There just aren’t enough lawyers in B.C. to fight all the environmental battles First Nations, individuals and groups face on a regular basis in the province, according to University of Victoria lawyer Chris Tollefson.
As a solution, Tollefson, the founder of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre, and a handful of legal experts and litigators recently launched a new public interest environmental law outfit that will take on some of the most powerful forces in B.C., from Malaysian-owned Petronas to government ministries to BC Hydro.
The new legal non-profit, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), will focus on environmental litigation, legislative reform and, as Tollefson describes it, “training up the next generation of young public interest environmental lawyers.”
Tollefson, who served as a former president of Ecojustice, one of Canada's most prominent environmental legal non-profits, said there is more work than existing organizations can handle.
That sentiment is echoed by Bob Peart, executive director of Sierra Club BC, and one of the centre's first clients.
“I think litigation is vital and it's so hard to move this government in any other way,” Peart told DeSmog Canada. “You can build up the wall of public noise as much as you like but litigation seems to be a lever they at least half listen to.”