STATEMENT: Province to Assess Harrietsfield Contaminated Site, ECELAW Reaction
June 13, 2018
The province of Nova Scotia announced yesterday that it will take action to assess a former construction and demolition site, RDM Recycling, in Harrietsfield, Halifax Regional Municipality.
Last month, ECELAW Executive Director, Lisa Mitchell, joined community member Marlene Brown and others at a Harrietsfield community meeting where all levels of government were in attendance. After hearing the lived experiences and concerns of Harrietsfield residents, Environment Minister Iain Rankin has invoked his authority under the Environment Act to carry out the terms of two Ministerial orders issued in 2016. The Ministerial orders instruct the companies responsible for the site to carry out an assessment of the contamination and deliver a remediation plan. The responsible parties have not complied with the orders and a prosecution of that matter is currently underway.
The province has stated that Nova Scotia Lands Inc. will commission a site assessment to determine the degree of contamination, the expected timeline and the projected financial cost of remediation.
Local resident Marlene Brown has worked tirelessly on behalf of her community for more than a decade to see the site remediated and ensure safe water quality for Harrietsfield. ECELAW has been standing with the community of Harrietsfield for more than 5 years, through 3 appeals to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the first private environmental prosecution in this province, launched last year. This past year alone we have witnessed many delays, including 12 court adjournments.
“This has been a long journey and we are pleased to hear Minister Rankin’s commitment. We look forward to an open dialogue with government as work gets underway to address the site”, says ECELAW Executive Director Lisa Mitchell, We were encouraged by Minister Rankin’s participation at the Harrietsfield community meeting, and it is clear that he has taken the concerns of the residents into regard.”
The provincial public prosecution against the parties responsible for the former RDM Recycling site remains unaffected by the upcoming site assessment. The next court date is scheduled for June 19.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director | East Coast Environmental Law 1-902-670-1113 (mobile)
In June 2012, Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. began operating an Atlantic Salmon farm in the waters of Port Wade, within 200 meters of Ron Neufeld and Kathaleen Milan’s backyard. Ron and Kathaleen noticed that the company had placed anchors for its salmon cages outside the boundaries of its lease. Later they witnessed the distribution of medicated feed and observed some of the medicated feed falling outside the parameters of the pen. They also witnessed broken feed lines blowing medicated feed outside the cages.
In January 2014 and in February and March 2015, mass mortalities occurred at the lease near Ron and Kathaleen’s property and at other leases near Shelburne. Ron and Kathaleen witnessed bloody water and offal being discharged back into Shelburne Harbour and Jordan Bay from two seine boats that were used to collect the dead fish. Later they observed fish pieces and a substance resembling lard coating areas of the salt marsh and the rocks along the shore.
As these events unfolded, Ron and Kathaleen made five Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP) applications to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture (DFA) requesting information about Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd.’s lease and operations. Very little of that requested information was released.
Nova Scotia’s FOIPOP legislation exists “to ensure that public bodies are fully accountable to the public.” Subject to certain restrictions and exemptions, its mandate is to “facilitate informed public participation in policy formulation” and “ensure fairness in government decision-making.”
Ron and Kathaleen requested that Catherine Tully, Nova Scotia’s Privacy Commissioner, review the decision by the Department not to release the requested information. In April 2017, Catherine Tully released a report recommending that all of the information requested by Ron and Kathaleen be disclosed.
The DFA decided not to follow Ms. Tully’s recommendations. In June 2017, Ron and Kathaleen initiated an appeal of that decision in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.
About Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. and the Salmon Farming Industry
Kelly Cove Salmon Ltd. is the only aquaculture company currently known to be operating in Nova Scotia. It is a subsidiary of New Brunswick based Cooke Aquaculture, the same aquaculture company whose operations were banned by the State of Washington in March of 2018 due to lax environmental practices, negligence, operating outside of its leased areas and improper maintenance to company infrastructure . Cooke Aquaculture is the fifth largest industrial salmon farming company in the world.
