Canada’s top environmental lawyers in 2021

We reveal Canada’s top environmental lawyers based on Lexpert’s latest comprehensive peer review
Canada’s top environmental lawyers in 2021

Here are Canada’s top environmental lawyers based on the results of Lexpert’s comprehensive annual peer review. For the complete list of the nation’s most recommended environmental lawyers and law firms, check out our practice area rankings.

Environmental law governs all aspects of the legal profession associated with how humans interact with their natural environment. The practice aims to protect the environment and regulate how people use natural resources.

Most frequently recommended environmental lawyers

Charles J. Birchall

Law firm: Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP

Year called to the bar: 1981 (ON); 2014 (NU); 2014 (NT)

City: Ottawa

Charles J. Birchall is a partner at Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP. He is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law. Birchall boasts more than 30 years of experience in environmental law and the intersection of the practice with Indigenous law, consultation and economic development. He is an expert in environmental assessments, compliance issues, contaminated lands and energy law. Birchall advises clients across Canada, including environmental boards and tribunals in the northern territories, about administrative law and environmental assessment issues raised by mining, oil and gas, energy and infrastructure projects. He also provides advice on environmental aspects of corporate and commercial negotiations and transactions and defends clients being investigated or prosecuted for breaches of environmental laws and orders. Birchall has appeared before parliamentary committees in the Senate and House of Commons on proposed environmental legislation.

Paul R. Cassidy

Law firm: McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Year called to the bar: 1984

City: Vancouver

Paul R. Cassidy is a partner practising environmental law at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. He advises on environmental and natural resources issues, including major project permitting and approvals, environmental assessments, financing, mergers and acquisitions, lender liability, directors’ and officers’ liability, contaminated sites, environmental litigation, due diligence reviews, training and crisis management. Cassidy also advises on energy issues, including LNG projects, power agreements, project siting, climate change and renewable energy development. He has provided expert evidence in American proceedings on environmental laws in Canada and before the Canadian Parliament Environment Committee. Cassidy is a trained mediator and co-founder of the Canadian Centre for Environmental Arbitration & Mediation. He is also a former federal prosecutor with Department of Justice (Canada).

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Rosalind H. Cooper

Law firm: Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP

Year called to the bar: 1991

City: Toronto

Rosalind H. Cooper serves as a partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. She is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as an expert in environmental law. Cooper defends environmental charges and litigates contaminated land and other environmental disputes before all levels of court. She is involved in appeals and environmental assessment proceedings before the Environmental Review Tribunal and is a recognized environmental mediator. Cooper advises on issues including regulatory matters, exposure to environmental liability, contaminated lands, land development and environmental compliance approvals. She is a highly sought arbitrator and mediator and provides advice on a variety of transactions, including mergers and acquisitions, purchase and sale of real estate, secured lending transactions and leasing arrangements. Cooper also advises on aspects of due diligence and occupational health and safety matters, defending charges and deals with work refusals and appeals of orders issued by the Ministry of Labour, as well as reprisal complaints.

Shawn H.T. Denstedt is the Western Canada vice-chair at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP. He devotes his practice to energy, mining, environmental, regulatory and Aboriginal law. Denstedt advises companies in the natural resource industry and has been engaged in several international assignments. He has advised Canada’s largest energy industry associations on regulatory reform for energy project development. Denstedt has appeared in major regulatory proceedings before the Alberta Energy Regulator (Energy Resources Conservation Board), Alberta Utilities Commission, National Energy Board, Federal Environmental Assessment joint review panels, Ontario Energy Board, Alberta Environmental Appeal Board and other appeal boards. He has successfully represented clients in the development of multibillion-dollar transactions, including pipeline, oil sands, shale gas, LNG, hydro-electric and mining projects, and offshore developments. Denstedt has also advised clients on their obligations to Aboriginal groups and negotiated resource development and IBAs with Aboriginal groups on behalf of resource developers.

Read more about Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in the challenges and opportunities on the way to a low carbon future

Jennifer Fairfax

Law firm: Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP

Year called to the bar: 2003

City: Toronto

Jennifer Fairfax is a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP,  where she practises environmental law and litigation. Fairfax boasts expertise in civil and tribunal proceedings, defence of prosecutions, appeals of orders, negotiations with regulatory bodies, regulatory compliance, transactional due diligence, insolvency and restructurings and contaminated lands. She has broad advocacy and trial experience and has appeared before all courts in Ontario, the Federal Courts and the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal. Fairfax is a past chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s environmental law section executive, The Advocates’ Society, Law Society of Ontario and Canadian Bar Association. Prior to joining Osler, Jennifer clerked for Justice Edgar Sexton with the Federal Court of Appeal.

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Tamara Farber

Law firm: Miller Thomson LLP

Year called to the bar: 1995

City: Toronto

Tamara Farber is a partner at Miller Thomson LLP. She is a certified specialist in environmental law. Farber focuses her practice on civil litigation and commercial transactions in environmental law matters. She has advised Canadian and US clients on transactions involving brownfield redevelopment, investigation of contaminated lands, corporate environmental due diligence, property remediation, indemnities, site decommissioning, waste management, environmental compliance matters, risk management, risk assessments, insurance coverage and claims involving contamination, environmental regulatory compliance issues and the intersection of environmental and insolvency laws. Farber deals extensively with contaminated land litigation, spills, insurance disputes involving environmental damage, environmental consulting and remediation. She is experienced in resolving complex technical issues, facilitating early resolution of brownfield redevelopment and regulatory or litigation matters.

