As a planet earth enthusiast I was more than excited about the opportunity to sit down and talk environmental law with Ecojustice staff lawyer Karen Campbell. Karen has worked in environmental law and policy for the past 20 years. Before Ecojustice, she served as first staff council and B.C. policy director at Pembina Institute.
Throughout Karen’s career as an avid planet fighter she has led projects related to northern B.C. pipelines, gas development and climate change policy. Karen moved to Ecojustice to use direct legal means to effect real and positive change.
Karen has a B.A. (with Distinction) from the University of Western Ontario, LL.B. from Dalhousie University in Halifax and an LL.M. (with Merit) from the University of London (England). I’m feeling pretty good about how she has chosen to apply her skills, check out our video interview for some inspiring stories.
Q: How is Ecojustice Projecting Change?
Ecojustice uses the law to protect and restore the environment. We hold people, corporations and governments accountable. We‘re a team of lawyers and scientists, not lobbyists, sustained by a staff seeking the long-term protection and health of our rich and diverse environment. Ecojustice also partners with other environmental NGOs in Canada and the United States. And we offer our legal services free of charge to citizens and community groups to ensure equal access to environmental justice. Our tactics are intended to set legal precedents and strengthen environmental laws. We provide the legal teeth to environmental ideals.
Q:What role does a film festival like Projecting Change play?
Awareness before action. I was on the Projecting Change website and they said it best: “Watch, engage, act.” Action is sometimes limited until people see up close the bonds that link climate change and energy. Projecting Change Film Festival is an opportunity to flip the switch in someone’s head. Sometimes it takes a story that inspires. Inspiration has many forms — one is film.
Q: How does the film White Water, Black Gold relate to Ecojustice’s work?
Ecojustice has five key priorities: access to environmental justice, climate change and energy; environmental health; the marine environment; biodiversity and health. The filmmakers in White Water, Black Gold say they’re going to follow a drop of water from Mount Snow Dome at the border of British Columbia and Alberta to the tar sands near Lake Athabasca. It winds through all of our priorities along that journey.
Two issues, in particular, speak to Ecojustice’s past and present.
The film’s trailer shows an image of birds stuck in tailing ponds and talks about the irreparable damage to wildlife. On June 25, 2010, Syncrude was found guilty of failing to take adequate measures to prevent the death of more than 1,600 ducks that died after landing in a tailings pond north of Fort McMurray. Syncrude on Oct. 22, 2010, agreed to pay more than $3-million in fines, the largest in Canadian history for an environmental offence. That was a major victory for the environment and Ecojustice, which pursued the case until the government took over the prosecution. The victory confirmed the need to eliminate toxic tailing ponds and revealed the risks they pose.
The film also examines the impact of oil pipelines on communities and the environment. One of our ongoing cases involves a plan to ask the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to scrap the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. If completed, the pipeline will snake its way from the Alberta tar sands to the B.C. coast, pumping more than a half a million barrels of oil per day. It will affect everything and everyone, including Alberta and B.C. waterways, air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the territory of at least 40 First Nations and Aboriginal communities.
Recently, a pipeline in northern Alberta’s boreal forest spat 28,000 barrels of crude oil into a wetland near Peace River. It’s the worst spill in that province in 35 years. And it happened just miles from the nearest homes. Ecojustice is hoping to spare B.C.’s coastline, and any land and water the pipeline might traverse, a similar fate.
Q: How is Ecojustice able to achieve its goals?
Our work is possible only with the support of our donors—concerned individuals and foundations. As an independent organization, we rely 100% on their funding. Remove their gifts and there are no Ecojustice victories for the environment, no outreach campaigns, no workshops and no investigations. To fulfil our role as stewards of the earth, preserving and safeguarding the environment, we need their help.
To learn more about the imperative work Ecojustice does please visit their website http://www.ecojustice.ca. Be sure to checkout their delightful and informative Stop Soot Campaign, including one of my personal favorite social media for social change tools – an auto-generated letter to Harper! I absolutely love organizations that make it easier to take action – Am I possibly a lazy activist (?).