In 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.
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!
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:
Environment Canada retiree
[email protected], 902-865-5771
Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper
Conservation Council of New Brunswick
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:
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.
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:
Thursday, October 26th - Friday, October 27th
What would a different conversation about the relationship between race, place, space, and the environment in Indigenous and Black communities look like?
How can we best acknowledge the links between environmental racism, climate change, climate justice, a justice-based transition to a fossil-free economy, community-based aspects of renewable energy, energy policy, gentrification, the built environment, urban planning, planning policies, and urban justice?
What are the possible public health advocacy responses to existing or proposed industrial projects and other environmental hazards near Indigenous and Black communities?
What can Nova Scotian, Canadian and American community members, professors, researchers, students, environmental organizations, NGOs, health professionals, and policymakers learn from one another about using research, policy, and community activism to address the social, economic, and health impacts of the relationship between race, place, space, and the environment in Indigenous and Black communities?
Organized & Hosted by the ENRICH Project and the Healthy Populations Institute.
Check out the Facebook event page for more information!
From June 13-15, Mike Kofahl, ECELAW’s Articled Clerk, traveled to Ottawa to attend the Oceans 20 – Oceans Act Workshop. The event, which was organized and hosted by West Coast Environmental Law in partnership with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), the David Suzuki Foundation and the Ecology Action Centre (EAC), involved participants and speakers from coast to coast to coast in Canada, as well as abroad, in both the public and private sectors. Participants included law groups, environmental groups, fisheries associations, Indigenous communities and organizations, scientists and academics, policy-makers and politicians.
The main purpose of the conference was to discuss ways to improve Canada’s Oceans Act to enable a better, more effective process for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The motivation for the conference was the fact that Canada’s Oceans Act is now 20 years old and needs a comprehensive review of and amendments to some of the most important deficiencies in the Act, especially as they relate to MPAs.
Photo: Natasha Kruitwagen
In the spring of 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development launched a review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This week, the Committee tabled its Report: a hefty document entitled Healthy Environment, Healthy Canadians, Healthy Economy: Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. The Report makes key recommendations to strengthen and improve the CEPA, and as there have been no substantial reviews or changes to the Act since 1999, we are excited and encouraged by this development. The world is constantly evolving, and it's crutial that our legislation evolve with it so that Canada's environmental laws remain responsive to current scientific knowledge and public needs.
Halifax, NS - Sierra Club Canada Foundation and East Coast Environmental Law are hosting a panel discussion on the case to stop the Digby Quarry and implications of trade agreements on our ability to protect the environment.
Last year, Sierra Club Canada Foundation and East Coast Environmental Law joined the legal battle to stop Bilcon from collecting $100 million from the Canadian government because a NAFTA Tribunal found that the US company had been treated unfairly in their efforts to start a quarry on Digby Neck. This case - which brings environmental assessment and our ability to stop environmentally destructive projects into question - is now making its slow way through the courts.
Meanwhile, US President Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and opened up NAFTA for re-negotiation, and Canada has begun consulting with Canadians on a new deal. Our panel will discuss the original and implications of the battle to stop the Digby Quarry, and offer expertise on opportunities for positive reform in the context of NAFTA re-negotiations.
Ben Beachy, Senior Policy Advisor for the Sierra Club US Responsible Trade Program
Janet Eaton, Trade Policy Advisor, Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director, East Coast Environmental Law
WHEN: Tuesday, June 20, 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
WHERE: Room 104, Weldon Law Building, Schulich School of Law, 6061 University Ave, Halifax, NS
Interviews with speakers available upon request.
Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director, Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Mobile: 1-902-444-7096 / Email:- [email protected]
Join us for the sixth and last session of the Capping Carbon | Trading Talk panel series on Thursday, June 29th, from 6:00-7:30 PM in the Ondaatje Auditorium (McCain Building) at Dalhousie University.
Panelists Meinhard Doelle, Kate Ervine, and Stephen Thomas will discuss their visions for a cap-and-trade system for Nova Scotia, followed by a Q&A session and discussion with the public.
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of ECELAW, will be moderating.
This event is free of charge, and all are welcome.
Can't make it in person? Watch it livestreamed via Facebook Live on the Ecology Action Centre's Facebook page.
HALIFAX, May 26, 2017 — The private prosecution by Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown took another step forward today as the numbered company 3076525 Nova Scotia Limited was served with a summons, and service is being undertaken for 3012334 Nova Scotia Limited and the individual Roy Brown.
The private prosecution was initiated on April 26, 2017, and includes charges of violating sections 67 and 132 of Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. Section 67 prohibits the unlawful release into the environment of substances that cause or may cause an adverse effect, and section 132 mandates compliance with orders from the Minister of Environment. To lay the charges, Ms. Brown turned to Canada’s Criminal Code, which allows citizens to prosecute alleged lawbreaking.
