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For many, the beginning of a new year generates renewed energy and fresh resolve. ECELAW made impressive strides in 2017, and we are excited to see 2018 bringing new opportunities to foster the relationships we are building throughout Atlantic Canada as we break new ground in the paths we have been forging through our recent work.

Harrietsfield Private Prosecution - Contaminated Drinking Water

2017 saw a groundbreaking development with the first-ever private prosecution of an environmental offence in Nova Scotia. Partnering with ECELAW and local lawyer Jamie Simpson, Harrietsfield resident Marlene Brown launched the private prosecution after the provincial government failed to enforce a Ministerial Order to deal with contamination in her community. After a judge agreed that the private prosecution could proceed, government prosecutors stepped up to take over the prosecution. This was an incredible win for Marlene and for ECELAW after years of seeking justice for the community of Harrietsfield. 
However, the fight is not over and contamination of soil and water in Harrietsfield still exists. ECELAW’s role continues to be critical as we support Harrietsfield residents by attending every hearing, raising awareness about the case, undertaking research to support the case, and ensuring the voice of the community is not lost in these proceedings.
ECELAW will be at the next court date: February 26, 2018, Provincial Court, Spring Garden Road.
The Long Journey to the Legal Right to a Healthy Environment

In April 2017, the Nova Scotia Environmental Rights Working Group (“the NS Working Group”), a unique provincial collaboration, launched a draft Environmental Bill of Rights. ECELAW facilitated the NS Working Group to draw attention to the fundamental importance of a legal right to clean water, unpolluted air, and uncontaminated soil. As Nova Scotians, we do not currently have these basic rights. 
The creation of the draft Bill is the first tangible step we have taken in a long journey of citizen and government engagement on this deeply important issue. This project requires patience and perseverance as we work to shift the legal paradigm from one that enables pollution to be offloaded to future generations, to one that values the essential services that a healthy environment provides.
ECELAW is committed to healthy environments, and we are in for the long haul.
Stop Ocean Dumping – Aquaculture

In 2017, ECELAW provided direct legal support to citizen-initiated investigations of aquaculture practices. It came to our attention that aquaculture operations may be violating the law by allowing chemical baths used to de-lice farmed salmon to be dumped into marine waters. We collaborated with several other organizations on the east and west coasts to publish a press release on potential violations of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Although Environment and Climate Change Canada has recognized that aquaculture companies may be violating the law, they have not taken clear enforcement action.
ECELAW is calling for an industry-wide investigation into the issue.
Fighting for Transparency and Access to Information – Aquaculture

Engaged citizens and public interest organizations, like ECELAW, devote many hours to accessing government-held information. Most of this information is legally available to members of the public; however, obtaining access is rarely simple. At ECELAW we have filled out innumerable “access to information” applications asking for information on water quality, pesticide and chemical use, contaminated sites, protection plans for endangered species, and industry compliance with environmental law, to name a few.
In 2017, an access to information request for aquaculture information made its way to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Represented by ECELAW’s Board Chair, litigation lawyer Brian Hebert, two concerned citizens have initiated a legal action against the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for his refusal to release pertinent information about aquaculture practices, despite a recommendation from the provincial Privacy Commissioner to do so.
We expect to see this case in court in the spring of 2018. ECELAW will be there.
Representing the Public Interest in a NAFTA Tribunal Appeal – the Digby Quarry

2017 marked the 10-year anniversary of the government’s decision to say no to a proposed coastal quarry on Digby Neck, Nova Scotia. This decision followed a rigorous environmental impact assessment and was the path recommended by an independent review panel. Unfortunately, despite the passage of time, the battle over Digby Neck continues. In 2015, a NAFTA Tribunal found that the independent review panel did not comply with Canadian law and that Canada’s treatment of the US-based company proposing the quarry therefore violated Canada’s obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The federal government immediately applied to the Federal Court of Canada to have the decision of the NAFTA Tribunal set aside. 
This is a precedent-setting case as it reveals some of the key problems with private investor state dispute provisions in trade agreements and has the potential to directly impact environmental decision-making in Canada. ECELAW supports the Government of Canada’s position that the NAFTA Tribunal did not have the authority to decide that Canadian law was violated.
Not only do we support Canada’s position, we have acted on that support by becoming intervenors in the federal court case. Along with our colleagues at the Sierra Club of Canada Foundation, we believe that we can add value to these proceedings by ensuring the public interest is represented. We have teamed up with the passionate and exemplary lawyers at Ecojustice to represent us in this complicated proceeding.
The next court date is set for January 29, 2018 in Federal Court, Ottawa.
On the Horizon for 2018

As we turn our attention to the work that 2018 will bring, we are anticipating another active year.
  • We will add our legal expertise and support to the development of new laws in Nova Scotia on coastal protection and biodiversity. 
  • We will publish our submission to the independent review of provincial forest harvest practices. 
  • We will continue to participate in the federal law reform initiative and encourage the federal government to make environmental impact assessment independent.
  • With our partners in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we will seek effective law and policy to facilitate marine protected areas in Atlantic Canada.
  • Working closely with our student volunteers, we will create more tools to communicate the role of environmental law, including expanding our online Information Library.
Have a question?
ECELAW has an online Information Library full of environmental law cases. Check it out at
ECELAW responds to legal inquiries. Our environmental legal inquiry service is the only one of its kind in Atlantic Canada: it exists to provide basic legal information to individuals, groups, and communities facing environmental issues, and it is accessible at no cost. Call us at (902) 494-7121 or email us at
Are you a student looking for environmental law experience?
ECELAW  provides mentorship to law students who are interested in learning more about public interest environmental law. Through Pro Bono Dalhousie, environmental placement courses, Board positions and summer internships, students can work directly with ECELAW. Among other things, students engage in important research to support our online Information Library, respond promptly to legal inquiries, prepare and publish public information, and develop community clinics.  Check us out at or drop by our office on the 4th floor of the Weldon Law Building to chat with our office manager, Tina Northrup.
Copyright © 2018 East Coast Environmental Law, All rights reserved.

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