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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.

15 August, 2013

This week, the latest chapter in Canada’s David and Goliath struggle between citizens and Big Oil unfolded as a BC non-profit organization, Forest Ethics Advocacy, launched a constitutional challenge to new requirements in the National Energy Board Act that have the effect of silencing citizens concerned about tar sands pipelines.

14 August, 2013

In 1994 Canadians were worried that NAFTA could see our country become a “pollution haven”, and to address those concerns Canada signed on to the NAFTA Environmental Side-Agreement.  Twenty years later we are facing just such a fate.  Please join us in telling the Commission for Environmental Cooperation that Canada has not been living up to its international commitments to maintain strong environmental laws. 

14 August, 2013

UPDATE August 22, 2013: We’re pleased to report a small victory in the case of the missing Skeena! The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has agreed to extend public comment and participant funding deadlines after West Coast Environmental Law and the T. Buck Suzuki Environment Foundation drew attention to an inaccurate map –one that failed to show the Skeena River –used in public notices about the Pacific NorthWest LNG project near Prince Rupert.

30 July, 2013

On Monday, July 22nd the BC Court of Appeal ordered well-known anti- fish farm activist Don Staniford to pay $75,000 in damages because the mock cigarette packages he had made criticizing Norwegian fish farm companies lacked footnotes. What does this mean for fish farm activists?  For the most part, the lessons that we drew from Staniford’s win are still valid – indeed, they are more important than ever:

  • Your conduct during the trial matters
  • Be clear in the scope of your campaign
  • The defence of fair comment provides protection for activists

The BC Court of Appeal judgment does not alter any of these conclusions, although we do need to add a cautionary note or two regarding the defence of fair comment and the importance of providing a factual basis for comments. 

16 July, 2013

At the beginning of July, West Coast staff lawyer Brenda Belak traveled to Fort McMurray, Alberta to take part in the fourth annual Healing Walk at the tar sands. She also participated in a workshop there on legal strategies to combat the tar sands. In this blog post, she describes the powerful experience of seeing the destruction of tar sands mining up close and the extraordinary efforts by volunteers that made this event possible.

12 July, 2013

A great many Canadians, from many different backgrounds, have been standing up for fish – saying no to changes to the law that would gut legal protection for fish habitat.  Wildlife organizations and local governments that the government says are on-side are saying no.  First Nations and former Fisheries Ministers are saying no.  And ordinary Canadians are saying no.  And, thanks to public opposition, the government has not brought its weakened Fisheries Act into law, as yet.  We need to keep the pressure up.

4 July, 2013

It’s safe to say that Exxon Mobil, and other companies responsible for large amounts of greenhouse gas pollution, don’t intend to pay for the $3 Billion to $5 Billion to clean up Alberta’s floods, or any climate-change related costs suffered by Alberta or other jurisdictions. But asking Canadian taxpayers to pay is not economically sustainable.  As extreme weather events, flooding, rising sea levels, spreading disease, crop failures and other impacts become real, we’re simply not going to be able to afford the cost. A real price on carbon, paid by greenhouse gas polluters, would both create an economic incentive to reduce emissions, and, equally significantly, could help fund disaster relief, and the implementation of measures to help make Canadian communities more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate. 

25 June, 2013

Earlier this month, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), an arm of Health Canada that regulates pesticides, released its report into the deaths of honey bees in Ontario and Quebec that occurred in the Spring of 2012 – concluding that certain pesticides (known as neonicotinoids) likely played a role.  So how is the PMRA dealing with the worrying discovery that neonicotinoids are playing a role in the loss of bees? The PMRA has a clear mandate to take immediate action to stop the use of neonicotinoids in situations in which pollinators may be affected.  Instead, it has adopted a half-hearted, industry-deferential response to the report’s findings that seems to call into question the PMRA’s approach to the regulation of pesticides.

20 June, 2013

This week is a good time to think about climate science, and especially how governments listen to, and act on, the recommendations of climate experts.  It’s a good time to think about climate experts here in Canada, because one year ago the Canadian government got rid of the main expert agency responsible for advising it on environmental issues, including climate change.  And in Australia the Climate Change Commission, a similar expert government advisory body, issued a major report that highlights that tackling climate change means leaving 80% of fossil fuel reserves in the ground.  Two different countries, and two very different attitudes towards climate science. 

18 June, 2013

Among the most controversial elements of Bill C-38, passed a year ago (June 18th, 2012) was the decision to “take the guts out” of the Fisheries Act by abandoning long-standing legal protections for fish habitat –the ecosystems that sustain our iconic salmon and other species – and replacing them with weaker rules that prohibit only “serious harm to fish.”  But the outcry and concern was so great that the federal government has never implemented its planned changes to the Fisheries Act to weaken fish habitat protection. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has indicated that as soon as July existing protections for fish habitat could be repealed and replaced by the new weaker rules. Please tell the federal government to maintain strong legal protection for fish and their habitat today.