Ecojustice Blog – Special update Posted on March 9, 2022 (updated: July 21, 2022)

Who do we work with and why?

Tess Harold HeadshotTess HaroldStaff
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Last year, when we asked supporters what frustrated them most about the charitable sector, just over a third had no major complaints. One third weren’t sure how effective the work was, and another third thought there were too many organizations doing the same thing.

“It would be easier to support groups if they would coalesce around each issue…”

“I feel that animal rights and environmental organizations might be stronger and more effective if they banded together.”

“I would like to see more collaborative efforts by similar groups.”

Which, we get.

In fact, that’s why Ecojustice does work with other groups, whether they’re a small grassroots operation or an international charity. Just recently, our lawyers took to the Federal Court of Appeal on behalf of David Suzuki Foundation, Friends of the Earth, and Environmental Defence in a case concerning the pesticide glyphosate.

We got involved not just because it’s the responsible thing to do, but because we had a clear role to play and subject matter expertise to offer. We also have a history of fighting dangerous pesticides. A win here would have ripple effects far beyond this case, allowing Canadians more say in what goes into the air, water, and land.

To that end, we must also look to the traditional protectors of the water and land. That’s why we work with Indigenous-led organizations and other equity-deserving groups such as Keepers of the Water, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, and the Mushkegowuk Council.

None of us exist in a vacuum and that’s especially true for environmental organizations. So, we thought we’d take this opportunity to share a bit more about our process in developing cases and how we partner with other groups. As the largest environmental law charity in Canada, we’re the only ones taking on environmental litigation in every part of the country. That’s not a responsibility we take lightly.

What we do

We all want a thriving environment, stable climate, and healthy communities protected by effective, well-enforced laws. To achieve this, Ecojustice does three things:

  • We go to court. Our lawyers represent citizens, environmental organizations, First Nations, sustainable businesses, labour organizations, and any other groups that share our mission.
  • We push for better laws. Our experts testify in front of committees and make recommendations to strengthen environmental legislation.
  • We engage the public. Our work highlights environmental issues and changes the conversation, forcing our leaders to sit up and listen.

What we don’t do

Ecojustice isn’t just a non-profit, we’re a registered charity. As a charity, one important rule we must follow is saying ‘no’ to any partisan activity. This is why you’ll never see us encourage our supporters to vote for Candidate A over Candidate B during an election period.

There are no limits, however, on charities like Ecojustice engaging in what are known as “public policy dialogue and development activities.” This means Ecojustice is free to critique, comment on, and mobilize around a government decision or policy in service of our mission.

Our work in action

Right now, we’re working on a range of cases on behalf of private citizens and non-profit partners. Whether we’re tackling plastics pollution with Oceana Canada and Environmental Defence, or standing up for biodiversity with Wilderness Committee, each file we take on is chosen with the big picture in mind.

That is, we’ve made sure our work is addressing a broader issue — not just a specific incident. We’re not just interested in fixing one bad decision; we want to improve the system of laws and policies that allowed that bad decision (and others like it) to happen in the first place.

At any given time, there are countless worthy cases we could be working on. By carefully selecting which cases we take forward, we stay on track and ensure we’re using our limited resources for maximum impact.

Can I suggest a case?

Yes, you can. But bear in mind we receive hundreds of new case inquiries each year, the majority of which we can’t act on. This could be due to limited capacity, or a lack of knowledge on that particular matter. When this happens, we’ll sometimes direct you towards another organization that may be better placed to help.

We only take on cases where Ecojustice has a clear role to play. Spread across all provinces, Ecojustice staff on the ground build relationships with the people we serve, identify the issues that matter to them, and collaborate on solutions that can lead to better legal and environmental outcomes.

Collaboration, not competition

Sometimes supporters are surprised to find we work so closely with Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, and West Coast Environmental Law.

But the fact is, they’re not our competition. When one of us wins, we all win — and more importantly, the planet does too. In fact, the trust and support of our community (including you!) is what puts Ecojustice in the unique position of being able to share our legal expertise with other organizations and build on the strength of our network.

When the Senate passed the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act (Bill C-12) in 2021, it was a testament to the power of collaboration, as the law was the product of years of campaigning from a coalition of environmental groups, including Ecojustice.

In fact, most of the work we do with other non-profits comes from relationships established during the 30+ years we’ve been around. As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

We’ve come so far already, but still have a lot further to go. And time is running out. By working together, we can do more to prevent total climate and ecological breakdown. Will you join us?

Building the case for a better earth

Ecojustice works to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Right now, thousands are calling for urgent climate action.

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