50 Canadian Law Professors Urge Minister McKenna to Reject Amendments to #BillC69 that Undermine Rule of Law

June 11, 2019


The Honourable Catherine McKenna

Minister of Environment

Government of Canada

Ottawa, Ontario


Dear Minister McKenna,

The Senate has recommended an amendment to Bill C-69, proposed by the oil industry, that would impose a restrictive ‘privative clause’ and an onerous process for seeking legal redress under Canada’s most important environmental law.  We are very concerned that this amendment would undermine access to justice and the rule of law, by impeding the ability of citizens and Indigenous Peoples to seek judicial review of assessments of major projects – ones that could significantly affect our health and environment. As Law Professors from across Canada, we urge that this amendment be rejected.

Bill C-69 proposes to reform Canada’s approach to environmental assessment by “implementing an impact assessment and regulatory system that Canadians trust”. Access to justice is a critical component of public trust. Canadians must be assured that, when there has been a legal error in the exercise of public duties, they can bring their case to a court without undue expense, impediments and burden.  The Senate’s (and oil industry’s) proposed amendment would create the following problems for access to justice:

  1. Requiring applicants to seek leave from the Federal Court of Appeal in order to proceed with a judicial review. Litigation is extremely expensive and becoming more so, particularly for citizens and community groups.  Canada already ranks behind its peers in access to civil justice, according to the World Justice Project. Parliament should not erect additional barriers that make access to the courts more costly and difficult – especially when it involves environmental matters of public importance (major projects on public land) that are likely to affect many Canadians. When those decisions are not lawful, access to the courts should be facilitated instead of hindered.
  2. Mandating that determinations under the IAA are “final and binding”. This language reduces the long-standing ability of the courts to correct legal errors by suggesting that they must defer to the interpretations of administrative decision-makers (the Impact Assessment Agency or a review panel). At best the provision is redundant, since the Supreme Court has already confirmed that “expert” bodies are entitled to latitude in interpreting their “home” statutes. At worst, such “privative” language  can make courts hesitant to step in, where appropriate, and correct unlawful decisions.
  3. Denying applicants oral hearings. The leave requirement is even more troubling because the amendment specifies that the determination would be made in a summary way and normally without personal appearance. This provision would deny citizens their “day in court” and invite decisions to be issued without proper reasons, which would diminish public confidence in the judicial process.
  4. Imposing unworkable timelines for court procedures. A requirement to hold a hearing within 60 days is unworkable given the heavy caseload of the courts, and interferes with the Court’s ability to control its own process. This is particularly true of the Federal Court of Appeal, already one of the most overworked courts in Canada. Judicial independence is vital and extends to scheduling, which judges must determine taking into account all the circumstances of the case.

This draconian amendment is a solution in search of a problem. There have only been a handful of judicial review applications each year for environmental assessments across Canada, and only the most egregious errors have been overturned.

Access to justice is a cornerstone of our democracy. As Parliament considers important new environmental legislation aimed at restoring public trust, we urge that it not create further barriers for citizens seeking to ensure that legal rules and procedures are respected. Accordingly, the proposed “privative” amendment should be deleted.


[signed by]


Amir Attaran

Professor, Faculty of Law

University of Ottawa


Me Sophie Lavallée

Professeure titulaire

Faculté de droit

Université Laval


Stepan Wood

Canada Research Chair in Law, Society and Sustainability

Director, Centre for Law and the Environment

Peter A Allard School of Law

University of British Columbia


Sophie Thériault

Full Professor

Civil Law Section

Faculty of Law

University of Ottawa


Sara L Seck

Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Research

Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University


Shaun Fluker

Associate Professor of law

University of Calgary


Stewart Elgie

Full Professor, Faculty of Law

Director, Institute of the Environment

University of Ottawa


Chris Tollefson

Professor of Law

Faculty of Law

University of Victoria


Constance Backhouse, C.M., O.Ont., F.R.S.C.

Professor of Law & Distinguished University Professor

University of Ottawa


Nathalie Chalifour

Professeure agrégée|Associate Professor

Section de Common Law|Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Dr. David R. Boyd, J.D., Ph.D.

UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Environment

Associate Professor of Law, Policy, and Sustainability

Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability

School of Public Policy and Global Affairs

University of British Columbia


Elizabeth Sheehy, LLB, LLM, LLD (hons), F.R.S.C.

Professor Emerita of Law

University of Ottawa


Daphne Gilbert

Associate Professor and Vice Dean, Governance

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Common Law


Patricia Hania, JD, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Law & Business Program, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University.


Jean Leclair

Professeur titulaire

Faculté de droit

Université de Montréal


Errol Mendes

Full Professor,

Faculty of Law, Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Marina Pavlović

Associate Professor

Faculty of Law, Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Darren O’Toole

Professeur agrégé/Associate Professor

Faculté de droit/Faculty of Law

Université d’Ottawa/University of Ottawa


François J Larocque, PhD

Professeur titulaire | Full Professor

Faculté de droit | Faculty of Law

Université d’Ottawa | University of Ottawa


David Robitaille, Ph.D.

Professeur titulaire | Full Professor

Section de droit civil | Civil Law Section, uOttawa


Dr. Meinhard Doelle

Professor of Law

Dalhousie University


Teresa Scassa

Canada Research Chair

Section de Common Law|Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Angela Cameron

Associate Professor and Shirley Greenberg Chair in Women and the Law

University of Ottawa Faculty of Law


Lynda Collins

Professeure agrégée|Associate Professor

Section de Common Law|Common Law Section

University Of Ottawa


Jane Bailey


University of Ottawa/Université d’Ottawa

Faculty of Law/Faculté de Droit


Hervé Depow

Sessional Professor

Faculty of Law, Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Me Jean Baril, LL.D

Professeur Département des sciences juridiques

L’Université du Québec à Montréal


Penelope Simons, PhD

Professeure agrégée / Associate Professor

Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa

Faculté de droit / Faculty of Law


Chidi Oguamanam, LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D.