Cooke Aquaculture has monopolized virtually all aspects of the aquaculture industry in Atlantic Canada and Maine, including farming, packaging, and distribution. It is assumed that the bulk of provincial government funding that is allocated to the aquaculture industry is dispensed to Cooke Aquaculture.
REVISED REVIEW REPORT 17-03 DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES & AQUACULTURE
In her April 2017 report, Privacy Commissioner Catherine Tully reviewed the documents requested by Ron and Kathaleen in their five FOIPOP applications to determine if there was merit to the claim by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture that the requested information was sensitive and commercial third party information. The requests were reviewed together under one investigation because they were related.
The report concluded that Kelly Cove failed to establish that their veterinary and lab reports were supplied in confidence. The report listed a number of recommendations, including that all information requested by Ron and Kathaleen be released and that changes to the freedom of information law were required. The amendments that Ms. Tully proposed would grant the Privacy Commissioner the power to intervene in court cases to defend a decision in order to ensure better government compliance, public accountability and transparency.
Another recommendation was made to give the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner the legal authority to require the release of information, rather than simply making recommendations to the corresponding government department to release information. The recommendations made in Ms. Tully’s report have been largely ignored.
Click here to read media coverage of the Report
Click here to read the Full Report
A NEW REGULATORY FRAMEWORK FOR LOW IMPACT/HIGH VALUE AQUACULTURE IN NOVA SCOTIA: THE FINAL REPORT OF THE INDEPENDANT AQUACULTURE REGULATORY REVIEW FOR NOVA SCOTIA
In 2014, The Final Report of the Independent Aquaculture Regulatory Review for Nova Scotia was released by Meinhard Doelle and William Lahey. The report concluded that a reestablishment of the aquaculture industry’s foundational regulations is necessary in order to address the Report’s reasonable concerns. The Doelle-Lahey Report identified the need for high value/ low impact on economic prosperity and environmental wellbeing. The Report also recommended that more incentives be implemented to encourage aquaculture operations to cultivate a working relationship with nearby communities. In order to address the need for greater transparency and the current disregard by aquaculture operations for valuing social license, the Report stated, "We recommend that members of the public be provided with an opportunity set out in legislation to apply to have a lease revoked where there is clear evidence of biophysical unsuitability of the site, or where there is a clear pattern of substantial non-compliance with terms and conditions of the licence... Regulations and licence requirements must be enforced. Penalties must be significant to act as a deterrent. Ongoing lack of compliance should be associated with lease termination."
The Report also asserted that the current regulatory framework for aquaculture is extremely discrete and provides inadequate transparency throughout the regulatory process. The very regulatory process that manages aquaculture as it is practiced needs to be revised to address these failures to disclose information to the public. The Report suggested that the roles and decision making responsibilities of the DFA need to be firmly delineated between those promoting industry growth and those employed to improve the regulatory process governing the industry. Transfer of the responsibility to monitor changes through the Environmental Monitoring Program from the DFA to the Department of Environment was recommended in order to discourage biased action by decision makers of the industry.
2018 SPRING REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT TO THE PARLIAMENT OF CANADA. REPORT 1- SALMON FARMING
In April 2018, Julie Gelfand, Canada’s Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, produced a new report on the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and aquaculture. The Report’s findings reinforce many of Kathaleen and Ron’s concerns toward aquaculture activities. The Report concluded that there are no current national standards for nets and other equipment to prevent escapes, nor are there limitations on the drugs or pesticides that fish farms are able to administer to treat diseases such as sea lice. The Report also underscored that the DFO has neglected to complete risk assessments for key known diseases and is not actively working to address new and emerging diseases. Not only is the DFO inadequately enforcing regulations to minimize the impact of aquaculture of wild fish, but the DFO is not monitoring the health of wild fish.