This is the first time that private prosecution has been used in Nova Scotia to enforce environmental laws. On May 18, 2017, a provincial court judge considered the proposed charges in a pre-investigation hearing. The hearing confirmed that the charges could in fact be laid, and that formal summonses would be issued to 3076525 Nova Scotia Limited, 3012334 Nova Scotia Limited, and Roy Brown.
Residents of Harrietsfield have been living with contaminated drinking water for years, and Marlene Brown is determined to see the environmental laws of this province enforced. The East Coast Environmental Law Association and environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson are providing legal support and representation to Ms. Brown.
For more information, contact:
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director 902.670.1113
East Coast Environmental Law Association [email protected]
Jamie Simpson, Barrister and Solicitor 902.817.1737
Juniper Law [email protected]
Marlene Brown [email protected]
On Thursday, May 16th, candidates for Nova Scotia's 2017 provincial election will be debating key environmental issues.
The East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW) invites applications for a paid 10-week Summer Student position to be held between June 5th and August 11th, 2017. The successful applicant will act as ECELAW’s Outreach and Communications Coordinator throughout the employment term, and will work to enhance the organization’s public education programming by designing environmental law clinics for Atlantic Canadian communities.
In a first for Nova Scotia, Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown is laying charges on April 26th, 2017 as a private prosecutor under the Environment Act.
Brown and other Harrietsfield residents have suffered from 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
“I’m frustrated by the lack of action on part of the companies who are supposed to clean up this site,” says Brown. “And I’m frustrated by the lack of action on part of the government to enforce environmental laws and to enforce their own Ministerial Orders against those who are responsible for this suffering.”
“Many of us have had uranium, lead and arsenic in the water coming from our taps, for years now, and all we seem to get are hollow promises,” continues Brown. “No one should have to beg for clean drinking water in Nova Scotia.”
Brown has teamed up with Halifax-based East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) and Nova Scotia environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson to bring attention to the contamination.
Nova Scotians are often left in the lurch when it comes to industrial pollution and other environmental degradation impacting their communities. Without a legal right to a healthy environment, community members find their concerns falling on deaf ears.
Marking Earth Day, the Environmental Rights Working Group (ERWG) is proposing a non-partisan Bill of Environmental Rights (EBR) for Nova Scotia to give everyone in the province legal access to demand a healthy environment. Similar laws exist in other provinces, but this is the first time a proposed EBR recognizes the unique concerns of traditionally marginalized or vulnerable residents.
Residents from Boat Harbour, Harrietsfield, Lincolnville, Sipekne’katik and Shelburne will gather to share their stories and describe how a Bill of Environmental Rights would have made a difference to their communities, and how it can change the future.
The proposed PEI Water Act has been a long time coming for citizens on Prince Edward Island. A province that draws all of its water supply from ground water sources and supports a significant agricultural industry needs to be fully aware of the state of their water and the potential impacts today’s choices will have on future Islanders. The government has followed a robust public engagement plan to develop the draft Act, culminating in the release of a full draft version of Act, with supporting information pieces. Citizens on PEI have stepped up to offer their time and expertise to review and comment on the draft. Unfortunately, after providing an excellent consultation process the PEI government is now rushing the final phase of consultation with less than a month for comments and only four in-person sessions.
The wheels of justice turn slowly and the wheels of government even slower. The community of Harrietsfield is still waiting for the polluter to pay and for our government to stand by the law and ensure they receive clean and safe water.
The 7 year legal battle hit a major milestone this month with the release of the Decision of NS Supreme Court Justice Gabriel dismissing an appeal of a Ministerial Order by the former operator of the construction and demolition recycling company (RDM) site. This is the third time the matter has been in the courts. The former construction and demolition recycling site is contaminated after years of stockpiling unrecyclable material such as carpet, gyproc and asphalt, open to the weather creating toxic runoff into local watercourses. Additionally, 120 000 tons of waste were buried on the property and the leachate from this waste has been making its way into the groundwater, leaving local residents with well water that is neither pleasant or safe.
It was cold in Nova Scotia this morning, -25 degrees with the windchill, as my 12 year old bundled herself up to go skiing. “So many layers...” she complained, “...it takes more time to get ready than it will to ski!”. Her comments reminded me of another process that is multi-layered and takes a great deal of time to prepare -- the case of an American company trying to circumvent Canadian environmental law.
As many of you know a US-based company, operating under the name Bilcon, proposed a large coastal quarry and marine terminal in the small community of Sandy Cove located on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia, over 10 years ago. Canadian law, at the time, required the project to undergo federal and provincial environmental impact assessments. The project was quite contentious with a majority of the community and many other Nova Scotians opposed the proposal to blast basalt in the coastal environment and ship it to New Jersey on large vessels. An independent review panel was appointed to review the project proposal, consult with the public, and make a recommendation to government. The review panel completed their work in 2007 and recommended that the project not proceed primarily owing to significant adverse effects that would impact the core values of the community. Government agreed with the recommendation and the project did not proceed.
