Our Story

Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl

East Coast Environmental Law envisions a future in which innovative and effective environmental laws foster flourishing ecosystems and healthy environments in Atlantic Canada for generations to come and enable all of us to access environmental justice equitably, free of barriers caused by colonialism, racism, and poverty.

We take a dynamic approach to environmental advocacy in Atlantic Canada. By engaging with diverse individuals, groups, and communities in our region, we work to ensure that environmental laws and policies throughout Atlantic Canada are founded on responsible, transparent, proactive, and inclusive decision-making.

Where We Began

After many years of work and a previous attempt to establish a similar organization, East Coast Environmental Law was incorporated as a Nova Scotia Society in April 2007 with the name East Coast Environmental Law Association (2007).

In the words of the first Board Chair, Meinhard Doelle:

“The East Coast Environmental Law Association (ECELAW) is the product of years of hard work by students and faculty at Dalhousie, environmental law practitioners and the environmental community in Nova Scotia. It fills a long time gap, as Atlantic Canada was the only region of the country not being served by a not for profit environmental law organization.” (ECELAW Annual Report, 2008)

East Coast Environmental Law became a registered charity in 2011. Since its establishment more than ten years ago, it has gained credibility as an informed, responsible, and capable organization—one where steadfast advocates for environmental and climate justice work to support communities throughout Atlantic Canada and enhance the capacities of environmental organizations throughout the region.

What We Do

East Coast Environmental Law plays a crucial role in the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws in Atlantic Canada. Our work is anchored by the three pillars of our mission statement, which is to encourage the development and fair application of innovative and effective environmental laws in Atlantic Canada through public legal education, community collaboration, and legal action.

Through our Environmental Law Inquiry Service, workshops, legal clinics, and wide-ranging legal research, our work touches on a broad spectrum of environmental topics. Some of these include:

• marine and coastal areas,
• fisheries and aquaculture,
• forestry,
• species at risk,
• protected places,
• resource extraction,
• environmental impact assessment, and
• climate change.

We are working to build relationships with Indigenous environmental organizations and community groups throughout Atlantic Canada, and we support the revitalization of Indigenous legal approaches to environmental governance and stewardship.

How We Do It

Through our free Environmental Law Inquiry Service and Legal Information Library, we offer legal information, educational resources, lawyer referrals, and other supports within our capacity to community groups, non-profit organizations, and members of the public who are navigating environmental law issues.

We collaborate with organizations and community groups throughout Atlantic Canada to carry out research projects, facilitate environmental law workshops and legal clinics, and organize collectively to take action for environmental and climate justice.

We partner with postsecondary institutions and students, offering opportunities for internships, pro bono research, and professional mentorship to committed law students and exceptional undergraduates in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

We encourage and support participation by local law firms and independent lawyers in the field of environmental law. Our public legal education initiatives and Environmental Law Inquiry Service present opportunities for private bar lawyers to partner with us on a variety of projects according to their personal interests and capacities.

We maintain working relationships with numerous government departments and policymakers and strive to participate actively in environmental law development and reform.