Ms. Gelfand also noted that DFO funding allocated to research related to fish farms was much greater than financial contributions to research efforts to monitor fish farm impacts, and she stated: “The department is at risk for being seen to be promoting aquaculture over the protection of wild fish.”
ADDITIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE ON COOKE AQUACULTURE'S PRESENCE IN WASHINGTON STATE
Click here for the Chronicle Herald's article, "Cooke Aquaculture found negligent in Washington state, lease cancelled"
Click here for the Chronicle Herald's article, "Washington Legislature phases out Atlantic salmon farming with bill targetted at Cooke Aquaculture"
ADDITIONAL MEDIA COVERAGE ON GOVERNMENT LOANS AND DEBT FORGIVENESS HISTORY FOR COOKE AQUACULTURE IN NOVA SCOTIA
Click here for the CBC's article, "How funding university research could mean less debt for Cooke Aquaculture"
SUPPORTIVE ECELAW REPORTS ON AQUACULTURE
A HISTORY OF KELLY COVE OPERATIONS AS DOCUMENTED BY KATHALEEN MILAN AND RON NEUFELD
Click here for Kathaleen and Ron's youtibe video that documents the multi-day removal of an estimated 80+ tonnes of dead salmon from the cages at Port Wade which was reportedly was caused by the cold.
Click here for Kathaleen and Ron's youtube video of the blood water and decomposing fish being pumped through a seiner at McNutts Island on March 5, 2015.
Click here for Kathaleen and Ron's youtube video which documents what washed ashore on March 11, 2015.
ECELAW invites applications for a 12-week Summer Student position to be held between June 11th and August 31st, 2018. The successful applicant will undertake two distinct projects, as described below.
ECELAW is an environmental law charity. From our offices in Halifax, we work throughout Atlantic Canada to secure a clean, healthy environment through public legal education, community collaboration, and legal action. ECELAW’s Summer Student will work to enhance the organization’s public education programming by helping to develop a community legal clinic and an interactive session designed to teach high school students about environmental law.
Project I: Prince Edward Island Water Clinic (8 weeks)
ECELAW aims to deliver a community legal clinic in Prince Edward Island, focusing on the province’s Water Act and corresponding regulations. To support the development of this clinic, the Summer Student will:
Student work on the Prince Edward Island Water Clinic project is funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program.
Project II: Youth to Youth – Law and Environment (4 weeks)
ECELAW aims to deliver a 1-day interactive session on environmental law directed at high school students and facilitated by law students. The dual purpose of the session is to expose high school students to the role of law and policy in environmental matters and create mentorship opportunities between law school students and other youth. To support the development of this session, the Summer Student will:
Student work on the Youth to Youth – Law and Environment Project is funded by the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.
Summer students funded by the Canada Summer Jobs program must: be between 15 and 30 years of age (inclusive) at the start of employment; have been registered as full-time students during the 2017-2018 academic year; intend to return to school on a full-time basis during the 2018-2019 academic year; be Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or persons on whom refugee protection has been conferred under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and be legally entitled to work in Nova Scotia.
The ECELAW Summer Student position is open to all law students who meet these requirements.
Applications should include a cover letter and CV, and should be sent electronically as a single .pdf file to [email protected] Cover 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 Monday, June 4th, 2018.
May 11, 2018
HALIFAX — A public meeting that will include federal, provincial and municipal politicians will take place
to discuss the ongoing water crisis in Harrietsfield. The meeting has been organized by long-time
Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown and will be chaired by environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson.
Environment Minister Iain Rankin has agreed to attend the meeting to listen to residents’ concerns.
The following speakers will address a range of topics, including the history of contaminated water in the
community, the status of the provincial prosecution, the community water monitoring pilot project, and
municipal drinking water infrastructure.