31 January 2017 -- As the rather tumultuous first month of 2017 winds down there is something to celebrate. The newly appointed National Energy Board (NEB) Hearing Panel to review the proposed Energy East pipeline announced that they would re-start the process. This means that all decisions made by the first hearing panel are void including:
Determination that the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications are complete;
Decision to review the Energy East and Eastern Mainline applications via a single hearing;
List of Participants and any subsequent individual rulings on participation;
Lists of Issues and factors to be included in the environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012; and
There is a homemade sign on the door between our house and the garage that reads, “Don’t forget your instrument”. The sign was crafted and placed by our 11-year old after she arrived at school on band day without her flute.
The sign seems to work so I have thought about putting up a few signs around the provincial legislature. “Don’t forget your commitments in the Natural Resources Strategy”. “Don’t forget that climate change is real”. “Don’t forget that species are going extinct”. “Don’t forget that everyone needs clean water to drink”. “Don’t forget the future”.
We are official interveners in the federal case to stop the company Bilcon from collecting 100 million US dollars from Canadian taxpayers. This case has its roots in the small community of Sandy Cove on Digby Neck, where the community and the government refused to allow the blasting of the coastline for extraction and export of basalt for construction projects in New Jersey. The case began in our province, but its reach extends to the very heart of environmental law in Canada. It threatens the rights of Canadians to decide how and who exploits our natural resources. We are working hard to keep Canadian environmental lawCanadian. There is more about our role in this federal court case at: www.ecelaw.ca/item/150-good-news-for-canada-s-environmental-assessment-law-no-cash-advance-for-bilcon.html
Federal Court of Canada rejects Bilcon’s application to stay proceedings, denying the Delaware company an early pay day.
ECELAW Presents Concerns to the National Energy Board on the Controversial Energy East Pipeline
Nova Scotia is a beautiful province to live in. With its pristine shorelines, undisturbed old-growth forest, and rolling hills, our province truly places natural splendour on display.
Many communities in this province are fortunate enough to live in an environment that is healthy – the air is clean, they have ready access to clean water, and the land is free from harmful levels of contamination.
But some communities are less fortunate.
For example, effluent from a pulp mill waste treatment plant in Boat Harbour has polluted the local environment. Members of the Pictou Landing First Nation have described feeling “powerless” and unable to change the situation, which impacts them daily. And for more than a decade, residents of Harrietsfield have voiced concerns about the risks a local construction and demolition recycling facility poses to their groundwater. Many in the community have expressed frustration at being left in the dark when it comes to ongoing pollution and government’s plans to address it.
These experiences demonstrate why legal recognition of environmental rights — including the human right to a healthy environment — is of paramount importance.
For instance, individuals should have rights to access information and to participate in environmental decisions that could impact their lives. They should have tools available to ask for government intervention to enforce or strengthen laws or permits when necessary to protect their health or environment. And when all else fails they should have access to the courts.
This is why the introduction of Bill 178, Environmental Bill of Rights, in the Nova Scotia legislature last week is such a positive development. If made law, it would give communities stronger tools to protect their health and environment and fight for environmental justice.
In addition to providing legal recognition that all Nova Scotians have a right to live in a healthful environment, it would establish many important procedural protections such as a right to request that government review a law, regulation, or permit that fails to protect the environment or human health. It would also create a new independent oversight body in Nova Scotia in the form of an environmental commissioner.
Legal recognition of environmental rights can have many benefits. According to the Conference Board of Canada rankings, industrialized countries that recognize the right to a healthy environment have better environmental records than Canada and outperform us economically. Improved environmental performance can in turn help reduce preventable deaths and illnesses caused by exposure to harmful contaminants.
And in providing Nova Scotians strong, enforceable tools to hold government and polluters to account, Bill 178 could trigger improvements to other environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
This not to say that Bill 178 is perfect. It also has room for improvement.
At present it provides for too much Ministerial discretion and its access to justice objectives are hindered by Nova Scotia’s lack of an independent environmental tribunal to hear appeals regarding environmental permitting decisions. Most importantly, it does not recognize or address issues of environmental justice or racism — that is, the disproportionate burden of environmental hazards borne by racialized, Indigenous, and low-income communities in this province. That’s a serious oversight.
Nonetheless, Bill 178 presents an opportunity for all political parties to work together to make the province a leader when it comes to protecting every Nova Scotian’s environmental rights.
Environmental rights are a fundamental component of environmental law in the 21st Century, and something we hope to see Nova Scotians and politicians of all stripes embrace.
Scores of Canadians have already mobilized in support of environmental rights. More than 130 municipalities across the country, representing more than a third of Canada’s population, have adopted declarations supporting the human right to healthy environment. Halifax and four other communities in Nova Scotia are among them.
The recognition of our right to a healthy environment is not a partisan issue. Public opinion polling indicates that more than 85 per cent of Canadians surveyed agree people should have the right to a healthy environment.