Professor | Professeur

Faculty of Law | Faculté de droit

University of Ottawa | Université d’Ottawa


Sharon Mascher


Faculty of Law

University of Calgary


Joshua Ginsberg

Part Time Professor

University of Ottawa Faculty of Law


Kristin Bartenstein


Faculté de droit

Université Laval


Neil Craik, LL. B, LL.M, SJD

Associate Professor of Law

School of Environment, Enterprise and Development (SEED)

Balsillie School of International Affairs

University of Waterloo


Martin Olszynski

Associate Professor

University of Calgary Faculty of Law


Jonnette Watson Hamilton


Faculty of Law, University of Calgary


Charis Kamphuis

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law

Thompson Rivers University


Patricia Farnese

Associate Professor

College of Law – University of Saskatchewan


Oliver M Brandes BA, M.Econ, J.D.

Co-Director POLIS Project on Ecological Governance

Associate Director Centre for Global Studies

University of Victoria


Michael M’Gonigle

Professor (Emeritus)

University of Victoria Faculty of Law


Professor Martha Jackman, LSM, FRSC

Faculty of Law, Common Law Section

University of Ottawa


Naiomi Metallic

Assistant Professor

Schulich School of Law, Dalhousie University


Sébastien Jodoin

Assistant Professor / Professeur adjoint

McGill University, Faculty of Law

Université McGill, Faculté de droit


Patricia Galvao-Ferreira

Assistant Professor

Faculty of Law, University of Windsor


David VanderZwaag

Professor, Schulich School of Law

Dalhousie University


Marie-Claude Desjardins

Professeure agrégée

Université de Sherbrooke


Dr. Beverly Jacobs, CM, LLB, LLM, PhD

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law,

University of Windsor


Christophe Krolik

Professeur de droit

Université Laval


Hélène Trudeau


Faculté de droit, Université de Montréal


Jasminka Kalajdzic

Associate Professor

Faculty of Law | University of Windsor


Arlene Kwasniak

Professor Emerita, Faculty of Law

University of Calgary



Professor, Faculty of Law

University of Windsor

Co-Editor, Canadian Bar Review

JELP7: Back to the Future: Re-Defining Canada’s Environmental Priorities (Draft Agenda & Registration)

The Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (JELP) is pleased to post the JELP7 Conference Schedule for our upcoming conference in Victoria, B.C., June 7th and 8th (at Pearson College). With roughly 30 speakers, remaining space is very limited (as with previous years, we have capped participation at 40 to ensure a workshop-type atmosphere). Interested participants should complete this JELP7 Registration Form and email it to jelp@usask.ca as soon as possible – the remaining spots will be filled on a first in time, first in right basis.

We’re looking forward to another successful JELP conference!

Sharon, Martin and Meinhard

JELP7: Back to the Future: Re-Defining Canada’s Environmental Priorities

The Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (JELP) is pleased to announce the theme, location, and timing of its 7th biennial environmental law and policy conference!

“JELP7: Back to the Future: Re-Defining Canada’s Environmental Priorities”” will take place on Vancouver Island, B.C., in the first week of June, 2019 (exact dates and location to be confirmed).

This year’s theme is rooted in both JELP’s past and Canada’s future. As we celebrate our 7th conference, we thought it appropriate to reflect on our inaugural conference theme, “Defining Canada’s Environmental Priorities,” and to once again invite our community of scholars and practitioners to reflect on the laws, policies, and institutions required to meet the environmental challenges facing Canada in the 21st century. While this theme is deliberately broad, we note that this year’s conference will take place in the wake of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and Calls to Action, and welcome especially contributions intended to further Canada’s reconciliation project and open up space for dialogue (see e.g. here).

Rather than call for individual papers, we invite interested scholars and practitioners to submit panel proposals to us at jelp@usask.ca by December 31, 2018. Consistent with our broad theme, panels may consider discrete issues (e.g. species at risk, impact assessment, toxic substances, climate change, land-use planning, instrument choice, etc…), the intersection of Indigenous and settler environmental laws, or focus on Indigenous laws for environmental and resource management. Both doctrinal and empirical approaches are encouraged. Proposals should include a half page description of the panel theme, the names and contact information of proposed panelists, and confirmation of their interest. Our general preference is for panels of three.

The conference agenda will be announced early in 2019, at which time further details, including exact location, dates and cost, will be confirmed.

We look forward to receiving your proposals and to a successful JELP7 conference!

Meinhard, Sharon, and Martin

JELP co-editors


back to the future




General Registration for JELP6 (We’ll Always Have Paris) Opening Soon!

Information about JELP6, “We’ll Always Have Paris”, has been moved to the “Upcoming Conferences” Page (see also tabs above).


Welcome to the website and blog of the Journal of Environmental Law and Practice (JELP). Published by Carswell, a Thomson Reuters business, and currently edited by Professors Meinhard Doelle (Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law), Sharon Mascher and Martin Olszynski (both at the University of Calgary Faculty of Law), the JELP is Canada’s premier refereed legal periodical in Canadian environmental law and policy, with more than 20 years of publishing experience.

Here you will find information about the JELP, submission guidelines, contact information, as well as information about previous and upcoming conferences. In the coming months, we will provide information on forthcoming articles, as well as updates and commentary on current issues in environmental law and practice in Canada. We look forward to working with Canada’s environmental law community as we embark on this new and exciting phase for the JELP.