Marlene Brown, Harrietsfield Resident for 45 years
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director, ECELAW
Judith Guernsey, Professor of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie
Stephen Adams, HRM Councillor District 11
Andy Fillmore, MP Halifax
Michele Raymond, Former MLA Halifax Atlantic
Brendan Maquire, MLA Halifax Atlantic
Date: Monday, May 14 2018
Time: 7:00-8:30 pm
Location: Harrietsfield Williamswood Community Center (1138 Old Sambro Rd)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Marlene Brown, Harrietsfield Resident
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director | East Coast Environmental Law
Jamie Simpson, Lawyer | Juniper Law
ECELAW PHOTO DONATION DRIVE
The East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW) wants to expand its photo library, and we need the expertise and keen eyes of photographers who have a knack for capturing the essences of Atlantic Canadian environments.
Whether you prefer exploring manufactured landscapes or elements of the natural world, we would be grateful to receive donated images that speak to the diverse areas in which we conduct our work, including areas such as forestry, endangered species, aquaculture, coastal and ocean protection, and sustainable livelihoods.
As an environmental law charity, ECELAW is sustained by the generosity of its supporters and volunteers. By donating photographs for ECELAW to use freely, you will help to foster the work we do throughout Atlantic Canada to safeguard clean and healthy environments and strong environmental laws.
All donated photographs that we use in our print or online materials will be fully credited. If you are a photographer looking for more exposure, we would also be happy to mention a preferred social media account where more of your work can be viewed.
To donate photographs, please send them as individual attachments to [email protected]
By donating a photograph to ECELAW, you agree that ECELAW can use the photograph in any of its print or online materials and that ECELAW is free to alter the photograph by cropping.
This workshop will be hosted by Canadian Coastal Resiliance Forum. Experts and professionals from across a multitude of sectors and disciplines will come together to discuss measures for flood risk management and reduction in a changing climate. The focus of this workshop will be on issues that are relevant to Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada. The topics discussed in the workshop will inform a policy brief directed at the provincial and federal governments, and convey which type of actions should be taken to improve flood risk management in Nova Scotia.
DATE: Wednesday June 13, 2018
TIME: 8:30am - 3:15pm
ADDRESS: Halifax Convention Centre (Room TBD) 1650 Argyle Street Halifax, NS B3J0E6
ADMISSION: Attendance is free. Please register as space is limited.
Registration and the full workshop agenda can be found here.
Workshop participants will be served coffee, lunch, and light refreshments.
STATEMENT: Federal Court dismisses NAFTA tribunal case, environmental groups react
May 3, 2018
OTTAWA – East Coast Environmental Law, Sierra Club Canada and Ecojustice issued the following statement in response to the Federal Court’s dismissal of Canada’s case challenging a landmark arbitral award brought under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Chapter 11 provision by an American corporation:
Lisa Mitchell, East Coast Environmental Law’s Executive Director said:
“While we are disappointed that the Federal Court dismissed Canada’s case, we’re more alarmed by the chilling message it sends: That even when the Canadian government makes good decisions to protect our environment, there’s a chance a NAFTA tribunal could swoop in, decide our environmental laws are ’unfair’, and force Canada to pay hundreds of millions of dollars — leaving Canadian taxpayers on the hook and the environment at risk.”
Gretchen Fitzgerald, Sierra Club Canada’s National Program Director said:
“We have been there since the beginning, fighting to protect our communities and to ensure international trade agreements do not supersede the health of Canadians or interfere with our environmental assessment laws and protections.
As canada is renegotiating NAFTA and parliament is evaluating a Bill designed to make environmental assessments credible again, this decision comes at a critical moment. Canada must now look to fix NAFTA to protect the environment and the right of Canadians to reject damaging projects by getting rid of the Chapter 11.
We remain committed to continuing to push government to strengthen our environmental laws, and to close the trade loophole in ongoing NAFTA negotiations to prevent issues like this in the future.”
