In its first major case, lawyers from Ecojustice (then Sierra Legal Defence Fund) launched a lawsuit on behalf of the Friends of the Oldman River, a grassroots group of Alberta citizens, seeking a federal government assessment on the potentially severe environmental impacts that would result from the construction of a mega-dam on the Oldman River.
The Piikani Nation, located downstream from the proposed dam, had also mounted a lobbying campaign to stop construction. After the lawsuit was launched, the Province of Alberta, which was responsible for the proposed dam project, joined the federal government in opposing our legal action.
The case eventually went to the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). We intervened on our own behalf and on behalf of a coalition of environmental organizations. In January 1992, the SCC handed down a decision that opened with an acknowledgment that “the protection of the environment has become one of the major challenges of our time.” The SCC found that federal environmental assessment guidelines were mandatory, binding on the federal government, and extended to projects sponsored by provincial governments.