Environmental Law Alert blog, West Coast alerts you to environmental law problems and developments affecting British Columbians. It is the public voice of our Environmental Law Alert unit which is a legal “watchdog” for BC’s environment.

If you have an environmental story that we should hear about, please e-mail Andrew Gage. Also, please feel free to comment on any of the posts to this blog – but please keep in mind our policies on comments.

20 May, 2016

On May 1-3, West Coast Environmental Law hosted a Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit in Ottawa. Over 30 lawyers, academics and practitioners, representing universities, Indigenous and environmental groups and industry attended the Summit. They gathered to discuss, crystallize their thinking, weigh options and seek to find common ground on solutions to key issues in federal EA. Staff Counsel Anna Johnson shares her reflections on the Summit and Canada’s once-in-decades opportunity to enact a visionary new next-generation environmental assessment law for nature and democracy.

17 May, 2016

Last month, Staff Counsel Hannah Askew traveled with Anishinaabe scholars John Borrows and Heidi Stark to Walpole Island First Nation in Ontario to assist with, and learn from, a four day Anishinaabe law camp. Hannah recounts the lessons she learned from the camp as well as lessons taught to her by Anishinaabe elders. 

16 May, 2016

The Great Bear Sea is the ocean alongside the Great Bear Rainforest.  Our new infographic “Protecting BC’s Coast” shows that it's complicated, but possible to increase protection for this unique ecosystem. With this in mind, we were buoyed by the government’s commitment to ramp up Canada’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network with an interim target of 5% of the ocean and coastal area by 2017, rising to protection of at least 10% by 2020.

16 May, 2016

Canadians love parks and wilderness. Banff, Nahanni, Algonquin, Gros Morne – these names are etched in our consciousness. Yet we’re less familiar with the grandeur and ecological wonders of Canada’s ocean world. It’s time to make a splash and make Canadians proud of this essential part of our natural heritage and life support system.

11 May, 2016

Poor enforcement of environmental laws doesn’t just hurt our environment, and communities that depend on that environment. It also hurts law-abiding businesses – businesses that find themselves having to compete against counterparts who flout the law. 

5 May, 2016

New documents reveal that the Canadian oil company Imperial Oil knew in the 1970s or earlier that burning fossil fuels caused climate change. Similar documents in the U.S. have put Imperial’s parent company, Exxon Mobil, on the defensive, with multiple government investigations launched against the multi-national oil and gas cartel. These latest revelations add to the controversy, as well as giving it a Canadian dimension. 

As told in the U.S., this story has been largely about fraud – and fair enough: Exxon has been an active player in spreading climate disinformation. But even more fundamental than the question of knowingly misleading shareholders or the public is the question of whether it’s OK (whether you mislead anyone or not) to sell a product (and to make billions doing so) that you know will harm communities and destroy property.  If Exxon has known since the 1970s that its product will (for example) contribute to flooding coastal communities and worsen droughts, shouldn’t it have been hard at work helping us find alternatives? Can they pocket their hundreds of billions of dollars of profits without paying their fair share in preparing for and dealing with climate change impacts? How would the world be different if fossil fuel companies had been paying their fair share since the 1970s?

26 April, 2016

Momentum is growing to get habitat protection reinstated into the federal Fisheries Act through a petition launched recently by a network of scientists, First Nations, and organizations including West Coast Environmental Law. Below is a guest post by authors from both coasts about the need to make this change to Canada’s law.

22 April, 2016

To celebrate Earth Day 2016, we’re highlighting the remarkable work of Divest Victoria and their campaign – with help from our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) – to allow communities across BC to divest from fossil fuels. As a result of their work, this August BC’s local governments will be considering a resolution calling for fossil fuel-free investment options for their own investment portfolios. If the resolution goes forward, this good news story has the potential to send a powerful message to the fossil fuel industry.

18 April, 2016

In February 2016, West Coast's Hannah Askew attended a Moose Management Summit in Fort St. John, which was held to address Treaty 8 First Nations’ concerns about the state of moose in their territory. The word for moose in Dunne-zah is “Huuda,” which literally translates to “that which keeps us alive.”

15 April, 2016

On April 4, 2016 the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs filed an amended Notice of Civil Claim in the BC Supreme Court seeking judicial recognition of their title to 6,200 square kilometres of the mid-Nass River and Kitwanga River watersheds in northwestern British Columbia. In this guest blog, Gitanyow Hereditary Chief Glen Williams/Malii and Tara Marsden/Naxginkw explain the significance of this case for the future of wild salmon ecosystems in the region, for their people, and for all Canadians.