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Summer Student Series 2020: Keira Lewis

August 11, 2020

I am so grateful to have had the incredible opportunity to complete an internship with the East Coast Environmental Law Association. I have always loved and admired the beauty, strength, and stability of the natural world. I have always cared deeply about the role the natural world plays in keeping the world not only healthy and balanced, but beautiful and meaningful. As such, I knew early on that I want to do everything I can to protect and restore the environment. As my education progressed, I also came to appreciate the deep importance of issues surrounding Indigenous peoples in Canada and how these issues so often intertwine with environmental issues. Eventually, I came to understand that law and policy play an integral role in both Indigenous and environmental issues. The law guides and influences everything that happens in our society. This means that if we can effect positive changes in the law, positive changes in society will follow. This is why my goal is to use the law as a tool for protecting the environment and pursuing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in Canada throughout my legal career. 

My internship with East Coast Environmental Law has been invaluable in this regard. I have gained a deeper understanding of how the law, including both policy and case law, can specifically influence environmental and Indigenous issues. This has greatly helped me understand how I can specifically use the law throughout my legal career to help address these issues. 

This internship has also helped me appreciate that public education is key to effecting real change. In our democratic society, citizens have great power to influence the way things are done in our country. People need to know about environmental and Indigenous issues and understand the legal principles associated with these issues before we can begin making real strides towards addressing them. This is why it was so rewarding for me to spend my internship working on various projects having to do with public education around some of the legal elements of Indigenous and environmental issues.

My work had two main focuses. The first focus was on Aboriginal and Indigenous law. I spent time reviewing the Aboriginal and Indigenous law section of East Coast Environmental Law’s online Information Library to ensure the important case law was present. I also wrote briefs for cases that hadn’t yet been added to the library. In addition to hopefully helping this resource be more useful for the public, I also gained valuable legal research and writing skills as I practiced finding and briefing cases. 

The second focus of my work was on issues surrounding the right to a healthy environment. This part of my internship deepened my understanding of what environmental rights are and why they are important. It helped me understand what legal avenues may be available to achieve real, positive changes to the health of communities and the environment in Nova Scotia. 

Overall, my internship with East Coast Environmental Law has been incredibly rewarding. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the amazing team of lawyers at East Coast Environmental Law and to participate in a small way in the critically important work that they do. My time with East Coast Environmental Law has inspired me even more to pursue solutions to environmental and Indigenous issues throughout my legal career. I also know that it has provided me with many practical tools that I will need throughout my legal education and career. 

Keira Lewis

Keira's work with us was funded by the Schulich Alumni Internship Program: a summer internship program administered by the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.