Amir Attaran, Ecojustice lawyer said:
“As environmentalists our worst fears have been confirmed that NAFTA can override Canada’s right to protect its own environment. This decision points to the extreme urgency of killing Chapter 11 investor-state dispute resolution in the NAFTA renegotiation.
“We stand by the fact that NAFTA tribunals are only supposed to decide questions of NAFTA law. The NAFTA tribunal in this case went outside its realm of expertise to rule on a matter of Canadian law, and now Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for half a billion dollars to a single company. That’s enough money to pay the salaries of at least 7,000 nurses or teachers for one year. There is clearly a problem with NAFTA and its investment protection chapter.”
Represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, East Coast Environmental Law and the Sierra Club Canada appeared as interveners in the legal proceedings. The groups argued that the NAFTA tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction when it made a determination on what a Canadian environmental assessment panel can decide and found Canada liable for damages — which Bilcon claims is upwards of $500 million.
FOR MORE INFROMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Lisa Mitchell, executive director | East Coast Environmental Law
Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director | Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Amir Attaran, lawyer | Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa
Check out our recent apprearance in Canada Helps' latest blog post! You'll be hearing from 8 charities across Canada as they express the significance of Earth Day to their organization.
Today, April 22nd, we come together in celebration and recognition of our responsibility as stewards of the environment for all walks of life, for today and for generations to come.
Happy Earth Day everyone!
April 29th, 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Saint Stephen's Perish, 54 Regent Street, Chester
Admission is free
This upcoming event, hosted by the Ecology Action Centre and ECELAW, will explore how the newly announced Coastal Protection Act would serve coastal communities. The presentation will inturpret how a Coastal Protection Act could facilitate resiliance in coastal communities as they cope with uncertainty, climate change, and coastal flooding.
The Council of Canadians and the Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia (CPONS) are hosting two upcoming events in Shelburne and Lunenburg. See details below.
BP, the company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, plans to start exploratory drilling in offshore Nova Scotia this spring.
The Council of Canadians and friends are hosting town hall events in Lunenburg and Shelburne to share information about BP’s plans and to mobilize in defense of our coasts and communities.
Antonia Juhasz, author of Black Tide: the Devastating Impact of the Gulf Oil Spill.
Colin Sproul, fifth generation lobster fisherman and spokesperson for Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association
Peter Puxley, member of Campaign to Protect Offshore Nova Scotia
Shelburne (facebook event): March 21, 7:00pm. Shelburne Regional High School, 415 Woodlawn Drive
Lunenburg (facebook event): March 22, 7:00pm. Lunenburg FIre Hall, 25 Medway Street
For more information:
Want more details and background material for the tour? Go to https://canadians.org/cpons.
ECELAW is seeking a motivated individual with a passion for the environment and environmental justice to join our Board of Directors in the role of Treasurer. Full description below.
About the East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW):
ECELAW is an environmental law charity. From our office in Halifax, we work throughout Atlantic Canada seeking a clean, healthy environment through public legal education, collaboration and legal action.
ECELAW provides information, education and research around environmental law to Atlantic Canadians by:
The Board of Directors meets roughly 6 times per year, on a bi-monthly schedule. Board meetings run approximately 1.5 hours. The Executive meets every 4 weeks, in person or by phone, for 1 hour.
Treasurer Position Description:
Anticipated Treasurer Time Commitments:
Conversations on climate action, good jobs, and rights for workers and Indigenous communities.
February 27th, 6:30pm – 8:45pm
2158 Gottingen St., Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre
Nova Scotia needs new goals for climate action, and a new way of looking at climate justice. Groups have called for public engagement on the development of two wide-reaching pieces of climate and environmental policy with the Government of Nova Scotia: the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act and cap-and-trade regulations. The development of these policies provides an opportunity to build a stronger coalition and mobilize to call for goals that will get us closer to climate justice in 2030.
This event will feature a roundtable of speakers from various perspectives on climate change, workers’ transition, Indigenous rights, and other important aspects of climate justice, who will speak to how they imagine climate justice in Mi’kma’ki in 2030. Following the discussion, audience members will be invited to host or participate in small-group discussions about opportunities to act, participate, and mobilize.
