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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.

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.

28 July, 2016

BC’s Climate Leadership Plan is missing in action.  Originally planned for release in December 2015, at the Paris Climate Talks, its release has been repeatedly delayed, with recent speculation pointing towards a dead-of-summer, don’t look now, release.

28 July, 2016

Earlier this year the BC government approved the Great Bear Rainforest Land Use Order, grounding the region’s land and forest protection into law. Now it’s time to anchor the Great Bear Sea solution – comprehensive ecosystem-based marine spatial plans – into law as well. It’s time to achieve lasting protection for this precious area.

We’re taking this message to IMCC4 in St. John’s, Newfoundland this week, with a presentation on “Getting legal traction for BC’s science-based marine spatial plans.”

14 July, 2016

It might seem a bit odd for Environmental Law Alert (based in BC, Canada) to be reporting on developments in Kenyan environmental law, but Kenya’s new Climate Change Act, 2014, brought into force in May 2016, contains a provision that is worth talking about around the world – one which provides for lawsuits against greenhouse gas polluters.