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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.

20 August, 2014

One of West Coast Environmental Law’s services is to operate the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF). The EDRF is funded by the Law Foundation of BC, and is a granting program for citizens and communities who need to access legal help to solve an environmental dispute. We are pleased to bring you an update on some of the cases we have been funding over the past few months.

20 August, 2014

This year marked the Third Annual Salish Sea Summer Gathering in Whey-ah Wichen/Cates Park in North Vancouver, hosted by the Tsleil Waututh Nation Sacred Trust. West Coast Environmental Law was pleased to be a part of the day and be a sponsor of this event. Held on August 10th, the gathering featured Juno-winning musical acts, a poetry stage, a traditional canoe panel, and a great lineup of speakers including Rex Weiler, Chiefs affected by the Mt. Polley mine tailings pond spill, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan, and West Coast Environmental Law Staff Lawyer Eugene Kung.

13 August, 2014

The West Coast Environmental Law summer law student volunteers want to thank our amazing mentors at West Coast Environmental Law for the wonderful educational experiences they provided this summer. We have laughed and learned with the West Coast staff and, to wrap up our work term, would like to share the highlights of our summer with West Coast’s readership.

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.