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Ecojustice: Using law to defend the environment

On this week's episode of Talking Radical Radio, Scott Neigh speaks with Dyna Tuytel and Barry Robinson.

The two are staff lawyers in the Calgary office of Ecojustice, a Canada-wide environmental law charity that is committed to improving the environment through law. The organization as a whole has represented environmental organizations in many key struggles in the last two and a half decades, and Tuytel and Robinson in particular have mostly worked on cases seeking to challenge the many harms caused by the oil and gas industry, tar sands and pipelines.

Struggles for social and environmental justice happen on all manner of terrains. Sometimes they happen on the land, sometimes they happen in the workplace, sometimes they happen on the streets. And sometimes they happen in the courts.

As unfamilar and even uncomfortable as that last can be to those used to pursuing movement goals by other means, sometimes legal action can be a crucial element of broader campaigns or movements. Given the specialized, complex rules that govern the world of legal challenges and hearings and court rooms, however, it is largely essential to work with experts -- with lawyers. In doing that, it can greatly facilitate things to find lawyers who hold overall goals that are aligned with those engaged on the ground in the struggle in question.

Ecojustice employs lawyers, scientists and support staff and most of its work involves litigation on behalf of environmental groups. They are funded through a mix of individual donations and foundation grants, and they take on cases that they feel will maximize their ability to have an impact on the ground and to set precedents that will better protect the environment in the future. The organization started in Vancouver in 1990, and now has offices in Calgary, Ottawa, and Toronto as well. Their work clusters around three main priorities: climate change, which often includes work around the tar sands and pipelines, wildnerness and biodiversity protection and healthy communities and the right to a healthy environment.

Dyna Tuytel and Barry Robinson speak with me about the work of Ecojustice as a whole, about some of the environmental legal work that they themselves have been involved in, and about the broad outlines of what the law can and cannot be expected to accomplish when it comes to defending the earth.

To learn more about Ecojustice, click here.

Talking Radical Radio brings you grassroots voices from across Canada. We give you the chance to hear many different people that are facing many different struggles talk about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it, in the belief that such listening is a crucial step in strengthening all of our efforts to change the world. To learn more about the show check out its website here. You can also follow us on FaceBook or Twitter, or contact scottneigh@talkingradical.ca to join our weekly email update list.

Talking Radical Radio is brought to you by Scott Neigh, a writer, media producer, and activist based in Hamilton (formerly Sudbury), Ontario, and the author of two books examining Canadian history through the stories of activists.

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