ELC celebrates 20 years of supporting communities


(L-R) Deborah Curran (ELC Acting Executive Director), John Snyder (Comox CoalWatch) Holly Pattison (ELC Paralegal Administrator) and Calvin Sandborn (ELC Legal Director) (Photo courtesy of UVic Law)

(L-R) Deborah Curran (ELC Acting Executive Director), John Snyder (Comox CoalWatch) Holly Pattison (ELC Paralegal Administrator) and Calvin Sandborn (ELC Legal Director) (Photo courtesy of UVic Law)

In early October, the ELC hosted a gathering to celebrate its 20th anniversary, recognize student leadership, and thank supporters.

One of the night’s highlights was hearing from former ELC client John Snyder, who first came to the ELC in 2010 shortly after news came out about a coal mine proposal for the Comox Valley.

The proposed mine was expected to yield 2.2 million tons of coal annually for 20 years.  After screening and washing, the plan was to truck two-thirds of the coal to Port Alberni for shipping to Asian steelmakers. Local residents concerned about the mine’s impacts created the Comox CoalWatch Society and came to the ELC with numerous concerns over contamination of drinking water and the nearby shellfish industry, coal dust, increased industrial traffic and other safety issues.

Over the span of 6 years, five ELC Clinic students and three ELC articled students worked on the Comox CoalWatch file. The ELC provided legal services regarding the Environmental Assessment process, explored how regional and municipal governments could regulate the impacts of mining activities in their community, and prepared a submission asking for an order under the Drinking Water Protection Act. During this time, the ELC provided support to two ELC alumni who were practicing lawyers providing services to Comox CoalWatch under West Coast Environmental Law Association’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund.

Much to the relief of Comox CoalWatch, the BC Environmental Assessment Office terminated the project in April 2016.

In a moving address to the audience at the ELC’s 20th anniversary celebration, John expressed his appreciation for the guidance Comox CoalWatch had received from the ELC. With the issue surrounding the group’s reason for existence resolved, Comox CoalWatch dissolved its society and donated their remaining funds to groups, including the ELC.

Thanks very much to Comox CoalWatch and to all our friends and allies, including clients, donors, volunteers and, of course, students. We couldn’t do it without the partnerships we have with you all, and we truly appreciate your support.