It not hard to see why: Our very survival depends on clean air, water, and soil. As such, environmental rights are human rights — necessary for life, liberty, and human dignity.
Now it’s up to Nova Scotia to make that the law.
Kaitlyn Mitchell is the national program director at Ecojustice, an environmental law charity that is building the case for a better earth.
Aaron Ward is the executive director of East Coast Environmental Law, a non-profit dedicated to strengthening environmental law in Atlantic Canada.
Photo credit: Getty Images
For too long have marginalized communities in the Maritime Provinces been forced to live under structural conditions that allow for environmental racism -- the disproportionate location of polluting industries and other environmental hazards near communities of colour. While this term may continue to be unfamiliar to some, many have become aware of this issue through the work of Dr. Ingrid Waldron and the ENRICH (Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities and Community Health) Project.
On March 22nd, 2016, I joined Dr. Waldron (Assistant Professor at Dalhousie University and Director of the ENRICH Project) in providing a lecture at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, titled Race, Place, & the Law: A Socio-Legal Analysis of Environmental Racism in Nova Scotia. The lecture was hosted by the Environmental Law Students’ Society and was well attended by students, faculty, and members of the public. The significant public interest and engagement is incredibly encouraging and an important first step in naming and addressing this issue.
Today is World Water Day: a day to reflect on the fact that millions of people around the world cannot safely drink their water – both around the world and around the corner.
This World Water Day we’d like to highlight the community of Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia. For over ten years, residents of Harrietsfield have been plagued by well water contaminated with cadmium, boron, uranium, lead, arsenic, and more. The water stinks, rots away fixtures, and is unusuable for household applications.
The fact that rural residents in Nova Scotia have uranium in their well water may not be news. In fact, 4% of all well water in Nova Scotia contains uranium above the levels considered safe to drink.
But what if the uranium in your well water increases by 500%?
What if you find the water you are drinking not only contains uranium, but boron, lead, arsenic, cadmium and manganese, to name a few?
And what if it turns out your neighbor is a C&D (construction & demolition) recycling site that collected and stockpiled waste material for years without cover or containment and what if contaminants from that waste were leaching into your well water?
Halifax – November 12, 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW), Atlantic Canada’s only environmental law charity, has released a report analyzing the new regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia. New Regulations released on October 26, 2015, are an improvement from the previous regulatory framework but fail to live up to the Provincial Government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of an independent review panel.
The Doelle-Lahey Panel, commissioned by the Provincial Government, consulted a wide range of stakeholders including the aquaculture industry and coastal communities. In its final Report the Panel recommended a fundamental overhaul of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia, in order to address serious concerns regarding openness, transparency, Ministerial discretion, and a lack of social licence for industry to operate in this province. The Doelle-Lahey Report did not recommend a moratorium on open-net finfish aquaculture, but the many groups pursuing that goal agreed to put aside their continued calls for such a moratorium if the Panel recommendations were fully implemented.
The Provincial Government has implemented some of the Doelle-Lahey recommendations, including the introduction of an independent review board, public hearings for certain licence applications, third party auditing, and management plans. That said, some recommendations that go to the core concerns of openness, transparency and reducing discretion have not been implemented, including provisions concerning the proactive release of information to the public, the designation of certain at-risk areas as unsuitable for aquaculture development, and the ability for the public to request the revocation of a licence from repeat-offenders.
ECELAW urges the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture to take the steps necessary to fully implement the recommendations of the Doelle-Lahey Panel. A failure to take all recommendations seriously threatens the ability for finfish aquaculture to operate with social licence from the people of Nova Scotia, and may result in an atmosphere where public calls for a permanent moratorium are stronger than ever.
Read ECELAW’s analysis of the new regulatory framework by downloading the attachment, below.
Aaron Ward, Executive Director, ECELAW
[email protected] | (902) 495-9111 | twitter: @ecelaw
Check out ECELAW's new report on the province's legal obligations with respect to mainland moose and other species at risk in Nova Scotia. Click here to read the report.
ECELAW is pleased to release two reports on Environmental Rights in the Maritimes. The first is an introduction to environmental rights. It explains the concept and benefit of environmental rights. The second report is a summary of three workshops on environmental rights, held in each of the Maritime provinces, along with strategies to move torwards the legal recognition of environmental rights in the Maritimes.
Read the reports here:
ECELAW's executive director Jamie Simpson was honoured to speak at the David Suzuki Foundation's events in St. John's NL and Halifax NS. Jamie was asked to deliver a speech on environmental rights and to introduce Dr. Suzuki. You can read Jamie's speech here. Both events drew some 1,000 people to hear Dr. Suzuki make his compelling case for Canadians' right to a healthy environment.
The DSF is crossing the country with the message that it is past time for Canada to recognize Canadians' right to clean water, air, and land. Visit www.bluedot.ca to learn more, and to add your voice.
ECELAW pleased to work with three outstanding students who participating in the 2014 Environmental Law Placement course -- check out their research on environmental rights, endangered species, and cosmetic pesticide by-laws.
