September 13, 2021
I was fortunate to be accepted for an internship with East Coast Environmental Law this summer. It has been an impactful learning experience observing the team’s contribution to promoting environmental protection and sustainability.
Going into the internship, I had limited experience with environmental law. During my Master’s Degree at the University of Saskatchewan, I was first introduced to environmental racism, especially in Latin America, stemming from the impacts of mining industries. This opened my eyes to the tremendous destruction that human activities impose on culture and the environment. In my second year of law school, I was largely impacted by the “African Nova Scotians and the Law” course taught at Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law by Professor Michelle Williams. During that course, my knowledge of environmental racism deepened and inspired me to pursue opportunities to help protect the environment, and especially to protect vulnerable communities threatened by environmental degradation. This summer proved to be an exciting opportunity to learn about environmental theories, concepts, and regimes that I would not have been exposed to otherwise.
Under the supervision of Tina Northrup, one of East Coast Environmental Law’s staff lawyers, I conducted legal research about Prince Edward Island’s legislative approach to environmental assessments, and how they apply when building or modifying structures—such as fish processing plants or manure storage facilities—that may impact environmental health. My project required me to research several areas of environmental law pertaining to environmental assessment, to examine federal and provincial statutes, and to identify and synthesize notable case law. I also assessed the effectiveness of the environmental assessment regime and its ability to protect the environment, residents, history, and culture. My work provided me with insight into the discretionary decisions that are made when approaching sensitive environmental areas and human activities, and it exposed me to areas in the PEI legislative regime that need improvement. I learned about how PEI’s regime compares to the legislation for environmental assessments in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and New Brunswick, and that deepened my understanding of the common and unique approaches to environmental assessment in the Atlantic region. My work also provided me with further opportunity to polish my legal writing skills. My research contributions will be used to develop a public legal education workshop that will be hosted on PEI in the autumn of 2021.
Additionally, I had the pleasure of working closely with another staff lawyer, Mike Kofahl, on the highly anticipated Coastal Protection Act regulations in Nova Scotia. The Coastal Protection Act and its proposed regulations are intended to provide greater legislative oversight for development along the province’s coast and to provide protection for sensitive coastal ecosystems. I gained experience in reviewing multi-jurisdictional materials addressing protections for Nova Scotia's coast. I was able to attend a stakeholder meeting with the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Climate Change and the Ecology Action Centre ("EAC"). The EAC is another local organization that has been heavily involved with the development of the Coastal Protection Act, and I also had the opportunity to meet with some of its staff and team members to learn more about their perspectives on the proposed regulations for the Coastal Protection Act. I look forward to seeing the future contributions that East Coast Environmental Law and the EAC will make to the proposed Coastal Protection Act regulations.
Throughout my summer internship, I was fortunate to learn from the wider East Coast Environmental Law team and other summer students through our weekly staff meetings. These provided a forum for dialogue about the team’s ongoing work in a supportive, collaborative approach in pursuit of environmental protection. The team members’ passion, expertise, and dedication to their work was inspiring, and I was exposed to other topics and concepts like environmental restorative justice, aquaculture in Nova Scotia, and the public trust doctrine.
My time with East Coast Environmental Law was an insightful experience in which I increased my understanding about environmental concerns beyond the impacts of people, the legal frameworks that contribute to environmental protection, and various political and practical barriers to protecting our already-vulnerable world. Further, I was given the space to refine my legal research, writing, and editing skills as they applied to an unfamiliar area of the law. Most importantly, the work I contributed has opened my understanding about additional opportunities and unique paths that a legal career can provide. My time at East Coast Environmental Law was the highlight of my summer and has inspired me to consider new options, perceptions, and solutions to protecting the vast beauty by which we are all surrounded. I intend to provide continued support to East Coast Environmental Law in its fight for environmental justice and look forward to their future achievements in their dedication to protecting the environment in Atlantic Canada and beyond.
Courtney's work with us was funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program.