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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

Event Poster JPG Version 3

DSCF0515In 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.

Tina Northrup



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!

RW Workshop Poster Halifax Oct 12 14 Final

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:

Bill Ernst

Environment Canada retiree

[email protected], 902-865-5771

Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper

Conservation Council of New Brunswick

[email protected]


Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director

East Coast Environmental Law Association

[email protected] 902-670-1113

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