Do you have questions about the recently released draft report from the Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia Panel? ECELAW has prepared three background reports that may help you. ECELAW staff members are available to answer questions about the reports and assist groups with their review of the Panel Report.
On April 23, 2013 ECELAW released Aquaculture Regulation in Nova Scotia: Overview of the Regulatory Framework and Considerations for Regulatory Reform. This Report provides an outline of the aquaculture industry in Nova Scotia and an overview of the current federal and provincial regulatory framework. The Report identifies seven specific areas of consideration in the context of strengthening provincial regulation to make the industry more environmentally sustainable. This Report does not provide an in-depth analysis of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia; rather it provides an overview to serve as a foundation for that analysis, discussion and future regulatory reform.
On May 1, 2013 the former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture announced a review of the regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia. The Minister appointed a two-person independent panel to carry out an extensive public consultation process and information gathering exercise leading to a proposal for an innovative aquaculture regulatory framework.
On April 25, 2014 ECELAW completed a Comparative Analysis of Five Aquaculture Regulatory Frameworks in Canada. This Report was commissioned by the Panel to gain insight into the regulatory approaches to aquaculture in four Canadian jurisdictions: New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. The Report compares key elements of those regulatory frameworks to the current approach in Nova Scotia. Ultimately the Report strives to identify regulatory provisions and approaches from each of the jurisdictions that may serve the Panel as they seek to develop a world-class regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia.
On June 10, 2014 ECELAW completed a Comparative Analysis of Aquaculture Regulatory Frameworks in Maine and Nova Scotia. This Report was also commissioned by the Panel to gain insight into the regulatory approaches to aquaculture in the state of Maine and to compare key elements of the Maine regulatory framework to the current approach in Nova Scotia.
On July 4, 2014 the Doelle-Lahey Panel (Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia) released their draft Report for public comments. Comments will be received until July 24, 2014 and community engagement sessions will be held in the following locations:
ECELAW staff members are available to assist groups seeking to comment on the draft Panel Report.
Please contact us at: [email protected]
Ever wondered how and to what extent Nova Scotia's Environment Act is enforced? Or what information is publicly available to assess environmental law enforcement in Nova Scotia?
Check out ECELAW's new report "Failure to Enforce: Time for transparent and effective environmental enforcement". If you have an environmental enforcement story to share, get in touch and tell us.
ECELAW is pleased to release a guide to the legal aspects of wetland conservation in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The guide includes information about Nova Scotia's Environment Act, Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation, Nova Scotia's Wetland Conservation Policy, and HRM land-use by-laws and policies that impact wetland conservation. The guide walks readers through the steps required to determine whether a development on or near a wetland is lawful.
On May 1st, 2013 Nova Scotia Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, Sterling Belliveau, announced a plan to develop a new regulatory framework for the aquaculture industry in the province. This plan includes an extensive public consultation and information gathering process carried out by an independent two-person panel made up of Dalhousie law professors Meinhard Doelle and Bill Lahey. ECELAW has been participating in the public consultation and is available to assist other groups and organizations seeking to participate.
At the end of the process the Panel will submit to government an Aquaculture Regulatory Framework that will cover three themes: (1) sustainable-development; (2) social well-being; and (3) economic opportunity. The Panel has been given 12 to 18 months to complete consultations and research, and to report its findings. As one of the first steps, the Panel has been hosting community meetings across Nova Scotia to outline the process and identify issues and public concerns.
The mission and vision of ECELAW includes the development and fair application of innovative environmental laws for Atlantic Canadians. Providing input to the proposed regulatory framework for aquaculture in Nova Scotia fits with the ECELAW mandate. To that end, we will endeavor to participate in the process and provide support to other groups and organizations seeking to participate.
ECELAW has attended several community meetings to:
ECELAW will continue to engage in the regulatory review process as it progresses over the next year. ECELAW is seeking to input directly to the process through the proposed Round Table discussions, and to lend our support to community groups and to the broader environmental community by providing legal information and tools that might enhance their capacity to participate in the review process. For more information on the Aquaculture Regulatory Review, click here.
Please contact ECELAW if you or an environmental or community-based group you are part of is seeking legal information or support to assist your participation in the regulatory review process. In addition, feel free to be in touch with ECELAW if you have questions concerning the current regulation of aquaculture in Canada, the regulatory review process, or environmental law in general.
On May 1, 2013, ECELAW released its report entitled, Aquaculture Regulation in Nova Scotia: Overview of the Regulatory Framework and Considerations for Regulatory Reform. The report, prepared by Lisa J. Mitchell, highlights the strong need for appropriate regulation of the aquaculture industry to ensure that it operates sustainably, especially where the government supports industry growth. This Report provides an outline of the industry in Nova Scotia and an overview of the current federal and provincial regulatory framework. The Report identifies seven specific areas of consideration in the context of strengthening provincial regulation to make the industry more environmentally sustainable. This Report does not provide an in-depth analysis of aquaculture regulation in Nova Scotia; rather it provides an overview to serve as a foundation for that analysis, discussion and future regulatory reform.
