Environmental Law

LawThe Environmental Law Centre (ELC) at the University of Victoria is home of Canada’s first environmental law clinical program. The ELC attracts some of the country’s best and brightest aspiring public interest environmental lawyers. Since 2006 the Tula Foundation has been the sustaining funder of the ELC. The ELC acknowledges our important role on their website:

“The ELC is grateful to the Tula Foundation, which provides funding for all core operations of the Environmental Law Centre Clinic. The Clinic would not be possible without this significant support.”

The ELC has worked for community groups, conservation organizations and First Nations across British Columbia building legal capacity to tackle today’s complex environmental challenges. The ELC is a strong advocate for environmental law reform, provides vigorous representation to clients before courts and tribunals, and is actively engaged in public legal education and outreach on environmental issues.

Today’s ELC students are tomorrow’s lawyers for the environment.

The founding executive director of the ELC is professor Chris Tollefson. Its legal staff includes some of BC’s top public interest environmental lawyers including professors Calvin SandbornDeborah Curran and Mark Haddock. Law students, as exemplified by Anthony Ho, do significant work on some of the most important cases facing the country.

Recent cases and projects include:

  • Representing BC Nature and Nature Canada in the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings
  • Representing the ELC and Ecojustice as intervenors in the Supreme Court of Canada
  • Publishing “Maintaining Natural BC for Our Children: Selected Law Reform Proposals,” a comprehensive book on environmental law reform in British Columbia
  • Providing representation and advice to a diverse range of community and First Nations organizations on environmental issues
  • Representing Democracy Watch in a high profile submission to the federal information and privacy commissioner concerning the ‘muzzling’ of federal scientists that led to a formal investigation that is currently underway
  • Creating and managing a province-wide network of practitioners across BC that provide legal services to public interest clients under the auspices of ELC Associates and Fellows program
  • In partnership with the Faculty of Law, launching Canada’s first intensive clinical program in public interest environmental law and, more recently, an academic specialization in Environmental Law and Sustainability
  • Challenging Rio Tinto Alcan’s Permitted SO2 Emission Increase in the Kitimat-Terrace airshed
  • Representing BC Nature and Nature Canada in theTrans Mountain Pipelines (Kinder Morgan) process
  • Filed a detailed submission asking the BC government to revise its rules for natural gas wells and facilities near public schools — arguing that current setback requirements and other rules are insufficient to safeguard the health and safety of school children.
  • Work by ELC student Matt Hulse forced industry to shelve its plan to run a pipeline through the Khutzeymateen coastal grizzly conservancy
  • Submission to the Auditor General to Investigate the Excessive Hunting of Grizzlies
  • Radon Gas Law Reform Report for the BC Cancer Society
  • ELC released its report on the lack of proper government oversight for the new commercial seaweed harvest that is taking place on Vancouver Island
  • Helping to Preserve the Creston Valley Wildlife Act
  • Mark Haddock carried out research on the extent to which the provincial government has deregulated environmental protection measures and thereby increased its reliance on independent professionals employed or contracted by various natural resource industries
  • Comprehensively documenting the broad swath of negative changes to federal environmental laws implemented over the last few years. This project is being done in collaboration with The Tyee
  • Protecting the Taku River from the Tulsequah Chief Mine
  • Working with a First Nation to develop law reform measures to ensure that the Province maps and publicizes the location of sour gas wells — so that Indigenous people can avoid such facilities when hunting and establishing traditional camps
  • Working with another First Nation to develop better regulations for the disposal of contaminated fracking waters
  • Developing law reform proposals to better protect private landowners and the integrity of their lands and waters when pipelines are forced across their lands
  • Working with the Outdoor Recreation Council to develop proposed legislation that would mandate specific measurable and enforceable goals for sustainability for the province
  • Responding to the fact that 35 Protected Areas may soon be impacted by pipelines, transmission lines and industrial roads. A student is identifying the legal requirements that industry will face before putting such developments through each of the protected areas at risk
  • Legal remedies to ensure that government reports diseases at fish farms in a timely and detailed way. Note that the student working on this issue with a Central Coast First Nation has himself worked in the fishing industry on the Central and North Coast
  • Developing a comprehensive set of Ecosystem-Based Management Best Practices and Standards that should be incorporated into regulations for BC’s shellfish aquaculture industry. The same fisherman-law student is working with a different Central Coast Nation on this issue
  • Conducting legal research on optimal farmland protection legislation, to assist those working to preserve the the Agricultural Land Reserve Researching the use of environmental pricing reform to manage urban sprawl and encourage sustainable transportation
  • Working with the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation to identify optimal rules that would require industry and developers to provide adequate habitat compensation to offset habitat losses; and
  • Developing a submission to UNESCO asking it to take action to protect the internationally significant areas being impacted by tar sands development, and which would be further impacted by the Site C dam. The Peace-Athabasca Delta is the largest inland fresh water delta in the world, and is designated as a RAMSAR site of global significance to migratory birds. Wood Buffalo National Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

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