Best Environmental lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert
The practice area of Environmental Lawyers is generally understood to include advice in the context of acquisitions and property transactions, financings, contaminated land, land use planning and environmental regulation, audits, impact assessments, landfill, waste disposal, water treatment, sewage, noise, air and water pollution, agricultural pollution, industrial pollution, integrated pollution control, environmental management systems, regulatory compliance in manufacturing, plaintiff's litigation, defence work in environmental litigation/prosecutions, environmental insurance cover and liability and disaster and crisis management.
Environmental law is the branch of law which deals with the relationship of a government, its citizens, and the environment and natural resources of the country. It is concerned with the different aspects of environmental protection, such as the protection of biodiversity, ensuring air and water quality, mitigation of climate change, mining of high-valued minerals, regulation of hazardous wastes and toxic substances, and management of natural resources utilisation, such as water, land, and forest resources.
Other practice areas environmental law crosses over with
It mostly overlaps with energy law and Indigenous Peoples law, especially when the activity of the former threatens or actually violates the rights of the latter; in here, environmental law provides for another layer of rights and protection for either of the parties in a case.
To enforce said rights and protections accorded to certain sectors of society, environmental law may be a mixture of both civil, common, and criminal law.
Note that the Lexpert directory has separate sections for:
What is the purpose of environmental law?
While harvesting and utilisation of natural resources is a large source of revenue for both the public and the private sectors, these are admittedly limited within a given country, save for those which are renewable resources. As such, these natural resources must be regulated in order to be maximised for the benefit of most, if not all, stakeholders.
Furthermore, environmental law is necessary for the sustainable development of a country – to ensure that there would be enough natural resources to sustain the present needs, and at the same time to preserve these for the future generations.
With the complications that environmental law may touch on, environmental lawyers are not only knowledgeable on environmental law per se, but also with the other fields of law, such as corporate law and energy law when dealing with large energy companies or corporations, Indigenous Peoples law when representing them in various circumstances, with background on political and Constitutional law which are the basis of these laws.
What do environmental lawyers do?
The work of environmental lawyers or environmental law firms may be considered as both transactional and litigious and is either proactive or reactive depending on the current situation.
Behind the courts, environmental lawyers, who may also be corporate lawyers, help craft policies and procedures which are attuned with the environmental laws applicable to their clients’ endeavours. They also assist in environmental assessments, whenever necessary, before a corporate project may be commenced. They also help in educating the public about environmental issues and concerns, through various public and private academic activities.
When contaminations or violations unfortunately happen, environmental lawyers help clients with laws applicable in regulatory investigations, and in managing contamination sites or properties. They may also refer to health regulations or public health law in addressing these environmental problems. Litigations come in as part of environmental lawyers’ day-to-day, especially in representing clients before various judicial courts or administrative tribunals, pertaining to any environmental violation laid out by any federal, municipal, or territorial law.
Indigenous Peoples are also possible clients of environmental lawyers, where Indigenous lands or natural resources are threatened by either private or public entities. Where the Indigenous Peoples’ communities are at risk, or there has been a contamination or a violation already, environmental lawyers also apply Indigenous Peoples law, in addition to environmental law, in order to further protect and enforce the rights of these communities.
What is environmental law in Canada?
Environmental law in Canada is a system of federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous laws which are generally aimed at protecting the environment. Federally, environmental laws are enforced by the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), headed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
At the federal level, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is the environmental law which governs pollutants, chemicals, and toxic substances. It is also the general law which other subsequent environmental law are based upon, or is concurrent to its regulations and protections.
Pollution prevention (Part Four, CEPA)
A notice may be published by the Minister of Environment requiring any person/s to prepare and implement a pollution prevention plane in relation to any of the toxic substances mentioned in Schedule 1 of CEPA.
Controlling toxic substances (Part Five)
New substances being introduced to Canada by importation or manufacturing, except for already existing ones, shall undergo mandatory screening for any health or environmental risk.
Controlling pollution and managing wastes (Part Seven)
Wastes are also monitored and regulated by the Minister of Environment, who must be notified and must consent to any transboundary movement (exportation, importation, etc.) of these wastes through a permit.
Environmental emergencies (Part Eight)
An environmental emergency is defined as an accident that would release toxic substances, which would affect human health and the environment. To prevent one, the CEPA requires planning an environmental emergency plan for the substances that have already been screened. In an event of an environmental emergency, CEPA dictates that the person/s liable shall pay the cost in responding to the emergency.
Government operations and federal and aboriginal land (Part Nine)
Where the provincial or territorial laws on environment do not a cover aboriginal lands, CEPA fills in this gap by empowering the Minister of Environment to regulate aboriginal lands, in addition to federal lands.
Environmental Enforcement Act
The Environmental Enforcement Act (EEA) introduced a fine regime which will be implemented once a judicial final conviction is had under the following environmental laws:
The new fine regime under the EEA strengthened and consolidated the fines under the above-mentioned environmental laws by introducing a minimum fine for each offense, and its higher maximum fine. These fines may vary from each offense under each law, which will go to the Environmental Damages Fund (EDF), where local communities and organisations may apply to for environmental restoration or other environmental projects.
Looking for one of the best environmental lawyers to assist you, your community, or your company? Head down below for the list of the best environmental lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.