The Importance of Signs

December 13, 2016

Dear Friends,

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.”


I wonder if the signs will be as effective with the politicians as they have with our 11-year old.   There does appear to be a lot of forgetfulness (or denial) on the part of our political representatives. As  public interest environmental lawyer, I see at least part of our role as using the law to draw attention to important signs.  

Law StudentAt ECELAW we start with the future.  This year we have mentored more than 10 law students at Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick, and York University.  We build relationships with the future of the legal profession. Whether they are future lawyers for ECELAW or ExxonMobil, the value is in the foundation we create with them.

From the right to a healthy environment to improving environmental impact assessment law, ECELAW has been very active this year in creating stronger environmental laws.  Of course, good environmental laws are only valuable if they are enforced.  

At ECELAW we consider better enforcement of environmental law to be critical.  Whether it is the blue-green algae plaguing the lakes in the Carleton River Watershed or the contaminated drinking water in Harrietsfield we know that the failure to enforce environmental law is often at the coBluegreen algaere these impacts.

Our government is still not meeting critically important commitments with regard to their own laws to protect endangered species or follow through with the Natural Resources Strategy.  ECELAW has been working with citizens on these issues and many more, using the tools we have to hold government accountable for the choices and decisions they make on our behalf.  

We provide advice and support, we meet with government, we lobby for change, and we go to court.  We are working to shift resources and decision-making toward long-term sustainability.  

Today in Nova Scotia, my 11-year old daughter only has to remember her instrument, but for some children that sign may one day read “Don’t forget to pick up water” or “Don't forget to put on your mask before going outside.”  Let’s pay attention to the signs and do all that we can to ensure a future for our children and their children that includes a clean and healthy environment.

Thank you for supporting this important work and wishing much progress in 2017.

Happy Holidays.


In Solidarity,

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Lisa Mitchell

Executive Director & Senior Lawyer

East Coast Environmental Law

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