ECELAW wishes to thank the Sage Environmental Program for funding this important Report.
To listen to an interview with environmental lawyer Lisa Mitchell regarding ECELAW's report on aquaculture regulation, please see the following link: http://habitatradio.ca/.
ECELAW’s new series addresses a key gap – the lack of published literature focused on environmental law issues specific to Atlantic Canada. The Series will consider papers on any aspect of environmental law in the Atlantic Provinces. In particular students are encouraged to submit research papers, but the editors also hope to provide a venue for legal scholars and practicing lawyers to publish research articles or opinion pieces in order to build up a body of material focusing on the East Coast.
In Provincial Coastal Management in Nova Scotia – A Legislative Review (OPS #1), author Jamie-Lynn Kraft looks at how the Province might use its existing legislative tools to manage the coast.
In Fish Pathogen and Pest Treatment Regulations (OPS #2), Zeynep Husrevoglu addresses the current regulatory uncertainty around the treatment of sea lice in salmon farming, and the need to balance stakeholder interestswhile also meeting Canada’s domestic and international legal obligations.
The third paper, Using Strategic Environmental Assessments to Guide Oil and Gas Exploration Decisions in the Beaufort Sea: Lessons Learned from Atlantic Canada (OPS #3), is a joint publication with the Canadian Institute of Resources Law. Authors Meinhard Doelle, Nigel Bankes, and Louie Porta examine how Strategic Environmental Assessments have been used on the East Coast to guide oil and gas decision-making, and their future application in the Arctic.
We value your feedback on this new venture, and welcome suggestions from potential future contributors.
David Boyd, leading environmental lawyer, launches new book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, in Halifax, November 5
East Coast Environmental Law, together with the Environmental Law Students Society and the Marine & Environmental Law Institute, Schulich School of Law, is pleased to host a presentation by David Boyd at 7 pm, Monday November 5, in Room 105, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University.
Canada has abundant natural wealth -- beautiful landscapes, vast forests, and thousands of rivers and lakes. The land defines Canadians as a people, yet the country has one of the worst environmental records in the industrialized world. Building on his previous book, The Environmental Rights Revolution (2012), David R. Boyd, one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, describes how recognizing the constitutional right to a healthy environment could have a transformative impact, empowering citizens, holding governments and industry accountable, and improving Canada's green record. David’s new book, The Right to a Healthy Environment, makes the case that constitutional recognition of environmental rights and responsibilities would both reflect and reinforce Canadian values, much as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms confirmed and enhanced our commitment to equality.
David Boyd’s book tour across Canada is supported by the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice.
David R. Boyd is one of Canada's leading environmental lawyers, an adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University, and an adviser on environmental policy to governments in Canada and Sweden. He is also an international expert on human rights and the environment, assisting countries from Iceland to Tunisia in securing constitutional protection for the right to a healthy environment.
East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) and Environmental Law Students Society, Schulich School of Law, are pleased to present a talk by Deborah Curran, Hakai Professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability, University of Victoria Faculty of Law, on "Green Real Estate". This event takes place between 12 and 1 pm, in Rom 104, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, 6061 University Avenue.
Deborah is a co-founder of Smart Growth B.C. and has worked for over 15 years with local government and community organizations to develop legal strategies for smart growth and sustainability.
PS Deborah is also presenting on "The Long History of Green Belts in BC" on October 4, a presentation sponsored by Our HRM Alliance (www.ourhrmalliance.ca)
East Coast Environmental Law is now a registered charity with the CRA. “We are excited about what this will mean for our ability to strengthen environmental law and provide environmental law resources throughout the region,” says Lesley Griffiths, ECELAW’s Executive Director. As a charity, ECELAW is now able to grant charitable donation receipts for donations given to their important work. Learn more about how to support ECELAW's work.
Another helpful resource provided by Ecojustice www.ecojustice.ca.The Ecojustice Environmental Hansard is an easy-to-use website that collects,organizes and distills federal political dialogue on our environment. With entries searchable by date, Member of Parliament, topic or text content, the Ecojustice Environmental Hansard makes Parliamentary debate accessible and transparent to the Canadian public, researchers and environmental community. The website is non-partisan and a useful tool for anyone interested in sustainability and the environment. Visit thesite at www.envirohansard.ca.
The 2012 federal budget bill, released in April, includes a proposed new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA 2012). Meinhard Doelle, Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University, has prepared a preliminary list of the key differences between CEAA 2003 and CEAA 2012 to help inform those interested in CEAA about some of the key changes contemplated, and to encourage a discussion of their implications for environmental assessment in Canada.
