February 22, 2011
“It is fair to say that where there is a legally or ecologically significant environmental issue in British Columbia, chances are that we are working on it.” Former ELC Executive Director Chris Tollefson, February 17, 2011 Thanks to $2.75 million in new funding from the Tula Foundation, the ELC is poised to expand its program and consolidate its vision of inspiring and training the next generation of Canada’s public interest environmental lawyers by giving them the opportunity to advocate for the environment as a core part of their law school experience. In 2006, the Tula Foundation provided funding for the ELC’s core operations, which allowed it to hire three full-time staff: a Legal Director, a Program Paralegal/Administrator and an Articled Student. Under a newly announced five-year arrangement, the ELC’s capacity will be enhanced through the creation of three additional full-time positions. These include a Chair in Environmental Law and Sustainability, to which ELC Executive Director Chris Tollefson has been appointed; a professorship for ELC Project Director Deborah Curran; and a new ELC staff lawyer/clinic instructor position, which will be filled in the near future after a national search. It will also fund Canada’s first-ever curricular concentration in “environmental law and sustainability” in which UVic law students can enroll commencing in the fall of 2011. According to Tollefson, the key features of the ELC model and approach, including its commitment to mentoring and community service, will remain the same. “However,” he added, “the new funding arrangement will bring about some important new innovations.” Among other things, these innovations will:
- permit the ELC to offer a wider range of legal services to protect the environment by providing it with the capacity, where necessary, to go to court, easing access to justice burdens faced by many of its clients;
- integrate scientific knowledge and expertise into ELC operations and the law school curriculum through a variety of new interdisciplinary environmental law courses, some of which will be offered at the Hakai Beach Institute, the Tula Foundations research institute located on the Central Coast; and
- support enhanced collaboration with other colleagues and BC universities working on issues of mutual concern.
The new funding will allow the ELC to build on its 15-year-long record of assisting students to provide much-needed pro bono public interest environmental law support to local communities, environmental groups and First Nations across the province. “In many cases our work has allowed citizens concerns to be heard and understood, often for the first time. And, on occasion, it has been a game-changer,” said Tollefson.[Link to the full text of former Executive Director’s comments at the Feb 17 public announcement to learn more about the agreement and the ELC’s partnership with the Tula Foundation and the Hakai Beach Institute] [Link to UVic media release and backgrounder] [Link to UVic Law posting for Senior Instructor in Environmental Law and Sustainability]