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Webinar series demystifies environmental law

Gain insight and learn how to navigate the law to protect the environment

Patricia Fitzpatrick

Dr. Patricia Fitzpatrick, Associate Professor, Department of Geography. Photo provided.

Students, lawyers, and concerned citizens can gain insight from leading environmental law experts thanks to the ongoing webinar series Navigating the Law to Protect the Environment.

To make this webinar series possible, geography professor Dr.  Patricia Fitzpatrick is collaborating with the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) and the Manitoba Eco-Network with funding from the Manitoba Law Foundation.

“We are pleased with the success of our first series, held in the fall and are excited to host the next set of speakers, who bring with them important insights into a range of topics our audience identified as being important.” said Fitzpatrick.

Helping citizens know their rights

We need people to be participating in our environmental legal processes because that’s what makes them democratic.

Byron Williams

The next event in the series takes place February 11 at 12:00 pm with a Zoom webinar, Feet on the ground: Your rights when you protest featuring Métis Land Defender Jenna Vandal and Lawyer Cara Zwibel. 

Vandal is the co-chair of the MMF Bison Local, and started the two-month long Rooster Town Blockade in 2017 to protect a culturally and ecologically important urban forest from development. She was sued by land developer GEM Equities in a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) with 49 others for her role in the blockade, and recently reached a group settlement with the developer, ending 3 years of litigation.

Zwibel is a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). Along with colleagues, volunteers and pro bono lawyers, she tackles challenging issues in law and policy. She has a political science degree from McGill University and law degrees from Osgoode Hall Law School and New York University.

By making the insights of experts in this field publicly available, Fitzpatrick and her community partners hope to increase the knowledge base of Manitobans on the necessary context and tools to help further public engagement in legal processes and reforms related to environmental law.

Demystifying the legal process

While environmental law may seem overwhelmingly complex, this series demystifies the legal processes used to protect the environment and helps Manitobans understand how to make their voices heard within those processes.

Glen Koroluk, Executive Director of the Manitoba Eco-Network, says that the series is playing a much needed role.

“There is a gap in publicly available educational content on environmental law in Manitoba, this series is starting to fill that gap,” he said.

Filling that gap, and increasing public knowledge of legal environmental processes, is a key part of increasing public participation and control over regulatory processes.

PILC’s Legal Director, Byron Williams emphasizes the importance of having widespread public engagement.

“We need people to be participating in our environmental legal processes because that’s what makes them democratic,” said Williams. “It’s central to making sure that outcomes reflect the interests of everyday Manitobans.”

So far, the series has covered Environmental Racism and the Law, Affecting Legislative Change, and Are class actions the way to go? In conjunction with each event, the team behind the series is also releasing background information sheets, documents setting out links to school curriculum, and resources to guide further research.

These efforts and supplemental materials are important because Navigating the Law has a broad target audience.

“Legal avenues available to the public to make their voices heard regarding environmental matters are often overwhelmingly complex,” said Fitzpatrick.  “We developed this webinar series to improve public awareness, education and information sharing regarding public participation in environmental decisions, law and policy.”

The following events are free and open to the public:

  • Feet on the ground: Your rights when you protest, February 11, 12:00 p.m. Register via Zoom.
  • Amplifying voices: Getting involved in environmental decisions, March 11, 12:00 p.m. (Watch Facebook for a registration link)
  • Reconciliation and Environmental Law, April 8, 2021, 12:00 p.m. (Watch Facebook event for registration link)

For more information on the series, and to view recordings of past events please visit Navigating the Law to Protect the Environment


Related programs and courses

In Winter 2021, Dr. Patricia Fitzpatrick is teaching GEOG-2419: Resource Development and the Canadian Environment, GEOG-3512: The Human Geography of Northern Canada, and GEOG-4450: Geographical Perspectives on Environment and Sustainability.

Learn more about the Department of Geography.  

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