Chasing sunsets and cases: 2023 Summer Law Student Reflections

Every summer, West Coast has the privilege of mentoring and welcoming a fresh cohort of enthusiastic law students from BC and Canada into the world of environmental and Indigenous law. 

In the midst of our escalating environmental and climate crises, our group of determined students has made valuable and diverse contributions to our environmental protection initiatives, spanning from conducting legal research to composing publications and aiding our team in dispensing legal guidance. Read their reflections on their time at West Coast below!

Jessica Frappier

I am very grateful for the opportunity to work at West Coast Environmental Law this summer. Getting to learn from the incredible team was affirming in the path that I am taking pursuing a career in law. It was really moving to witness how West Coast respects and upholds Indigenous law as an environmental law organization. As I move forward with my studies in the Indigenous law degree at the University of Victoria, it is enheartening to see many of the methodologies I’ve been learning in the classroom being implemented on the ground.

I had the pleasure of supporting a couple different teams with various projects. Some of the teams I worked with were Sue Big Oil, Access to Justice, and RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air, and Water). One of my tasks throughout the summer was doing intakes supporting the Access to Justice team with environmental legal aid. I enjoyed speaking with people all over BC about public interest environmental law issues impacting them. This opened my eyes to the wide variety of issues that people face in both urban and rural settings, and how people are taking action in their communities. I also supported Sue Big Oil in the creation of a toolkit for local governments, and helped the RELAW team with briefing stories from the syilx legal tradition. 

Finally, some highlights of the summer were attending the Lower Fraser Floodplains Forum, participating in a tour of the Fraser Canyon with RELAW through a Stó꞉lō perspective, and getting to attend a multi-day RELAW co-learning retreat and witness on-the-ground work people are doing to revitalize Indigenous laws. I really enjoyed getting to speak and learn from so many different voices. I am really happy I got to spend my summer working at West Coast Environmental Law, and am grateful for all of the encouragement and mentorship provided to me throughout the summer. I am looking forward to staying in the loop on the amazing work being done here.

Sophia Sidarous

I was one of the first summer students to work remotely in a somewhat post-pandemic era, and I loved it! The staff were so accommodating and it was quite easy to fit into the office routines as other staff were also remote – thus it was easily a hybrid model.  

The work I did over the summer was really meaningful to me. I mostly worked with the Marine and RELAW teams, which was a great balance of my overall interests.  I was able to use my skills to dive deep into the Indigenous law and Aboriginal law contexts of the Fisheries Act, in relation to RELAW projects and new legislation at hand. It allowed me to really think critically about these issues both in a legal and personal manner.  

This summer (as most summers do) has flown by, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to work here, even if it was just for a few months. I feel more certain about my capabilities as I enter into my law career, and I explored some more new interests of mine which was surprising! 
It was an amazing experience working with this team and the other summer students, and would recommend it to anyone with similar interests. Wela’lioq!

Karla Froese

As the summer comes to an end, I am thankful for the opportunity to have spent the summer working at West Coast Environmental Law. It has been a privilege to learn from West Coast’s passionate and approachable staff, and be part of a team that is using colonial and Indigenous laws to protect the environment. 

Our first week in the office was exciting as it was the final court week of Gitxaała Nation’s mineral tenure reform case. West Coast does not regularly provide litigation services but on this occasion, Gavin Smith, a West Coast lawyer, was part of Gitxaała’s legal team. As students, we had the opportunity to go to court and listen to the closing arguments. This was a great opportunity to see a glimpse into the litigation process. 

Throughout the summer, I had additional opportunities to get out of the office and see legal work in action. In our first few weeks, I got to attend a land-based education tour with the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance, a RELAW partner, and attend a forum with the Lower Fraser Floodplains Coalition. I also had the pleasure of attending a RELAW co-learning session focusing on Indigenous Law in Action. Finally, I volunteered with the communications team and tabled at events around the city to increase community knowledge of different programs and campaigns, including Sue Big Oil, RELAW, and our Marine program.  

I have also had the opportunity to work on projects with multiple West Coast teams. I have worked predominantly with the RELAW team, the Environmental Law Alert program, and supporting work against the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. With the RELAW team, I helped brief Indigenous law stories and researched how the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act may affect the work of RELAW partners. I helped draft submissions to the Province of BC for the development of Administrative Monetary Penalties under the Water Sustainability Act. Regarding Trans Mountain, I researched tolling price standards for a submission to the Canadian Energy Regulator. 

This summer has taught me valuable lessons that I will take with me as I continue my legal journey. Thank you to the staff at West Coast and my fellow summer students for a memorable summer, and I look forward to keeping up with the good work of everyone at the organization.

Top photo, from left to right: Jessica Frappier, Karla Froese, and Sophia Sidarous

Multiple Authors