Curious about West Coast Environmental Law's free legal services? Here's some helpful information to answer common questions about our Access to Justice programs.
How do West Coast’s Access to Justice programs work?
- West Coast has two Access to Justice programs:
- Summary Legal Advice: Our staff lawyers provide basic legal advice to help you understand the law and the legal options you have to address an environmental concern.
- Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF): The EDRF provides grants to British Columbians who have organized to protect their communities and their environment – but who need some legal help.
- The first step for both programs is to contact us at 604-684-7378 ext. 229 or firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up an intake interview with you to determine how we can best be of support to you and/or your community.
- Our intake staff will share notes from the call with our staff lawyer(s) and will get back to you within about two weeks. We will either provide you with basic legal advice (Summary Legal Advice) or we may encourage you to apply to our Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund and/or refer you to a private lawyer.
Who can reach out to this program?
- Anyone with an environmental issue in British Columbia is welcome to contact us at 604-684-7378 ext. 229 or email@example.com to discuss and develop their environmental protection idea further. As part of our commitment to environmental justice, we acknowledge that some communities in BC are disproportionately impacted by environmental issues, including Indigenous and racialized communities, youth, and low- income or marginalized communities, and we strongly encourage applicants from these communities.
What are the range of scenarios that are relevant for this program?
- Your community is facing a threat to land, air, or water.
- Your community is facing an environmental threat that may result in cultural losses.
- A development project is being proposed and you want your voice to be heard.
- You are part of an environmental initiative, campaign, or community group and you want legal advice.
- You are facing infringements of your inherent title and rights that may result in environmental harm.
- You aren’t opposed to development but are concerned about the sustainability of a proposed project or the pace and scale of development in your region.
Can I hire a West Coast Lawyer? Can West Coast take on a case on my behalf?
- Our Access to Justice programs focus on providing legal information, advice or other support (including potentially funds to assist in hiring a lawyer or expert) to groups so that they can take active steps to resolve the environmental problem themselves.
- Indigenous nations who wish to pursue more in-depth legal partnerships can find more information about our RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water) here.
What are some examples of cases you have funded through the EDRF?
- Safeguarding at-risk animal habitats (See 30 Years of EDRF Report, p. 4)
- Holding polluters accountable (See blog post: Private prosecution launched by Bev Sellers into the Mount Polley disaster)
- Challenging marine dredging (See 30 Years of EDRF Report, p. 5)
- Seeking damages against corporate polluters and raising questions about national and provincial oil spill response frameworks, and duties to Indigenous communities affected by spills (See blog post: Heiltsuk Nation – Seeking justice over the Nathan E. Stewart fuel spill)
- For more featured cases, see EDRF Grantees
How does West Coast view environmental issues?
- West Coast takes an ecosystem-based approach to our legal work because we understand that functioning ecosystems are the essential foundation of healthy cultures and economies, and that human cultures and economies are part of a web of life that includes all parts of the ecosystem and all beings. We affirm the interconnectedness of environmental issues to human health, security, community well-being, cultural survival and/or social equity. We will consider EDRF applications where these issues are interconnected with environmental law issues.
How developed does the client’s understanding of their environmental issue have to be in order to reach out to this program?
- We can provide guidance to you at many stages in your environmental protection efforts, including at the beginning. If you need help to determine whether the issue are experiencing is environmental in nature or how it interacts with the law, please feel free to contact us to discuss your situation over the phone and we can work with you to understand your goals and potential legal options.
Can the details of the client’s case be kept out of publicity for their privacy or safety?
- Yes. Many EDRF applicants use public campaigns to further their environmental protection goals, however, if you would prefer not to have your file publicized, this will not prejudice your application.
Can I get help with my EDRF application?
- Yes. As part of our commitment to environmental justice, decolonization, and equity, we are available to support you through the application process. Please contact our Access to Justice team at 604-684-7378 ext. 229 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like support with developing ideas, writing your application, or if you have any questions.