Why understanding Canadian environmental law isn’t just for lawyers


consultingPost by: Sherry Hume, ECO Canada

Environmental lawyers aren’t the only ones who need to understand environmental law.

More environmental professionals are becoming acquainted with at least the basics of law in order to effectively understand and use Canadian legislation and policies for their projects.

The Basics of Canadian environmental law

Canadian environmental law is divided between federal and provincial governments.

The federal government has the power to pass laws relating to fisheries, shipping, interprovincial trade and commerce, and criminal law.

Under this umbrella are the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Canada Shipping Act, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, the Fisheries Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

Provincial legislation includes issues of local nature and property and civil rights within each province. The provinces also have jurisdiction over agriculture, forestry, mining and hydroelectric development.

This means that provinces have the authority to pass a comprehensive list of environmental laws. Water and air pollution, and wildlife conservation and management are also regulated by individual provinces.

While the federal government is in charge of national parks and endangered species, other ecological reserves and wilderness areas are under provincial law.

Being familiar with which section of government is responsible for what laws is important when it comes to dealing with a variety of environmental projects.

iStock_000013780364MediumWho benefits from understanding environmental law?

Lawyers aren’t the only professionals who benefit from understanding environmental law.

Some environmental law instruction can help to develop practical skills and find ways to apply this knowledge in many different situations and for many different industries.

Two occupations that can greatly benefit from an understanding of environmental law are Project Managers and Field Staff.

Project Managers

Project managers are in charge of client liability, company liability and the health and safety of workers. The PM also researches the client’s issues and must determine and understand what regulations a client must comply with for a specific project.

It is the PM’s job to represent the client in an appropriate matter in order to limit liabilities and ensure compliance with standards, acts and laws. As well as being responsible for the well-being of employees and contractors, a PM often guides field technicians in their professional development and communicates directly with regulators in order to learn the legal jargon or laws that their clients must abide by.

In other words, project managers would benefit from some education in environmental law, and would also be in a position to ensure that other likely team members are likewise educated. With other team members versed in environmental law – more work can be appropriately delegated.

Field Staff

Field staff often learn and follow guiding standards from the environmental professional, project manager, or from the ministry directly, but usually it is the PM that is responsible for this.

Field staff should know how to interpret regulations, determine and follow guidelines for criteria, standards, sampling protocol and health and safety. Field Staff also determine and follow precautionary measures as they are the ones that are at the source and must make judgement calls while following applicable bylaws.

They are often responsible for collecting data as required by permit conditions or for submission to the government. With an environmental law background – it is easier to perform these tasks and understand their consequences, and if you have this background before applying for this type of position it will make you the more attractive candidate.

The more you think about it – the more you will realize that there are many types of professionals who will at some point in their careers need a basic knowledge of environmental law.

Engineers, project coordinators, team leads, technical or support staff and even contractors can find themselves confused if they don’t have a basic understanding of this subject.

Navigate Canadian Environmental Law with ECO Canada

With ECO Canada’s course on Navigating Canadian Environmental Law, you get a comprehensive, easy-to-understand overview of Canadian environmental law.

You will learn best practices for due diligence, working with regulators, and finding relevant legal info for new types of projects, new locations, and ongoing project compliance.

By investing a little time in this course you can build confidence knowing that you can provide your team and clients with informed, up-to-date regulatory guidance.

See the course

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