Environmental law

Protecting the environment and its resources for current and future generations

Forests and woodlands are what make Canada great, helping to forge its reputation. This invaluable wealth and legacy must be preserved for future generations. But how can the environment and its resources, including forests, be protected in a sustainable manner? How can we make sure that the companies exploiting them comply with best practices?

This is what Paule Halley, Université Laval’s Canada Research Chair in Environmental Law and full professor in the university’s Faculty of Law, is investigating.

Along with her team, Halley focuses on the changes that have been made to the Canadian legal framework to ensure environmental protection and implement sustainable development strategies. Environmental law and its role in protecting and governing water, mines and forests is one of her most important research areas.

Lagging mining laws

Forestry companies are now obligated to adopt environmentally friendly production methods. Failure to do so can result in stiff penalties, ranging from fines to imprisonment.

Canada has become a source of sustainable forest products thanks to its governance and law enforcement system. Halley is delighted. “There may be disparities across provinces in terms of forest protection, but the major forest-owning provinces have succeeded in establishing sustainable forest management. This is very encouraging.”

However, the mining law situation is quite different. “There is substantial resistance in the legal system to recognizing the negative impact mining has on the environment and on biodiversity,” she explains. “Our research has revealed several shortcomings in the Mining Act. Our assessment of legal interactions has shown that mining activity takes precedence over the quality of the environment. The Act remains inadequate to properly regulate mining, oil and gas activities.”

Recognition of environmental laws

Halley and her team are motivated by current transformations in the Canadian legal system. They are working to raise the awareness of jurists, governments and citizens about the importance of implementing an efficient legal framework to ensure environmental protection. Among other actions, they take part in the work of parliamentary committees, draft memoranda and publish open letters. “It’s rewarding to see that we can help improve a bill, like we did for a bill on water a few years ago,” says Halley.

This trailblazer’s internationally lauded work has significant impacts on public policy. For example, as an expert in environmental law, Halley was called on to comment on the objectives of the Global Pact for the Environment, launched in 2018.

“If it’s adopted, the Pact would be the first legally binding international treaty to recognize environmental rights. Now we just need to promote it and convince States to adopt it.”

Would you like to learn more?

For more information, visit the website for the Canada Research Chairs Program  or read what Paule Halley and her team are doing to defend the right to live in a sustainable society.