Today is Black Out Speak Out day and We arejoining hundreds of organizations North America-wide and many thousands of Canadians and speaking out for nature, democracy and human rights. Please join us by visiting http://blackoutspeakout.ca/ , signing the petition, and joining the campaign through email, Facebook and Twitter (#blackoutspeakout)
ECELAW (East Coast Environmental Law) www.ecelaw.ca and NSEN are partnering to begin a discussion regarding an NS Environmental Bill of Rights on May 8th, 7 pm, at Veith House, 3115 Veith Street, Halifax.
Nova Scotia would benefit from legislation that does the following:
90 countries have embraced the right to a healthy environment, and afford it the same legal protection as other core human rights like the right to liberty, security and equality. The time seems opportune to push for similar environmental protections in Nova Scotia given the recent legislative reviews and the announcement that Ecojustice has started a major environmental rights campaign.
PLEASE RSVP by May 1st by e-mailing Janelle: [email protected] or calling 902-454-6846 if you are able to attend in person or by conference call.
Thirty participants took part in ECELAW’s workshop on Environmental Assessment on November 26. Presenters included Greg Wilson, PEI Environment, Labour and Justice; Carolyn Peach Brown, UPEI; Laura Spurway, Peter Ghiz Law, and Peter Mushkat and Meinhard Doelle, ECELAW.
Find the companion publication, Environmental Assessment: Legal Toolkit for Prince Edward Island and to see the powerpoint presentations go to Our Services/Current Workshops/Workshop Archives on the website.
A special thanks to funder and partner, the Law Foundation of Prince Edward Island, to Laura Spurway for her work on the publication, and to Shannon Mader and Island Nature Trust for organizing logistics and publicizing the workshop. We hope to see you all next year!
East Coast Environmental Law is now a registered charity with the CRA. “We are excited about what this will mean for our ability to strengthen environmental law and provide environmental law resources throughout the region,” says Lesley Griffiths, ECELAW’s Executive Director. As a charity, ECELAW is now able to grant charitable donation receipts for donations given to their important work. For more information, click on ‘Support Us’ at the top of the home page.
The Nova Scotia Environment Act is up for a 5 year review and as part of the consultation process, ECELAW has provided comments to the Department. Our submission addresses some procedural issues related to the Review and closes with proposals for amendment of the Act related to strategic environmental assessment, environmental rights and access to justice.
Many of the proposals for amendment raised in the Department of Environment's discussion paper appear to be enhancements or improvements to the Act and are welcomed. However, some are vague and until specific language is proposed it is difficult to provide comment.
For more information on the Review, visit the NSE website at:
We hope to see you next year!
Ecojustice recently defended a small community group against a “SLAPP Suit” (Strategic Legal Action Against Public Participation) brought by a developer. The group voiced concerns about a large fill site proposed for its community. The group was concerned that the fill would erode into the stream and damage the sensitive fish habitat. It voiced these concerns in letters to politicians and at a town council meeting. The developer sued the group and two citizens (neighbours) for speaking out, claiming they had, amongst other things, defamed him. The trial judge dismissed the developer’s action summarily decision and ruled that the Society’s public statements about what could happen to the environment were not defamatory statements, but were “opinions on a matter of public interest.” As stated on Ecojustice’s website “[T]he decision confirms the public’s legal right to speak up when the environment is put in jeopardy. However, most people in the same situation are denied this justice. The cost to defend against these law suits can be prohibitively high, even when just seeking a quick dismissal.” The developer has appealed.
by DEBORAH CARVER
Published: 2011-07-14 The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia
During the last month, we have heard the objections of communities on Digby Neck to the development of large salmon farms in the waters of St. Mary's Bay. They have now appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to challenge the fisheries and aquaculture minister's decision to permit the farms. Also recently, there has been discussion of the Nova Scotia government's partnership with Newfoundland and Labrador to land the southern end of an electric transmission line, carrying power from the Lower Churchill hydro project, in Cape Breton. In the Annapolis Valley, the siting of a large number of wind turbines is running into complaints from cottage owners and from the military at CFB Cornwallis.
Each of these projects has been or is currently the subject of a process called environmental assessment (EA). This process examines the potential impacts of a project on the environment and predicts whether the impacts are unacceptable (in which case the project will not go ahead) or can be accommodated (in which case the project will proceed). Both the federal and provincial governments are required by legislation to use EA before approving new projects.
In each of these projects — salmon farming, a hydro transmission corridor, and wind turbines — the federal government is involved in the EA, despite their location within Nova Scotia. This is a result of our Canadian division of constitutional powers which means that some activities are under federal jurisdiction and require federal permission, even though the activity takes place within one province. Sometimes both levels of government are involved and decide whether they will co-operate or conduct the EA separately.
A curious aspect of these projects is that until a private-sector company made a specific proposal, having in each case chosen a location that suited its business interests, there was no opportunity for communities to be involved in making choices about their location and whether they are compatible with traditional occupations and the local environment. Although the EA process does allow opportunity for public consultation, it is limited in almost all EAs to submission of written comments.
