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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.

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.



15 August, 2016

As the Site C dam project forges ahead, West Coast's RELAW Project Manager Maxine Matilpi considers difficult questions about the future of the Peace River Valley and the Indigenous communities fighting to preserve their territories.



12 August, 2016

West Coast Environmental Law Association was lucky to have four talented students join us this summer from law schools across the country. As the season winds down, our summer law students share their reflections on an exciting few months learning about the ins and outs of environmental law.

3 August, 2016

At West Coast Environmental Law, we are passionate about collaboration and integrating science with law. When new, ground-breaking studies are published in the scientific world, it presents a unique opportunity to identify the implications this might have on shaping and influencing laws.

A recent study, “Species and population diversity in Pacific salmon fisheries underpin Indigenous food security” published by SFU researchers Holly Nesbitt and Dr. Jonathan Moore, is a fantastic example.

29 July, 2016

In 2013 a jet fuel truck operated by Executive Flight Centre, and servicing BC Ministry of Forests firefighting efforts, plunged off a road in the Slocan Valley, crashing into the pristine Lemon Creek and dumping 33,000 litres into the river, compromising drinking water and killing fish. The province investigated, concluding that no charges were warranted. The case would have been closed, but for the efforts of Marilyn Burgoon, a resident of the Slocan Valley. Last Friday (July 22nd) a federally appointed prosecutor laid new charges against both Executive Flight Centre and the BC Government.