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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.

27 June, 2012

With Bill C-38 before the Senate, Members of Parliament (MPs) have gone home from Ottawa.  There they will doubtless receive a warm welcome from their constituents, as well as questions about the Budget and why attacks to Canada's environment and the laws that support it were buried in the Bill.  We've compiled our top 6 questions that we’d like to suggest you ask your MP on their return home.  

20 June, 2012

Copenhagen is the world’s poster-child for bicycle-friendly transportation.   But that’s partly because they have aggressive goals for what transportation should look like.  Check out Copenhagen’s Transportation Pyramid, which prioritizes biking and walking over all other modes of transportation.  In essence the Copenhagen Transportation Pyramid turns North American upside-down transportation planning right-side up, and it’s worth imagining what we would need to do if we adopted similar goals. 

15 June, 2012

Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Bill, with its various amendments to Canada’s environmental laws, is a complicated statute, with many long-term implications that have not been fully explored.  One of the most significant, however, has to be the possibility that the Bill may have the effect of offloading responsibility for the protection of fish habitat to some or all of the provinces. The amendments create both:

  • a legal mechanism for the offloading of responsibility for fish habitat, and
  • a weakening of fish habitat protection provisions that will leave gaps that put pressure on provinces who wish to see responsible stewardship of fish and fish habitat to assume such responsibility. 

If this offloading occurs, it is likely to result in a significant additional burden on cash-strapped provinces, and, as a result, less effective protection of fish and fish habitat, and inconsistent protection between jurisdictions.  This would mean a less efficient, and less effective, Fisheries Act for all of Canada.

14 June, 2012

On May 31, 2012, I travelled to Ottawa, on behalf of West Coast Environmental Law Association, to speak in person about the budget bill’s attack on nature and democracy to the House of Commons Finance Subcommittee on Part 3 of Budget Bill C-38. What is Part 3 of Bill C-38, you may ask?  Part 3 of the 452 page budget bill, a full one third (153 pages) of the bill, is titled “Responsible Resource Development.” This Part is where the proposed cuts and rollbacks to the Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act, National Energy Board Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act we have been telling you about and advocating against are. It also entirely replaces the existing environmental assessment law with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, an emaciated and entirely new approach to environmental assessment in Canada.

13 June, 2012

On June 4th, the Black Out Speak Out day of action, over 550 organisations, representing millions of citizens, darkened our websites in a symbolic show of support for nature and democracy, while tens of thousands of Canadians tweeted, blogged, signed petitions and wrote their decision-makers. Media events were held coast to coast, including a Vancouver event emceed by myself on behalf of West Coast Environmental Law.

5 June, 2012

Campaigns to ensure that BC’s environmental laws protect the environment and allow democratic voices to be heard can take years.  Or, as we saw last week, they can result in a win for the environment in a matter of weeks.  The government has dropped its Bill 37, the Animal Health Act, just days after West Coast Environmental Law wrote to the Minister of Agriculture to express concern that the Bill, as drafted, would silence scientists, journalists and citizens concerned about farm diseases.  While we were only one of many voices expressing concern about the proposed Act, we are proud to have provided a bit of legal credibility that its many critics could leverage. 

31 May, 2012

When a politician says that his report is about the science, and not about the politics, it’s probably wise to take that claim with a grain of salt.  That’s made crystal clear by two studies released in the last month about the risks of pesticides – one written by politicians, and the other by scientists. 

28 May, 2012

The phrase “job killing regulation” is beginning to enter Canadian discussions about environmental laws and Bill C-38 – the Budget Implementation Bill which would repeal several laws that protect nature, democracy and marginalized society.  This phrase has been embraced by politicians in the U.S. who are seeking to gut environmental laws there, despite having been discredited by a number of studies.  It would be unfortunate to have this inaccurate and misleading phrase become a prominent part of Canadian political discourse (more below on why it’s inaccurate and misleading). 

25 May, 2012

You may have read about a provision in the proposed Animal Health Act which would make it illegal for journalists or scientists to report on animal illnesses at fish farms or other agricultural operations. But the Minister of Agriculture, who is responsible for the Bill, insists that that the section doesn’t apply to citizens or journalists.  So who is right?

17 May, 2012

The cross-Canada railway has always been a powerful symbol. Over the years it has been celebrated as a “nation-building” exercise by some, while it is remembered as a source of deep injustice by others. Chinese and Indigenous labourers worked to build the tracks in dangerous conditions inferior to those of white workers. The railway itself was a tool of colonization that brought significant change to Indigenous society throughout the West, and hastened the imposition of the British-Canadian legal order with almost no treaties in British Columbia, a history that is the source of continuing legal and political conflict today. Conscious of that history, a number of BC First Nations led by the Yinka Dene Alliance, have transformed those rails into a source of power for Indigenous peoples, as they recently completed a journey across the country to assert their rights and their inherent authority to govern themselves.