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DSCF0515In the 2016-2017 academic year, I volunteered for ECELAW as a Pro Bono student through the Schulich School of Law. Four other classmates and I were asked to find environmental law cases from throughout Atlantic Canada on issues like access to information, waste management, toxic substances, and contaminated sites. All five of us were first-year law students, and all of us were new to legal research. Learning how to search efficiently and effectively for environmental case law took a lot of practice—and a lot of trial and error too.

Legal research can be daunting. Depending on the questions you want answered and the information you hope to discover, it can be hard to know where to start. The most sophisticated online databases can only be accessed through paid subscriptions, and although open-access databases like CanLII offer a wealth of information, it isn’t always easy to find what you need if you aren’t sure what to look for. Fledgling law students face a steep learning curve when they tackle legal research for the first time, but members of the public who have no legal training at all face even bigger hurdles.

ECELAW’s online legal Information Library was created years ago, and it has always been open-access and intended for public use. The library exists to make environmental law information more accessible to the public. Users can search for environmental law cases by province or by subject matter, and the library can point them to relevant legislation and some secondary sources too. ECELAW’s goal in maintaining the library is to make it easier for members of the public to learn about environmental law in Atlantic Canada.

This summer, a Schulich Internship from the Schulich School of Law made it possible for me to finish the first of a series of major updates to the Information Library. All of the research completed by Pro Bono students over the past two years has now been edited and added to the library, and the result is hundreds of new case summaries on issues that are relevant to our region. There are also new resources designed to make the library more accessible. A “How to Use This Library” feature offers some pointers on conducting legal research, a Glossary offers basic definitions of important legal terms, and a Feedback form makes it easy for users to submit questions and comments.

In the coming months, Pro Bono students will be working to prepare further updates to the legislation and secondary sources sections of the library. Other Pro Bono students will be laying the foundations for a whole new section on Aboriginal and Indigenous law in environmental contexts. I can’t wait to see the library continue to grow, and I’m looking forward to playing a part in its ongoing development. More than anything, though, I’m excited to see how members of the public—that’s you!—respond to the resource.

We want this library to serve you well, so if you want a new question answered in our FAQs section, a new term added to the Glossary, or a new category of cases added to the database, let us know! The Information Library is here for you, and you can help to shape it.

Tina Northrup



ECELAW is looking forward to taking part in KAIROS Canada's Reconciliation in Our Watershed event this week in Halifax! 

On Thursday evening, ECELAW Executive Director Lisa Mitchell will join a panel discussion on environmental racism at the Halifax North Memorial Library, and on Saturday morning ECELAW Office Manager and Schulich law student Tina Northrup will facilitate a conversation on the roles that courts can play in Indigenous attempts to protect local watersheds.

Film screenings and panel discussions on Thursday and Friday evening are free and open to the public, and we encourage everyone to attend!

RW Workshop Poster Halifax Oct 12 14 Final

For Immediate Release - Sept. 26, 2017

K’JIPUKTUK/HALIFAX - A retired Environment Canada employee and conservation and environmental law groups are calling for action from the federal government after Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) confirmed certain aquaculture activities result in a disposal at sea, likely violating the federal Disposal at Sea Regulations. Despite this confirmation the activities appear to be continuing without any enforcement action by ECCC.

Aquaculture companies use a variety of drugs, disinfectants and pesticides in response to sea lice and disease on salmon, issues that come along with farming fish in the open ocean. Chemical residues and pesticides are released into the ocean after use despite limitations under the Disposal at Sea Regulations and the serious risk of harm these chemicals pose to the marine environment and wildlife.

In February 2016, retired Environment Canada employee Bill Ernst launched a formal complaint about the practice to ECCC. In his complaint, Ernst identified specific companies but noted that an industry-wide investigation was needed.

After more than a year of reviewing the complaint and undertaking investigations of activities taking place in New Brunswick, officials from ECCC confirmed to Mr. Ernst on April 25, 2017 that they had a reasonable belief that the companies he identified were violating the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and that the department would take ‘appropriate’ enforcement action.

Yet, despite repeated requests from Ernst on how ECCC will enforce the Disposal at Sea Regulations, no clear enforcement action has happened. The aquaculture industry’s widespread practice of discharging chemicals into the marine environment continues.

