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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.

5 May, 2016

New documents reveal that the Canadian oil company Imperial Oil knew in the 1970s or earlier that burning fossil fuels caused climate change. Similar documents in the U.S. have put Imperial’s parent company, Exxon Mobil, on the defensive, with multiple government investigations launched against the multi-national oil and gas cartel. These latest revelations add to the controversy, as well as giving it a Canadian dimension. 

As told in the U.S., this story has been largely about fraud – and fair enough: Exxon has been an active player in spreading climate disinformation. But even more fundamental than the question of knowingly misleading shareholders or the public is the question of whether it’s OK (whether you mislead anyone or not) to sell a product (and to make billions doing so) that you know will harm communities and destroy property.  If Exxon has known since the 1970s that its product will (for example) contribute to flooding coastal communities and worsen droughts, shouldn’t it have been hard at work helping us find alternatives? Can they pocket their hundreds of billions of dollars of profits without paying their fair share in preparing for and dealing with climate change impacts? How would the world be different if fossil fuel companies had been paying their fair share since the 1970s?

26 April, 2016

Momentum is growing to get habitat protection reinstated into the federal Fisheries Act through a petition launched recently by a network of scientists, First Nations, and organizations including West Coast Environmental Law. Below is a guest post by authors from both coasts about the need to make this change to Canada’s law.

22 April, 2016

To celebrate Earth Day 2016, we’re highlighting the remarkable work of Divest Victoria and their campaign – with help from our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) – to allow communities across BC to divest from fossil fuels. As a result of their work, this August BC’s local governments will be considering a resolution calling for fossil fuel-free investment options for their own investment portfolios. If the resolution goes forward, this good news story has the potential to send a powerful message to the fossil fuel industry.

18 April, 2016

In February 2016, West Coast's Hannah Askew attended a Moose Management Summit in Fort St. John, which was held to address Treaty 8 First Nations’ concerns about the state of moose in their territory. The word for moose in Dunne-zah is “Huuda,” which literally translates to “that which keeps us alive.”

15 April, 2016

On April 4, 2016 the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs filed an amended Notice of Civil Claim in the BC Supreme Court seeking judicial recognition of their title to 6,200 square kilometres of the mid-Nass River and Kitwanga River watersheds in northwestern British Columbia. In this guest blog, Gitanyow Hereditary Chief Glen Williams/Malii and Tara Marsden/Naxginkw explain the significance of this case for the future of wild salmon ecosystems in the region, for their people, and for all Canadians.

15 April, 2016

According to pipeline supporters and cheerleaders, one of the primary rationales for building pipelines to tidewater – Canada’s east or west coast – is to maximize the price that Canadians can get for tar sands oil by reaching world markets. A number of years ago this argument may have been true, but we live in a different world today.

12 April, 2016

The Canadian government wants to know what you think about its plans to consider “upstream” greenhouse gas emissions associated with “major oil and gas projects.” But whatever you do, don’t look downstream – there’s no dirty fossil fuel pollution to see there, upstream is much prettier to look at. Since 89% of emissions for a project may be from so-called “downstream” emissions (in the case of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline, for example), that’s a major emission omission.

24 March, 2016

Fish matter to Canadians. Fish habitat, called the “bedrock” of fisheries by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), matters. And so the law to protect fish and their habitat really matters. That's why WCEL launched Scaling Up the Fisheries Act: Restoring Lost Protections and Introducing Modern Safeguards, a brief that outlines preliminary ideas on reforming Canada’s essential fisheries law.

23 March, 2016

The headlines were enough to make you wonder if you’d stepped into an alternate universe: a mining corporation suing the Crown for transferring land interests to First Nations without adequate consultation.

22 March, 2016

Last November, in a federally-unprecedented move, Prime Minister Trudeau made public his mandate letters to Canada’s new Cabinet. Among the important directives contained in those letters, there was one that created a particular stir among many environmental groups, academics and communities.