Skip to content

Environmental Law Twitter Moot

07 twitterSamuel Harrison (1L) & Pippa Feinstein (3L)

No, it’s not a game of “legal oxymoron”, it’s a reference to the Supreme Twitter Court of Canada (STCC). We’ve all gotten the ribbing from family and friends, “you lawyers you must get paid by the word!” Now there’s at least half a retort: “Well, maybe… but not in twitter court.” Arguments in the STCC must be less than 140 characters (pay attention, gunners) and are interpreted by three influential environmental lawyers acting as our judges. This year, avatars from the U of A will ring with crippling barrages of pure un-distilled reason and un-filtered twit lawyering. Check out the history from last year’s #twtmoot on the WCEL website (www.wcel.org).

This, the second annual twitter moot hosted by West Coast Environmental Law, is sure to be a doozie. Student teams from five different Canadian law schools will debate the question of whether the common law of Canada recognizes the right to a healthy global atmosphere*. WCEL has been responsible for numerous leaps in environmental law including the creation of legal space for private land conservancies, tightening pollution regulations, starting the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, and much more. The moot project raises public awareness and brings publicity to important contemporary environmental issues. The inaugural event in February was the number one trending topic in Canada – and we hope our moot on the 20th of November will attract the same attention!

So… does the common law of Canada recognize the existence of a public right to a healthy global atmosphere? WCEL explains that if this right were to be legally recognized, it would have significant policy implications concerning the role of law in Canada’s response to issues of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate change. And there do exist certain grounds on which the Supreme Twitter Court could recognize such a right. Dating back to Roman law, certain subjects (including running water, air, and the deep sea) have been considered ‘res communis’ or ‘things commonly held by all people’. Canadian environmental law cases such as Canadian Forest Products v BC have built on this idea, recognizing these commons must have some level of quality protection and those who adversely affect the health of these commons can be held to account.

And there’s another important dimension to this argument – the two of us will be arguing for recognition of a public right to a healthy atmosphere as interveners on behalf of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER). CIER describes itself as “a First Nation-directed environmental non-profit organization”, dedicated to promoting sustainable First Nation communities and a healthy environment (www.cier.ca). We are very grateful for the guidance of CIER who will help us ensure we are being sensitive to the Indigenous voices we are attempting to represent. Fulfillment of Treaty and other ‘Aboriginal rights’ also require some degree of environmental quality protection. Using the language of ‘Aboriginal Rights’ jurisprudence will be a challenge – but one for which we’re psyched!!
* The U of A team is very grateful for the sponsorship of Ng Ariss Fong Law Firm.