More curious is that the province has not analyzed, with public input, the broad panoply of environmental, social and economic issues that surround these projects. The public has not been engaged in a discussion around how these industries can best contribute to a sustainable Nova Scotia. Should the province develop a sector of our economy that is based on ocean cage aquaculture, given the potential environmental risks and displacement of the traditional lobster fishery? Although wind generation is part of the necessary mix of renewable energy that we need in Nova Scotia, where can we best locate the projects?
It is equally unfair to the private-sector proponents as to the public that there has not been a dialogue at this level. The lack of discussion means that the proponent is the stalking horse, a target of public displeasure.
We have another approach available to us: strategic environmental assessment (SEA). This process is used globally to take a high-level planning approach rather than a project-by-project one to examining environmental impacts. However, SEA has been used only once in Nova Scotia: to analyze the opportunities for tidal power development in the Bay of Fundy.
In that case, a round table of stakeholders, after hearing from communities, scientists and industry, recommended that pilot tidal energy projects proceed. As a result, four turbines will be placed in the Minas Passage over the next year and their performance will be analyzed before next steps are taken.
The SEA process would be an equally effective one for thorough consideration of a variety of other new resource-based industries — wind energy, aquaculture, intensive agriculture, shale gas exploitation and coastal development. In each of these, there is a major juggling act required among new and traditional occupations; community self-determination and provincial leadership; short- and long-term economic benefit for the province; and the potential harm to wildlife, diversity and water quality. SEA could help address these big-picture issues before more projects are proposed and approved — and involve the public in the discussion.
Nova Scotians deserve to be asked the big questions and to be closely involved in how we accommodate the challenges presented in moving our economy forward while protecting the environment and the values and ways of life so precious to us.
Deborah Carver is executive director of East Coast Environmental Law Association. Environmental assessment, including SEA, is the subject of workshops in Halifax, July 20; Yarmouth, July 21-22; and Tatamagouche, July 25. For more information, visit www.ecelaw.ca.
ECELAW will be bringing you monthly updates on developments in environmental law. Further detail on any new cases or legislation can be found in our information library.
Case Law: Federal
David Suzuki Foundation v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries & Oceans)
Federal Court rebukes DFO for “reprehensible, scandalous or improper conduct”
In December 2010, Ecojustice won a precedent setting case that confirmed the federal government’s responsibility to protect everything that makes habitat healthy for whales, from pollution-free water to plentiful amounts of the salmon they need for food.
Ecojustice represented a consortium of environmental groups that brought two judicial review applications seeking to overturn DFO’s protection statement and protection orders for the Northern and Southern Resident Killer Whales. Ecojustice argued that the intention of the Species At Risk Act (“SARA”) was that once a species was designated as “endangered species” or a “threatened species”, DFO was required to protect the species’ critical habitat of species by law — not by government discretion. DFO argued that it should be allowed to rely on discretionary provisions. The Federal Court Judge found that DFO had acted unlawfully in limiting the application and scope of the protection orders made pursuant to s. 58(4) of SARA as DFO was required to protect the orcas’ critical habitat.
DFO has appealed one aspect of the ruling – which has not yet been decided. However, the Federal Court recently issued its judgment with respect to costs for the judicial review hearing and awarded the environmental groups represented by Ecojustice $80,000 in costs on a solicitor-client basis. Russell, J. found that the government “displayed reprehensible, scandalous or improper conduct that is deserving of reproof or rebuke” in the manner it conducted itself throughout the process of the judicial review applications.
Case Law: Nova Scotia
Parker Mountain Aggregates Limited v. Nova Scotia (Minister of Environment) et al., 2011 NSSC 134
Judicial Review under s. 138 Environment Act – Minister’s decision to suspend quarry approval upheld
Parker Mountail Aggregates Limited (“PMAL”) appealed the Minister of Environment’s decision to issue temporary approvals for the quarry and to then suspend the approval by stop-work order on October 30, 2009. Robertson, J. upheld the Minister’s decision finding that there was no breach of procedural fairness and the Minister had the discretion to issue temporary permits and stop-work orders given the duty to take action to manage and protect the environment.
PMAL received approval for the quarry in 1999 for 10 years but it was conditional on PMAL submitting a “legal property boundary survey outlining the area of the site… within two calendar months from the date of the issuance of the approval”. PMAL never submitted the survey and when they started preparing for blasting in 2009 neighbours complained that the site for the quarry had changed since the 1999 approval – which required the consent of adjacent neighbours. PMAL argued that its 1999 approval did not specify a particular active area for the quarry but NSE argued that it did because the consent of landowners within 800m was required and obtained. Since the survey was never submitted and PMAL was now changing its active site to a location nearer to the public road and neighbours, the NSE suspended its approval and required an amended application rather than a renewal. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia upheld the Minister’s decision.
Legislation: Nova Scotia
The Nova Scotia Legislature is sitting this month and considering the following Bills of interest: