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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.

14 December, 2012

First Nations in BC are playing a national leadership role in pushing back against the controversial Canada China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPPA), and are hooking up with some non-Aboriginal allies in that fight.  A press release issued today by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), the Hupacasath First Nation, as well as Leadnow.ca and the Council of Canadians headlined challenges the Canadian government to deal honourably with First Nations before ratifying the Canada China FIPPA.

6 December, 2012

Almost a year ago, Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, made an unfounded accusation that environmental organizations were adopting "a quintessential American approach:  sue everyone and anyone to delay the project even further."  Now, one year later, it's become clear that the government's attack on Canada's environmental laws are forcing environmental, and other, interests into the courts.  What does this mean for Canada's environment and environmental movement?

6 December, 2012

Living Democracy from the Ground Up is a mini-documentary series produced by West Coast Environmental Law that takes an up close and personal look and the impacts that individuals could feel on the ground from rollbacks to our environmental laws. The stories in the series demonstrate how robust and participatory environmental assessment is important to real people and communities and how consulting local people in the process leads to better projects. As Justice Thomas Berger says in Part 3 of the series, “that’s a lesson in democracy.”

8 November, 2012

Local governments in BC are on the frontlines of the impacts of climate change. They need to become engaged in climate change adaptation – defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as an adjustment in response to actual or expected climate change, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities – in order to protect themselves from potentially devastating impacts that may arise from single events like storms or longer term incremental changes like sea level rise.  To assist, West Coast Environmental Law has released a new resource, Preparing for Climate Change: An Implementation Guide for Local Governments in BC. This guide looks at how local governments can use available legal and planning tools to support climate change adaptation strategies and goals.

7 November, 2012

Jay Nelson has a unique perspective on the new Canadian Environmental Assessment act, 2012 (CEAA 2012); as the lawyer for the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) in the current environmental assessment of the controversial New Prosperity mine project at Fish Lake (Teztan Biny), he has been grappling with how CEAA 2012 works on the ground.  In a recent webinar Jay shared the opportunities and challenges posed by CEAA 2012. 

2 November, 2012

The final report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Decline of Sockeye Salmon in the Fraser River was released on October 31st, contrary to rumours that the document would not be made public.  The report, while not finding any single cause of declining Fraser River sockeye, made 75 recommendations about how Canada could better protect salmon in British Columbia.  Many of them stand in direct contrast to recent cuts to Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) scientists and other staff and weakening of the Fisheries Act. 

1 November, 2012

When asked in polls, a large majority of Canadians think that it’s important for BC and Canada to have strong environmental laws.  The trouble is, when public interest environmental lawyers start talking about different models of environmental assessment, or the legal definition of “critical habitat”, most people’s eyes just glaze over.  So it’s always great when comedians weigh in about environmental law issues – explaining the significance of these critical issues, in a way that doesn’t seem too technical, isn’t too much of a downer and may actually make people smile.  Even though the issues are serious, and sometimes sad, even environmental lawyers can use a chuckle. 

31 October, 2012

The Canadian government is preparing to ratify the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) possibly as early as tomorrow (November 1st) – an agreement which many individuals and organizations, including West Coast Environmental Law, have grave and deep concerns about.  But one clear legal problem with the FIPA, which has not been discussed enough, is its impact on Canada’s relations with its First Nations.  By giving new rights to Chinese investors, the treaty risks undermining Canada’s obligations to deal in good faith with First Nations. 

12 October, 2012

Congratulations to Don Staniford – and his lawyer, David Sutherland – who, last month, defeated a lawsuit brought against him by fish farm giant, Mainstream Canada (with help from our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund)!   The fish farm company had sued Don for a series of mock cigarette ads with warnings related to the impacts of fish farms.  The case helps to clarify how defamation law applies to colourful statements by environmental activists – and may help those behind future environmental campaigns breathe a bit easier.  

12 October, 2012

A recently announced agreement between the Province of British Columbia and the Gitanyow Nation is of deep significance not only for the people, the land, and the water of the Gitanyow territories in the mid-Nass and Skeena (upper Kitwanga and upper Kispiox) watersheds, but for all British Columbians.  West Coast Environmental Law was honoured to provide legal support to the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs in negotiating the Gitanyow Huwilp Recognition and Reconciliation Agreement, including the Gitanyow Lax’yip Protection Plan.