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Engage | Empower | Enrich

Vol 9, 2018 April

As April slips into May and we wrap up the spring term and get ready for our summer intensive program, there is no shortage of activity at the ELC. Getting straight to newsletter business, this edition highlights a report on tools for watershed protection, two investigation requests, many updates, and our brush with literary greatness.

Tools to help protect watersheds

A recent ELC report prepared for the Coquitlam River Watershed Roundtable (CRWR) shows how communities can consider wildlife and watersheds when they establish or expand environmental policy. Read more...

Failure to protect endangered fish

The regulatory measures government uses to protect endangered fish are not working. By refusing to protect endangered marine species in BC under Species at Risk Act (SARA), the federal government is seriously increasing the risk of extinction of species, such as Pacific salmon and steelhead trout. Read more...

The Gold Rush is over, time to update placer mining laws

Outdated gold rush laws from the 19th century pose a serious risk to the environment and human health across BC. To address the issue, the ELC asked BC’s Auditor General in March to examine the government’s apparent failure to adequately regulate placer mining. Read more...

LATE BREAKING NEWS ON CARIBOU: Last Friday, the Canadian government took the first step toward issuing that emergency order to protect reindeer immediately north of the US border. This action is partly in response to the ELC’s December 2017 request.

UPDATE ON MARINE PLASTIC POLLUTION: Our rollout of a new plastic strategy continued with the release of A National Strategy to Combat Marine Plastic Pollution: A Blueprint for Federal Action. Building on our Seven Reforms to Address Marine Plastic Pollution report, our Blueprint outlines the exact actions that Ottawa can take to address marine plastic pollution. It identifies the constitutional powers that allow Parliament to lead a national effort and sets out concrete actions Canada can take to set a global example on marine plastics at the G-7 meeting this June.

BIG SHOUT OUT TO MARGARET ATWOOD: Did you see that Margaret Atwood joined us in writing an op-ed for the Globe and Mail about reinventing the plastics economy? Many thanks to Margaret Atwood for supporting our call and sharing this byline. The office of the Federal Minister of Environment responded very positively – and is promising further action at the G-7 meeting that Canada chairs in June.

UPDATE ON MUZZLED SCIENTISTS: In 2013, the ELC asked the Information Commissioner or Canada to investigate whether the Harper government was muzzling scientists on behalf of Democracy Watch. In Feb 2018, we found out we were right. The Commissioner’s report found that the Conservative government violated policies that effectively muzzled scientists in ways that prevented them from responding to the public’s request for information. The Commissioner also noted the Trudeau government hasn’t gone far enough to improve the situation and has failed to implement recommendations the Commissioner made last September.

UPDATE PIELC 2018: ELC Club and staff members made the annual trek to Eugene, Oregon, for the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon where ELC Legal Director Calvin Sandborn joined with Duke University on a panel discussing approaches to controlling sources of marine debris.

SHOUT OUT: Many thanks to filmmaker Chris Jordan for allowing us to screen his film Albatross at our March event about developing strategies to deal with marine plastic pollution. Albatross is a meditative and lyrical journey with amazing footage and immersive scenes. While difficult to witness, Albatross shows how our choices impact nature. It is beautiful, alarming, poetic and motivating.

UPDATE ON PROTECTION FOR OLD GROWTH FORESTS: Ancient Forest Alliance is campaigning with Conservation North Society to get the ELC-developed Old Growth Forest Act legislated. Prepared back in 2013, the report, An Old Growth Protection Act for British Columbia, reviews the current framework and problems with the current system. It makes recommendations for retaining old growth based on the best available science, phasing out logging according to risk and establishing a system of old growth reserves.

UPDATE ON STORM WATER MANAGEMENT: The Township of Esquimalt has listed the ELC’s report Re-inventing Rainwater Management as Required Policy in the Infrastructure - water, sewer and storm water section of their Resource Library.

UPDATE ON ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT: The ELC co-drafted and signed onto a Blueprint for Revitalizing Environmental Assessment in BC. The joint document provides a vision for a new approach to environmental assessment in BC as well as key changes needed to make that happen. Back in 2010, the ELC reviewed EA in BC, noted its weaknesses and provided 27 recommendations for reform.

WARM WELCOME: Megan Webber joined the ELC team in April. Megan is a great addition to the ELC, and we appreciate once again having some extra administrative capacity. 

UPDATE ON SHARED ARTICLING PROGRAM: We are also fortunate to have had Renata Colwell as the second articled student in our 2017-18 round of our Shared Articling Program. We are currently hiring for 2019-20. See our webpage for details.

SHOUT OUT: Thanks to ELC Cohort 6 Associates and guests for their participation in our April teleconference on mining and human rights. We’re looking forward to our next call in June.

UPDATE ON JORDAN RIVER: The ELC’s work to clean up Jordan River from copper mine contamination is the featured chapter on Canada in the new Environmental Law Alliance book, Celebrating Victories (p 8-9).

UPDATE ON RESEARCH-O-THON: UVic Law Library's article on the ELC Club’s research-o-thon is featured in the American Association of Law Libraries Academic Law Libraries section’s quarterly newsletter (p. 13).

SHOUT OUT: Thanks to the Social Environmental Alliance for asking ELC Articled Student Renata Colwell to speak about her work on the legal personality of natural features.

Want to share your news with ELC alumni and friends? Send us the details, and we’ll include them in our next newsletter.

ELC Client: John Roe, Veins of Life Watershed Society

Working with staff and students from the ELC has benefited me immensely. I have enjoyed, the professionalism, the ability of understanding a concept, research skills, questions and explanation of how laws apply to our projects, reports, presentations to councils and public. These three projects will leave a legacy of conservation in our community, looking forward to continue on and more into the future.

John Roe is a founder of Veins of Life Watershed Society (VOLWS), a community environmental organization focusing on habitat restoration projects,pollution prevention and garbage removal initiatives along the shorelines and streams in our local watershed.

Through a number of community projects, VOLWS was responsible under John’s leadership for vastly improving the water quality of Victoria’s Gorge Waterway.

Since 2008, the ELC has worked with John Roe and VOLWS on several projects. The first project was prompted by John’s concerns over the management of storm sewers and urban run-off in the Capital Regional District. That resulted in Re-inventing Rainwater Management: Protecting Health and Restoring Nature in the Capital Region, which involved multiple presentations to local councils and a community seminar in 2010 that was attended by First Nations, local Councillors and community leaders. In 2016, the City of Victoria took some direction from the storm water report and adopted a Storm Water Utility.

During this time, John also worked with the ELC on a submission for the Water Act Modernization Process that examined the concept of forming a Conservation Authority for the Gorge Waterway / Victoria Harbour Watershed, which would include six municipalities and four First Nation communities.

Most recently, VOLWS reached out to the ELC about concerns over protecting public green spaces.

"Protecting public green spaces is a project that is dear to my heart," says John. "We in the Conservation community have observed for a long time the encroachment and restriction of public spaces by private entities. The economy has changed and homes on waterfront are in demand. Through onsite research, defining the regulatory laws / bylaws and a presentation to Saanich Municipality, ELC students have guided the community and progress is being made to resolve these issues and return these public spaces back to the public."

In response to the ELC’s submission, local governments are addressing the need to restore access to public waterfont lands that have been appropriated for private use by adjacent neighbours.  The Clinic is advocating a comprehensive Greenways Strategy to link the public accesses.


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