Dorene Bernard, Grassroots Grandmothers
Laura Cutmore, Dalhousie Student Union Sustainability Office and Divest Dal
Christine Saulnier, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Sam Krawec, Halifax-Dartmouth & District Labour Council, NSGEU, Solidarity Halifax
Rodney Small, Common Good Solutions
Robin Tress, Council of Canadians
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2018
NAFTA tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction when it made determination on what a Canadian environmental assessment panel can decide, groups say.
OTTAWA — Environmental groups are in court today to help Canada challenge a landmark arbitral award brought under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Chapter 11 provision by American corporation, Bilcon.
A NAFTA tribunal held Canada liable for rejecting a bid by Bilcon to build a gravel quarry in the ecologically sensitive coastal area of Digby Neck, N.S. It is estimated that Canada would have to pay more than $500 million, just for protecting the environment in accordance with Canadian law.
“NAFTA tribunals are only supposed to decide questions of NAFTA law,” said Amir Attaran, lawyer at Ecojustice’s law clinic at the University of Ottawa. “They have no business deciding Canadian law and least of all, ordering Canadian taxpayers to compensate an American corporation because its proposed project threatened the environment. We expect the Federal court to put the NAFTA tribunal in its proper place.”
Represented by lawyers from Ecojustice, East Coast Environmental Law (ECELAW) and the Sierra Club Canada will appear as interveners during the legal proceedings.
“Bilcon had the opportunity to have a Canadian court rule on the federal government’s rejection of its project. Instead the company chose to sue Canada for its decision to follow an independent environmental assessment panel’s recommendation to prioritize protecting communities and the environment, and reject the quarry project,” said Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law. “If the tribunal’s decision is allowed to stand, it would signal to local communities that no matter how much damage a project might do, their concerns can be essentially overruled by a NAFTA tribunal decision, at great financial cost.”
Bilcon’s proposal for a 120 hectare quarry on Digby Neck, N.S. was to be located 50 metres from the shoreline to facilitate shipping across the Bay of Fundy. This increase in shipping traffic in an ecologically-sensitive environment could put important species, like the endangered North Atlantic right whale, in harm's way — one of the serious threats considered by the environmental assessment panel.
“If government is committed to strengthening our environmental laws, Canada must reverse this decision and close the trade loophole in ongoing NAFTA negotiations,” said Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director of the Sierra Club Canada Foundation. “International trade agreements should not supersede the health of Canadians or interfere with our environmental assessment laws and protections.”
Members of ECELAW and Sierra Club Canada Foundation were full participants in the Joint Review Panel that resulted in the decision to reject the proposed quarry — partly on the basis of its adverse impact on the ‘core values’ of the affected communities. The groups provided information and support to the community, brought the concerns to the attention of the public and engaged with experts to provide valuable input on the ecological and socio-economic impacts of the coastal quarry.
For more information, access our backgrounder here.
Amir Attaran, lawyer | Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa | [email protected]
Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director | East Coast Environmental Law 1-902-670-1113 (mobile) | [email protected]
Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director | Sierra Club Canada Foundation 1-902-444-7096 (mobile) | [email protected]
In the 1984 Hiberina Reference the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Newfoundland does not have jurisdiction over the continental shelf. That decision led the federal government and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to negotiate a legal regime to ensure the province would benefit financially from the development of offshore oil and gas resources. The Atlantic Accord was signed in 1985 and formed the basis for the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act.
The Dalhousie Black Law Students' Association, Dalhousie Indigenous Law Students' Association, Environmental Law Students' Society, and Halifax Central Library invite you to join them for a panel discussion on environmental racism in Nova Scotia.
Hear about grassroots and community efforts to resist and seek redress for environmental injustices, and learn about the legal tools that exist—or could be created—to support them.
