Our Story

Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl Photo Credit: Mike Kofahl

East Coast Environmental Law envisions a future in which laws and legal systems protect ecological health and promote environmental and climate justice in Atlantic Canada.

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 pillars of our mission statement, which are to advocate for progressive environmental laws and policies in Atlantic Canada, provide public legal education about environmental laws and legal processes, and share our legal skills to support individuals, communities, and organizations that are working to prevent or redress environmental harms.

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

  • Aboriginal and Indigenous law in environmental contexts;
  • biodiversity and species at risk;
  • climate change mitigation and adaptation;
  • environmental impact assessment processes;
  • environmental rights and rights of nature;
  • fisheries and aquaculture;
  • forestry;
  • marine and coastal areas;
  • protected places; and,
  • resource extraction.

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 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.