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West Coast's 2020 Year in Review

2020 Year in Review (Image: Black-capped chickadee on branch)
December 30, 2020

This year will live in our memory as one of surprises, uncertainty, kindness, and the power of community.

We are now at a tipping point on environmental action. After years of catalyzing diverse actors with hard-hitting legal analysis, challenging the status quo, and developing legal solutions, the momentum is building. We are now witnessing what is possible when governments, businesses, and ordinary citizens take increased action in protecting and defending the environment – including climate change.

The West Coast team is excited to share our 2020 Year in Review, along with a huge "thank you" to our valued supporters who have helped make these achievements possible.

Your gifts, support, and advocacy are laying the groundwork for even greater actions that protect and defend the environment and counteract climate change. If you are feeling inspired, please make a gift today to support our work in 2021 and beyond. You can help leverage this tipping point and build robust legal solutions for the environment and our communities.

Now – onto the successes we achieved together in 2020!

CLIMATE CHANGE

West Coast provided recommendations and mobilized supporters leading to the introduction of Canada’s first federal climate accountability law, Bill C-12. Though the legislation still needs work, the introduction of this bill is a significant step toward achieving our climate targets.

Climate solutions need to happen nationally, regionally, and locally. West Coast hired climate scientist Dr. Silvie Harder to join staff lawyer Andrew Gage in helping BC communities better understand local climate impacts and the policies needed to address them.

West Coast co-hosted a climate accountability webinar series with BC law schools and climate litigation experts to share our expertise and knowledge to build better climate legislation with significant impacts.

 

STRONGER ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS

Staff lawyer Anna Johnson is intervening on behalf of Nature Canada in the Alberta government’s constitutional challenge of the new Impact Assessment Act – arguing in support of the federal government’s right to assess projects that may harm the environment – while serving as an important resource for groups across the country to ensure that initial assessments under the Act are as strong as possible.

 

MARINE PROTECTION

Together with our partners and concerned British Columbians, we secured a commitment from the new provincial government to establish a BC coastal strategy, and possibly a new coastal law – something we’ve been advocating for through our Blueprint for the Coast initiative.

Years in the making, West Coast published our Guide to Coastal & Ocean Protection Law in BC, a comprehensive resource outlining legal tools for Indigenous, federal, provincial, and local governments to protect the marine environment. We premiered the guide with a webinar attended by over 250 people, including government staff, lawyers, academics, and citizens. Huge thanks to staff lawyers Stephanie Hewson, Georgia Lloyd-Smith, Michael Bissonnette and Deborah Carlson for all their work on this critical resource.

 

RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air, and Water)

This year West Coast welcomed articled student Rayanna Seymour-Hourie as our newest staff lawyer and RELAW Program Manager.

The RELAW team held two virtual retreats with our Indigenous partners to gather online and share lessons about revitalizing and applying their Indigenous laws for land, air, and water.

One exciting project involved collaborating with the Lower Fraser Fisheries Alliance and other partners on a new blueprint for Indigenous-led ecological restoration and the protection of salmon in the Lower Fraser River.

 

TRANS MOUNTAIN (TMX)

Staff lawyer Eugene Kung joined allies in communicating with decision-makers and insurers about the legal and financial risks associated with TMX, which led to multiple major insurers withdrawing coverage for the project. The economic case for TMX continues to be questioned and West Coast is sharing our insights and analysis with the public.

 

GREEN COMMUNITIES

Staff lawyer Deborah Carlson worked with partners to convene roundtables with decision-makers across all orders of government (Indigenous, federal, provincial, and local) to share information about the Living Dike, an innovative nature-based solution for flood protection in Boundary Bay.

West Coast released a discussion paper on policy opportunities for BC to tap into the science on "blue carbon" – the carbon stored in coastal and marine ecosystems – to help mitigate and adapt to climate change.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

Earlier this year we celebrated victory with the Tŝilhqot’in Nation when courts confirmed the rejection of the New Prosperity Mine, which threatened Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) in their territory – a legal effort that our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) has supported for a decade.

West Coast has also been working to ensure that our Access to Justice programs embody our commitment to environmental justice, with initiatives underway to reduce barriers for racialized and marginalized communities in BC to access our legal services.

 


These are just a few of the highlights from West Coast’s legal programs this year. As 2020 draws to a close, we want to say thank you once again to all of our supporters, donors, board members, volunteeers, clients and partners far and wide for your commitment to protecting and defending the environment. Wishing you all the best in 2021!