Featuring Rosalie Francis (Burchells LLP), Sara Seck (Schulich School of Law), and Louise Delisle (Community of Shelburne).
When: Tuesday, January 30th, from 6:30-8:30 PM
Where: Paul O'Regan Hall, Halifax Central Library
Light refreshments provided.
Infants and children welcome: child care will be available at no cost.
Find more information on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/
ECELAW is thrilled to see Executive Director Lisa Mitchell profiled in a Canadian Lawyer article on environmental non-profits in Canada.
"Lisa Mitchell, the only full-time staff lawyer at ECELAW in Halifax, grew up in rural areas and had early ambitions to be a veterinarian. She became a lawyer instead and then did a masters in environmental studies, including many science courses, all with a view to environmental protection. Now, with many years of private practice behind her and acting as both the executive director and senior lawyer for the clinic, she still spends much time educating herself about the science of the issues ECELAW takes on. She also acts as fundraiser (it does not get legal aid), communications professional, government liaison and public outreach. 'It is certainly big,' she says, when asked about the range of functions her role entails."
Want to read more about the trials and triumphs of practicing law in the non-profit sector? Read the full article here.
K’JIPUKTUK/HALIFAX – What would a different conversation about the relationship between race, place, space, and the environment in Indigenous and African Nova Scotian 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, the built environment, urban planning, planning policies, gentrification, and justice? What are the possible public health advocacy responses to existing or proposed industrial projects and other place-based concerns in Indigenous and African Nova Scotian communities?
On Thursday, October 26, 2017 and Friday, October 27, 2017, Dr. Ingrid Waldron (Associate Professor, Faculty of Health, Dalhousie University), the Environmental Noxiousness, Racial Inequities & Community Health Project (ENRICH) and Dalhousie’s Healthy Populations Institute (HPI) will host Over the Line: A Conversation About Race, Place & The Environment. This free two-part public and academic symposium, which will be hosted by Charla Williams, will bring together American, Nova Scotian, and Canadian experts to engage in a solution-based, cross-cultural conversation about the relationship between race, place, space, and the environment in Indigenous and Black communities.
Dr. Waldron has been researching the socio-economic, political, and health effects of the relationship between race, place, and the environment in African Nova Scotian and Mi’kmaq communities over the last several years, focusing specifically on gentrification in Halifax’s North End and environmental racism in rural Mi’kmaq and African Nova Scotian communities. In her forthcoming book There’s Something in the Water: Environmental Racism & The Politics of Place & Waste in Indigenous & Black Communities, she notes that “it is important to shed light on the ways in which industry owners carve out spatialities of profit that ultimately lead to possession, dispossession, and displacement”. For example, she observes that the expropriation of Indigenous lands, the formation of neighbourhoods that are segregated by income and race, so-called “neighbourhood revitalization” projects that gentrify low-income racialized areas, and the disproportionate location of polluting industries and other environmentally dangerous projects in Indigenous and Black communities worldwide illustrate the extent to which “race is central to the constitution of space, and to the ways in which discourses about immorality, deviance, pathology, and criminality come to be associated with non-White communities.”
Symposium speakers will discuss what Nova Scotian, Canadian, and American community members, professors, researchers, students, environmental organizations and other NGOs, health professionals, and policymakers can learn from one another about using research, policy, and community advocacy and activism to address the social, economic, and health impacts of the relationship between race, place, space, and the environment in Indigenous and Black communities.
The symposium will kick off with a lecture by the "father of environmental justice" Dr. Robert Bullard (Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning & Environmental Policy, Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Southern University) on Thursday, October 26, and continue the following day with a keynote from Dr. George Lipsitz (Department of Black Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara) as well as presentations and panels from a diverse array of American, Nova Scotian, and Canadian speakers on Friday, October 27.
For more information and to register, please see the Facebook Event Page: https://tinyurl.com/y9qedgop
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.