The CQDE acts as a guardian of environmental law. Our lawyers expertly lead legal recourses with one hand, while informing the public of the tools and rights available to them with the other. Environmental protection is a collective issue and we want to help everyone play their part.

Organizational vision, mission and values

The vision for the Quebec Environmental Law Centre / Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) is to evolve in a society where all living beings and the environment are legally protected for their intrinsic value, and where all members of society actively collaborate to ensure this protection.

The CQDE plays an essential role in the evolution of law and access to justice in environmental affairs. The CQDE contributes to the development of a legal framework that responds to emergent environmental challenges. Through its actions, the CQDE acts as a guardian of environmental laws, and ensures that these laws are respected.

The CQDE aims to:

Contribute to the development, promotion and respect of environmental law in order to protect the environment and means of life.
Protect the environmental rights of citizens to ensure / prioritize their access to justice in environmental matters.
Offer training services and information for citizens and interveners concerning the legal tools at their disposal to preserve their right to a healthy environment.

The CQDE considers the environment as part of the common heritage of humanity, and assumes the responsibility of protecting it. In fulfilling this obligation, the CQDE prioritizes the following values:

Integrity • Independence • Expertise • Innovation • Collaboration

A long history of victories for the environment and citizens

For the past 25 years, the CQDE has fulfilled its mission to dedicate its legal expertise to the service of citizens and protection of the environment. The CQDE aims to raise awareness and make accessible the legal tools necessary for organizations and citizens to defend their rights and ensure the implementation of environmental law in Quebec. It is the only organization that offers independent expertise in issues pertaining to environmental law in Quebec, and that gives citizens access to justice in environmental matters – a need that grows as the number of environmental legal cases multiplies.

The contribution of the CQDE for the past 25 years was notably recognized by a unanimous resolution in the National Assembly of Quebec in November 2014, and celebrated by prominent figures such as David Suzuki and lawyer Julius Grey. The CQDE has received equally unanimous support from the most widely regarded environmental groups in Quebec as a result of its immeasurable contribution to the protection of the environment and promotion of the law.

The CQDE responds annually to dozens of information requests and demands for legal support from citizens concerned about environmental issues from a wide range of issues. The organization also brings cases of public interest before the courts to promote access to justice and protection of the environment. The CQDE has also published many guides and documents to inform citizens about their rights, and has trained numerous lawyers who now form the next generation of environmental advocates.

Furthermore, the CQDE actively supports the development of environmental law. The CQDE has submitted analyses and legal solutions of numerous major cases, such as shale gas, mining, blue algae, SLAPP suits, contaminated soil, and many others. There are more than fifty rigorously documented legal reports that the CQDE has filed in public consultations since its creation. Many of these proposals have been adopted and are now part of Quebec environmental law.

Over the years, the CQDE has rigorously led legal proceedings that have advanced environmental law in Quebec. It was in this context that the CQDE, in response to the alarm raised by the scientific community, spearheaded the legal recourse that ensured the protection of the beluga population threatened by the development of an oil port in the Saint Lawrence River. The risk posed by this development has since been recognized by both the government of Quebec and the developer.

In the heart of the summer of 2015, CQDE lawyers obtained other important victories. When the federal minister refused to stop work that threatened the habitat of the prairie chorus frog, an at-risk species unique to Quebec, the CQDE filed a provisional injunction that gave the necessary time for a decision from the new federal minister who could definitively save the species.

The CQDE also filed an appeal to submit the cement plant of Port-Daniel-Gascons to an environmental study by the Bureau d’audience publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) (“Office of Public Hearings on the Environment”), which resulted in an out-of-court agreement to set up an environmental monitoring committee for the benefit of groups and local communities. Finally, the CQDE went to the Court of Appeal to ensure that the standards of environmental protection outlined in the Environmental Quality Act were applied in respect to anticipated drilling on Anticosti Island.

The CQDE has many projects in sight for the coming years. In addition to undertaking further legal recourse in the public interest, it hopes to provide public services by developing a legal clinic in collaboration with numerous universities. This would give citizens access to information and legal services at a modified price or free of charge, and would contribute to training new lawyers in environmental law. The CQDE would additionally put its expertise towards the process currently underway to redesign the Environmental Quality Act.

The CQDE depends on public donations for funding, which assures its independence. To fulfill its mission and contribute to the development of environmental law in Quebec while offering access to information and legal services to a growing number of people, the CQDE needs your support.

Giving to the CQDE is not just participating in the creation of the next generation of environmental lawyers and informing citizens about their rights regarding environmental issues; it means giving us the means to continue defending nature, and the right for everyone to live in a healthy environment.