By Brandon Gillet
A campaign to stop using disposable paper plates and plastic cutlery at events in Fauteux Hall is just one small step for law students focussed on having a big impact on environmental issues.
Le Club du droit de la Terre (The Environmental Law Club), founded in 2014 by Faculty of Law students, aims to encourage awareness and responsible practices with a view to using the law to make the world a better place. The club’s latest project involves working pro bono to draft a biodiversity charter for the City of Gatineau.
“We are law students, so we do things to help the environment in that context,” said club president Marie-Pierre Boudreau. “There are students coming into the Faculty of Law who aren’t really interested in large, corporate business or tax law firms but want to make real changes in the world. I want to take those students in and show them that it is possible.”
Boudreau said the club is really excited about the City of Gatineau project.
“It fits in with our objective to give our members opportunities to volunteer in the domain of environmental law. It also gives the club a lot of visibility,” she said.
Last year, the club captured the interest of Swedish television network SVT.
“They interviewed us about our new Trudeau government and making environmental issues a priority,” she said. “We were on national TV in Sweden.”
The club is running a faculty campaign to buy reusable plates and cutlery to replace the throwaway cardboard and plastic items now in use. Club members also placed plants in Fauteux Hall, home to the Faculty’s Civil Law and Common Law sections, to make the building a little greener. In addition to these small steps, student members have hosted lectures on how the law plays a part in environmentalism and last year, they volunteered at an Ottawa event that debriefed the COP21 Paris Climate Conference.
“It linked us to the government, which is something we would like to pursue further. We’d like to take students to a real environmental trial at the Supreme Court for example, or look for special committees on environmental issues,” said Boudreau.
Students in the French-speaking club are also looking for opportunities to work pro bono for environmental law associations to give students an idea of the type of impact they could have.
The club is now building alliances with like-minded students and groups from other faculties to expand its activities.
“Coordination with the Office of Campus Sustainability is something we want to pursue further going forward,” she said. “We want to create more relationships on campus, since sustainability practices are campus-wide.”
“We want to reach out to establish the club so that it endures,” said Boudreau.