Ernst, East Coast Environmental Law, West Coast Environmental Law Association, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society, and Friends of the Earth Canada are calling for an industry-wide investigation into the chemical dumping practice.

“I continue to be concerned that by its inaction, Minister McKenna is abdicating her responsibility to protect the marine environment and, in doing so, is giving the impression that the Government of Canada is willing to promote the aquaculture industry at the expense of other industries and environmental sustainability,” says Ernst.

Adds Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director with East Coast Environmental Law: “Aquaculture may be a valuable economic driver in the Atlantic Canadian economy, as are many other coastal industries, but to ensure these industries remain viable, the laws that protect the environment upon which they depend must be applied fairly and effectively. Private citizens should not bear the burden of enforcing those laws.”

“We commend Mr. Ernst for his efforts to ensure that the laws to protect our environment and coastal fisheries are being enforced,” says Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper with the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “It is disappointing that ECCC has not taken the opportunity provided by Mr. Ernst’s complaint to comprehensively investigate pesticide and other chemical use on aquaculture sites in Canadian waters. An industry-wide investigation is needed.”

The ECCC report regarding Mr. Ernst’s complaint can be viewed here.


For more information contact:

Bill Ernst

Environment Canada retiree

[email protected], 902-865-5771

Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper

Conservation Council of New Brunswick

[email protected]


Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director

East Coast Environmental Law Association

[email protected] 902-670-1113

Are you passionate about environmental issues? Do you have a flair for the written word? Are you up for the challenge of building an online audience using 140 characters or less?

The East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW) is seeking applications for a part-time student position to be held during the 2017-2018 academic year. The successful applicant will act as ECELAW’s Communications Coordinator throughout the employment term, and will work to enhance our online profile by managing our social media accounts and assisting with the development of press releases, newsletters, and news items.

ECELAW is a charitable law organization based in Halifax, and its mandate is to support the creation and application of progressive environmental law and policy throughout Atlantic Canada. Through public education, community collaboration, and legal action, ECELAW works to make legal information accessible to those who need it most, and we advocate for the fair enforcement of environmental laws. With a small staff and a committed team of passionate volunteers, ECELAW gets a lot of work done in a day. Showcasing our work in the public arena helps us to be more effective, and that’s where you come in.

The Communications Coordinator’s key responsibilities will include:

  • Updating and maintaining ECELAW’s Facebook account;
  • Increasing ECELAW’s Twitter presence; and
  • Assisting with the development of press releases, newsletters, and news items.

The expected time commitment is 10 hours per week, and the rate of pay is $15 per hour.

This position is open to all current students. Legal training is not required, but strong writing skills and the ability to stay focused while working independently are essential. Applicants should also be fluent in sound social media practices and good social media etiquette.

Applications should include a covering letter and current résumé, and should be sent electronically to [email protected] Covering letters may be addressed to:

Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director

East Coast Environmental Law Association

6061 University Ave.

PO Box 15000

Halifax, NS B3H 4R2

The deadline for applications is October 6th, 2017.

Press Release

July 27, 2017 

Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service has taken over the Harrietsfield private prosecution.

Action by the public prosecutor comes two months after Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown launched the first private prosecution of an environmental offence in Nova Scotia.

“It has taken a long time, but I am relieved that the government is finally stepping in to enforce the Environment Act. This is what we have been asking them to do for years,” says Brown.

The community of Harrietsfield has been living with contaminated drinking water for more than a decade.

“Despite Ministerial Orders against the companies and individuals responsible for the contamination, nothing has been done to remediate the site,” notes Ms. Brown’s lawyer, Jamie Simpson.

As a means of last resort, Ms. Brown charged two numbered companies and one individual for releasing substances causing an adverse effect into the environment and for failing to comply with Ministerial Orders, under sections 67 and 132 of Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. The charges were laid on May 18, 2017.

“This is an important case and we would like to see all of the charges presented to the court,” states Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of the East Coast Environmental Law Association. The Association has been assisting Marlene Brown and other residents of Harrietsfield since 2013 and is currently supporting the private prosecution.

The next court appearance on this matter is August 21, 2017 at 10:00 am.


For more information:

Jamie Simpson, 902 817 1737, [email protected]
Lisa Mitchell, 902 670 1113, [email protected]
Marlene Brown, [email protected]

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