Environmental Tribunals in British Columbia

March 16, 2011

Of the 26 administrative tribunals in British Columbia, about one-third have mandates that touch on environmental protection issues in one way or another. While most BC tribunals are mindful of the public interest in environmental decision making, a new report by the ELC shows there is considerable room for improvement in tribunal mandates and use of dispute resolution tools.

“Environmental tribunals play a key yet sometimes unappreciated role in protecting and conserving the environmental values that are so important to British Columbians,” says former ELC Executive Director Chris Tollefson. “We are proud to publish this new report that is based on almost two years of investigation and research into the current state and future prospects of BC’s environmental tribunals.”

Funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia, the 74-page report, Environmental Tribunals in British Columbia, examines BC’s tribunals and provides 12 recommendations on how they might be improved to better serve the public and protect the environment. In addition to considering the role, rationale and mandate of tribunals, the report looks at participant costs and funding, powers and procedures, and analogous courts and tribunals in other jurisdictions.

Lead researcher Mark Haddock was retained by the ELC to write the report. He received assistance from ELC students, articled students and lawyers, and was informed by stakeholder feedback received on an initial discussion paper, a focus group session, and written responses and interviews.

“It has not been our intent in this research project to audit administrative tribunals or critique their decisions,” Haddock notes in the report’s Executive Summary. “Rather, we have focused on the larger picture issues of tribunal mandates, structures and procedural rules with a view to what is happening in the world of environmental tribunals and courts in jurisdictions elsewhere in Canada and internationally.”

Click here to read the report.