On December 16, 2010, Victoria City Council voted to bestow the award of “Honorary Citizen” on ELAW Partner Calvin Sandborn in recognition of the contribution that he and the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic have made to the City of Victoria and the Capital Region.

The official citation given with this award was presented by the Mayor of Victoria and stated the Clinic’s role in: protecting 2,350 hectares of ocean front, canyon and forests near Victoria; reforming regional storm water management; advocacy on numerous other environmental issues; and its mission of training Canada’s next generation of public interest lawyers.

Congratulations to Calvin and everyone at the Clinic for this most-deserved award!

Lauren Ice
ELAW Office Manager

The story behind the new parks in Victoria was originally published on the website of the University of Victoria Environmental Law Clinic, and with permission, has been re-posted below.

March 8, 2010

In response to local government’s March 5 announcement to purchase lands in the Jordan River, Sooke Potholes and Weeks Lake areas, the ELC is grateful to have played a part in one of its most important victories ever.

Partnering with The Land Conservancy, the CRD has reached an agreement in principle to purchase 2,350 hectares of land from Western Forest Products for $18.8 million.  The lands will be protected for recreation, conservation and watershed protection for generations to come and include over 3.5km of shoreline from the world-famous surfing beach at Jordan River to Sandcut Beach.

One of the actions that contributed to this decision was the ELC’s 2007 submission on behalf of the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society to the Auditor General, which argued that the provincial government had improperly released the forest lands in question for development.  In a scathing report, the Auditor General concluded that government:

  • made the decision without sufficient regard for the public interest;
  • put greater weight on assisting the forest company’s financial restructuring than on other public interests;
  • put corporate interest above the public interests; and
  • the Forest Company and its parent company had made significant political contributions.

The report triggered a political storm that drove public demand for protection of the South Island’s Wild Coast.  A good summary of the political controversy and the Wild Coast movement is given in a Focus Magazine article.

The uproar made the front page of the national and provincial newspapers and led to more than a dozen angry editorials with headlines such “Stink of corruption sticking to BC government” and “Betrayal of the Public Trust.” Click here for links to the numerous articles.

While the new agreement doesn’t cover all forest lands released by the provincial government, tens of thousands of hectares of land in the area have previously been protected from development by rezoning of 300-acre minimum lots in an ELC-advocated initiative legislated last fall.  The ELC has taken a number of other legal actions to advance this cause.

Many thanks are due to the ELC students who have worked for the Sea-to-Sea Greenbelt Society on this issue since May 2007.  Their law school work will leave a long-term legacy: Melinda Skeels, Dana Dempster, Emma Lehrer, Michaelin Scott, Tim Thielmann, Elizabeth Anderson, Rachel Forbes, Zahra Jimale, Earl Stevenson, Jen Smith and Micah Carmody.

Thanks are also due to ELC staffers, who have put in hundreds of hours of work on this legal project: Holly Pattison, Deborah Curran, Chris Tollefson, and Calvin Sandborn.

Finally, thanks to the ELC Board, the Law Faculty and especially to the Tula Foundation, all of whom make ELC operations possible.