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Tribute and Celebration: Meinhard’s Role in the Early Years of East Coast Environmental Law

This blog post by Jessie Irving, former Board Chair of East Coast Environmental Law, is the third in a Tribute and Celebration series that reflects on 15 years of East Coast Environmental Law and pays tribute to our friend and colleague Meinhard Doelle, who was instrumental in establishing the organization and encouraging advocacy for a more just and sustainable world.

December 5, 2022

I first met Meinhard the summer before I started law school in 2006. I had travelled to Halifax to look for an apartment and decided to check out the school while I was there. I had an interest in the Marine and Environmental Law Program and I recognized Meinhard’s name on his office door. I saw that he was in and tentatively knocked. He invited me to sit down and answered my questions. I don’t recall our exact conversation, but he was generous with his time and I remember leaving feeling good about my decision to start at Dalhousie in September.

Over the next three years, I got to know Meinhard as a professor and through his work with East Coast Environmental Law. I joined the Board as a student member in 2008, when the organization had just been formed. It was an exciting time to be involved. Meinhard shared his vision of what East Coast Environmental Law’s future could hold, and, along with other founding Board members, he navigated the path that would lead it there. 

Upon graduating in 2009, I rejoined the organization as a Board member and got to work with Meinhard while he served as Chair. Meinhard’s leadership was impressive. He brought together so many stakeholders that were instrumental to East Coast Environmental Law’s success – academics, environmental and community non-governmental organizations, funders, law practitioners, and students. When he stepped down from the Board in 2012 and I assumed the role of Chair, I remember feeling like the organization couldn’t survive without his guiding direction. But it did, and I believe he knew it was the right time for it to stand on its own. He was irreplaceable, but luckily seemed available whenever needed for questions, dialogue, and assistance.

When I think of Meinhard, I picture him with a quiet smile sitting behind his desk in the law school. I picture him strolling into a meeting room on campus with a reusable coffee mug in hand. I picture him listening, answering, and leading. And I picture a public interest environmental law organization focused on Atlantic Canada that is strong and sustainable 15 years later. Thank you Meinhard.  

Jessie Irving

Jessie Irving