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Bradley S. Gilmour

Law firm: Bennett Jones LLP

Year called to the bar: 1996 (AB); 2005 (BC)

City: Calgary

Bradley S. Gilmour is a partner at Bennett Jones LLP and heads the firm’s regulatory department. He devotes his practice to environmental, regulatory, energy and Aboriginal law. Gilmour provides advice on a range of environmental legal issues, including due diligence, environmental approvals, release and incident reporting, contaminated sites and environmental prosecutions. He has been defense counsel on many of the most significant environmental and regulatory prosecutions under environmental and energy legislation. Gilmour has significant experience in facility approval applications associated with a broad range of energy, natural resource, chemical, petrochemical, hydro, biofuel, wind and other industry types and involving federal and provincial environmental impact assessments. His experience includes helping clients in obtaining approvals for oil sands mining and in-situ projects, upgrading and refining projects, LNG facilities, conventional oil and gas wells, pipelines and facilities, carbon capture and storage, biomass, hydro and other renewable projects. Gilmour has appeared before the Alberta Energy Regulator, Alberta Utilities Commission, Natural Resources Conservation Board, Canada Energy Regulator and Alberta Environmental Appeals Board. He holds a BSc in chemistry and MSc degree in environmental science.

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Leonard J. Griffiths

Law firm: Bennett Jones LLP

Year called to the bar: 1985

City: Toronto

Leonard J. Griffiths is a partner and the co-head of Bennett Jones LLP’s environmental group. He is one of the first lawyers to be certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law. His practice involves regulatory advice, risk management, energy, natural resources, sustainability, project construction and finance, environmental assessments and approvals, corporate transactions, environmental management systems, litigation and policy matters. Griffiths assists clients across Canada, the US and internationally. He is one of the founding members of the Canadian Centre for Environmental Arbitration and Mediation. Griffiths is a former adjunct professor at University of Toronto's law school and past chair of both Ontario and Federal Canadian Bar Association’s environmental sections. He is also a director of Plug’n Drive, a non-profit organization committed to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles and infrastructure to maximize environmental and economic benefits.

Jonathan W. Kahn is a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. He has been providing representation and advice on a broad range of environmental and natural resources law issues for more than 30 years. Kahn represents clients on the purchase, sale and remediation of contaminated land, mining regulation and permitting, management of natural resources, the transportation, handling and disposal of hazardous substances, environmental permitting, air, water and waste regulation, lender liability and other environmental matters. He has represented corporations in significant environmental prosecutions. Khan has also acted for proponents in major mining, renewable energy and infrastructure projects and has provided environmental law advice on significant transactions. Kahn is currently the vice-chair of the American Bar Association’s section of environment, energy and resources law and is the first non-American to serve on the executive committee. He is also a former chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s national environment, energy and resources law section.

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Alexander G. MacWilliam

Law firm: Dentons Canada LLP

Year called to the bar: 1986

City: Calgary

Alexander G. MacWilliam is the Canada lead for the global environment and natural resources group and the global climate change strategies practice group at Dentons Canada LLP, where he also serves as partner. He regularly advises Canadian and international clients on all legal issues relating to the environment, including regulatory approvals, compliance, contaminated land, climate change, transportation of dangerous goods, dealing with regulatory agencies, responses to government policies and the development of internal environmental practices and systems. MacWilliam also advises clients on the management and minimization of liability arising from environmental risks, compliance, environmental management systems and other risk management tools. He boasts significant experience in the legal aspects of emergency response and crisis management and in resolving disputes arising from environmental incidents through negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation. MacWilliam is a trained mediator and has applied his experience to facilitate the resolution of many environmental disputes. He is frequently involved in major national and cross-border transactions relating to environmental due diligence arising in asset and share transactions, public offerings and financings.

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Marc McAree

Law firm: Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP

Year called to the bar: 1995 (ON); 2008 (BC)

City: Toronto

Marc McAree is a partner at Willms & Shier Environmental Lawyers LLP. He is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law. McAree assists clients in managing environmental risks and liabilities while limiting their reputational risk. He brings environmental law expertise to contaminated land and brownfields clean ups, insurance, compliance, approval and order appeals and defence of environmental prosecutions and civil actions. McAree is recognized for his excellence in advocating for clients in environmental civil litigation at all levels of Ontario Courts, defence of clients against environmental regulatory prosecutions and appearances before Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal and other administrative decision-makers on appeals and at hearings.

Alexandria (Alex) Pike

Law firm: Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP

Year called to the bar: 1995

City: Toronto

Alexandria (Alex) Pike is a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP’s environmental and Indigenous and energy practices. She is also a past chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s National Environment, Energy and Resource Law Section. Pike advises on environmental liability in various sectors, including mining, manufacturing, chemical, pulp and paper, transportation and real estate. She is an expert in contaminated lands, addressing liability in transactions and redevelopment. Pike advises on environmental risk and permitting requirements in complex energy, infrastructure and resource projects. She boasts expertise in Indigenous matters and advised on the creation of environmental protection and assessment regimes under Canada’s First Nations Land Management Act. Pike also represents clients in regulatory proceedings and provides environmental expertise in litigation, including with respect to directors’ and officers’ liability.

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Sarah V. Powell

Law firm: Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP

Year called to the bar: 1993

City: Toronto

Sarah V. Powell is a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. She advises on the assessment of environmental and social risks and impacts, Indigenous matters, climate change, contaminated site development and litigation and the permitting of infrastructure, energy and natural resource projects. Powell is also successful at advocating before administrative tribunals regarding permitting for infrastructure, resource development and manufacturing projects. She is involved in the development and reform of Canadian environmental law, and is a frequent writer and speaker on environmental, energy and Indigenous law issues. Powell is past chair of the National Environmental, Energy and Resource Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association and the Ontario Bar Association’s Environmental Law Section. She is certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in environmental law.

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