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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.

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.

 

11 October, 2012

At the end of September, local government elected representatives from all over British Columbia listened to their constituents: On September 27, a majority of municipal councillors and mayors assembled at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), annual convention and adopteda resolution, proposed by the District of Saanich, to call on the provincial government and the official opposition “to use whatever legislative and administrative means that are available to stop the expansion of oil tanker traffic through BC’s coastal waters.”  West Coast lawyers Brenda Belak and Josh Paterson were at UBCM’s convention in Victoria to talk with local officials about the resolution.

10 October, 2012

In 2008 the Conservative Party promised to ban the export of raw bitumen to countries with lower environmental standards.  Wow! In all the excitement of Government Ministers branding opponents of the Enbridge Pipeline and Tankers Project as radicals, Canadians have forgotten all about a 2008 election promise which, if implemented, would sink that proposal faster than you can say “oil slick." To be sure, implementing that promise wouldn’t stop oil and gas companies from shipping raw bitumen to the U.S. or to other countries with equivalent environmental laws.  But with pipeline companies banking on exports to countries with less stringent regulations, it could call into question many of the economic assumptions used to justify building pipelines to export raw bitumen. 

25 September, 2012

If you’ve been watching Parliament in the past week or two you may have just heard mention of the phrase “carbon tax.”  We’d be delighted if this meant that there was an intelligent debate going on in Parliament about how to address climate change, but unfortunately it’s only a baseless attempt by the ruling Conservative party to associate the opposition New Democrats with a policy that the NDP has (unfortunately) never supported. However, the attacks have resulted in some interesting discussion about the idea of a carbon tax on the blogosphere - and are an opportunity to say: responsible fiscal leaders agree that we need a price on carbon.

24 September, 2012

On September 14th, the federal Review Panel conducting the New Prosperity environmental assessment released three documents. Two describe the approach that the Panel proposes to use for “Confidentiality” and for the panel’s Hearing Procedures, respectively, and invites the public to comment on these procedures.

The third is the application form for anyone interested in participating in the Panel’s hearings as an “interested party.”

For all of these documents the deadline (for comments or for applying to be an interested party) is this Friday, SEPTEMBER 28th, 2012. The draft documents and the application form can be found here, and below we list their key points and our key concerns with each.

17 September, 2012

One Sunday morning, Lori Waters received an intriguing link to the “Route Safety” animation videos for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. As one of many British Columbians opposed to the pipeline and to any lifting of the tanker ban along our coast, she watched Enbridge’s animations with interest.  But as a scientific illustrator and animator, she created a series of illustrations demonstrating why Enbridge's animations were wrong.  And they went viral.  Lori (in a guest post) tells us the story.