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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.

13 August, 2014

This post was originally posted on

‘Streamlining environmental regulatory review’ and ‘reducing the regulatory burden on industry’ are among the hottest buzzwords from the federal and BC provincial governments. 

As the Mt. Polley Mine tailings lake breach that occurred on Monday, August 4 demonstrates, however, deregulation of industrial activities that impact the environment is a gamble that can have devastating outcomes for local communities and the environment.

18 July, 2014

In a wave of legal filings on July 11 and July 14, 2014, eight First Nations from Haida Gwaii to Yinka Dene territory west of Prince George set in motion legal proceedings that, combined with 9 court cases filed earlier this year, have the potential to stop or significantly delay the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines and tankers project (the “Enbridge Project”).

9 July, 2014

June 28, 2014 marked the 5th and final Tar Sands Healing Walk, a grassroots event organized by local Indigenous communities in the heart of the tar sands development. This was not a protest or a march, nor was it about disrupting the work of the energy companies; it was about the people and their land and maintaining the ecological and spiritual connection to it. As Cleo Reece of Fort McMurray First Nation explained, “this walk is not just for the people, it is also for the eagles, and the bears, and the water.” Seeing the tar sands for myself has certainly motivated me to do so. The most basic step, as Cleo Reece suggested, is to “start walking on [our] own land.”

8 July, 2014

Governments and businesses rely heavily on the advice of professionals on a wide range of environmental, resource management and land use planning decisions. That’s why it’s critical that the professionals who are making key decisions about our ecosystems and the evolution of our communities know about current climate science, and incorporate it into their recommendations to government and industry.
West Coast Environmental Law is excited that four BC professional associations – representing 9,000 foresters, biologists and planners – are showing the way – today (July 8th) publicly releasing an unprecedented “Professional Leadership in a Changing Climate: Joint Statement”.

2 July, 2014

The costs of climate change are being hotly debated. Prime Minister Harper has suggested that strong policies that address climate change will hurt jobs and the economy. But a growing body of evidence shows that addressing climate change not only saves Canadians from real financial loss, but also creates jobs and economic opportunities. Climate action works for both this generation and for future generations. But it needs to start now.

27 June, 2014

On June 26, 2014 the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia marked a watershed moment in the long journey of First Nations peoples to achieve recognition of their inherent title and authority over their ancestral territories. With the first court declaration of Aboriginal title in Canadian history, the SCC clarified the Canadian legal tests about Aboriginal title, and acknowledged the title and authority of the Tsilhqot’in people to use, manage and economically benefit from a 1,750 square kilometre portion of their territories southwest of Williams Lake, BC.

Almost as soon as the decision was out, our office began to get questions about the implications of the Tsilhqot’in decision for controversial tar sands infrastructure proposals like the Enbridge Northern Gateway tankers and pipelines project. Here are some of the key reasons why yesterday’s SCC decision increases legal risk for the Enbridge project.

25 June, 2014

The 10 day Water Festival hosted by The Lummi Nation of Washington State wrapped up on June 22nd. I had the opportunity to attend part of the festival, along with another law student volunteer and WCEL Staff Lawyer, Eugene Kung. The part we were present for was the Stommish Sacred Summit, which consisted of a day of presentations on the topic of Sacred Obligations, a talk by Winona LaDuke, and a rally against a proposed coal port in the Salish Sea. These events hold great relevance for the environmental movement and the fight against fossil fuel projects in Canada.

19 June, 2014

If you've read the federal government's June 17 press release about Enbridge's Northern Gateway proposal, you might be wondering what it all means.  Here's our quick (multi-media) take on it. 

18 June, 2014

On the morning of June 10, 2014, as my first investigative assignment as a law student volunteer working with West Coast Environmental Law, I was sent to the Federal Court of Appeal on the corner of the busy Georgia and Granville streets to observe an appeal brought by the Hupacasath First Nation (HFN), a small Vancouver Island First Nation community.  Never before having been in the Federal Courts, I was excited to enter the lofty, glass office building that quite contrasts with the much lower, brick structures of the neighbouring Provincial courts.  Not knowing exactly where to go, I followed a group of people dressed in suits as they entered Pacific Centre, assuming they would know where they were going.  They did.  As the first observer to arrive, I settled myself into the centre row with my laptop out, eager to capture the experience in writing.

17 June, 2014

Several of the most contentious changes to environmental laws passed during the 2014 spring session of the BC Legislature seem to have been developed, and pushed through, in a mad rush and without adequate public consultation. The goal of these laws seems, at least in part, to be to remove perceived environmental constraints on certain types of development – notably natural gas exploration, development and export. Such laws erode environmental legal safeguards, and in turn reduce public confidence in BC’s environmental safety net. This will ultimately hurt the government’s desire to push through quick LNG development.