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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 October, 2016

The report from the Ministerial Panel on Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline project is expected on November 1, 2016. This report will be considered by Federal Cabinet in its upcoming decision on the project, along with the upstream greenhouse gas analysis, the flawed National Energy Board report, and any further information arising from First Nations consultation.

The process moved quickly and its summer meetings were not without controversy, including allegations of conflict of interest and imposition of a tight timeline without input from or adequate notice to First Nations. The Panel also seemed ill-prepared to deal with the breadth and depth of participants.

What remains to be seen is how the Ministerial Panel will deal with the tens of thousands of messages and questionnaire responses in its final report- much of which it tried to reject arbitrarily. Beyond that, how Prime Minister Trudeau will incorporate all of this information into his decision in December. Will he maintain his position that “only communities grant permission?” Or will he approve the project in the face of strong opposition?

19 October, 2016

In mid-September, an expert panel appointed by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Panel) launched a public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes (the EA Review). While the Panel and its secretariat have attempted to broadcast how the public and Indigenous groups can participate in the EA Review, many people remain either unaware of it or uncertain whether or how to be involved.

If you’re one of them, you’ve come to the right place. 

18 October, 2016

The Fisheries Act failed to protect an important BC coastal salmon habitat. It’s time to renew the legislation.

17 October, 2016

Canada will soon have a national price on carbon. West Coast has been calling for carbon pricing for over twenty years – putting a price on harm to our atmosphere is a good first step in dealing with the gigatonnes of fossil fuel pollution that Canada produces each year. That being said, we have a number of questions about what else we are doing to clean up our climate mess, how the new carbon price will work and how the provinces will respond to it. 

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.


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.

8 September, 2016

After decades of work by the West Coast Environmental Law Association and our allies to uphold and legally entrench an oil tanker ban on the north coast of BC, Transport Minister Marc Garneau recently confirmed that the federal government will be formalizing the Pacific north coast oil tanker moratorium within the next few months. Federal legislation will complement an existing tanker ban imposed by Coastal First Nations as a matter of their own jurisdiction and laws.

Make your voice heard for a permanent, comprehensive, legislated oil tanker ban before September 30, 2016.

31 August, 2016

Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna and her staff are in the process of working with the provinces to develop a national Climate Change framework. But, as BC’s recently released “Climate Leadership Plan” demonstrates, it is absolutely essential that the framework include mechanisms to keep politicians honest about their climate leadership (or lack thereof). BC released a “plan” that fails to explain how BC will meet its goals. In the following open letter to Minister McKenna, we call for a national framework that includes the accountability and transparency that will ensure that provinces take on their fair share of fighting climate change and that they are rigorous in figuring out how to achieve those goals. 

25 August, 2016

Canada needs a visionary new approach to assessing proposals that could impact the environment. This August, West Coast published the proceedings of the Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit it hosted in Ottawa in May 2016. Attended by over 30 experts from across the country, the Summit explored leading-edge solutions to key issues facing environmental assessment in Canada.  We compiled the key principles that Summit participants reached consensus on into twelve integrated “pillars” of environmental assessment. 

Canada has an opportunity to build a legacy law: a next-generation environmental assessment act that safeguards communities, the environment and democracy.  The government recognized this fact in June 2016 when it announced an independent review of federal environmental assessment (EA) processes.  The four-person expert panel appointed to conduct the review has until January 31, 2017 to do widespread consultations and submit a report to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with its recommendations on how to build a stronger, more credible EA framework for Canada. This visionary framework must be based in meaningful public participation and collaboration with Indigenous governments.  Read up on the groundwork laid by these twelve pillars from the EA Reform Summit.



25 August, 2016

Next year Canada turns 150. What better present than a gift to the future: preservation of our outstanding heritage sites?  

Parks Canada is leading a new public process to nominate more Canadian sites to the World Heritage List just in time for our birthday celebrations. From Coast Salish clam gardens to endangered whales’ feeding grounds, Pacific coastal waters are home to countless areas worthy of protection as World Heritage Sites.  Have your say on what gets protected on the List, and consider proposing irreplaceable marine sites to be recognized as part of our natural heritage treasure vault.