Ecojustice Blog – Special Update Posted on August 26, 2019 (updated: September 30, 2019)

Behind the scenes: What it’s like to be an Ecojustice summer student

Emily ChanStaff
Ecojustice summer student Ksenia Orehova and lawyer Olivia French.
Ecojustice summer student Ksenia Orehova (left) and her mentor, lawyer Olivia French. Photo by Emily Chan.

Every summer, Ecojustice offices across Canada open their doors to some of the country’s most promising lawyers-to-be.

This year, Ecojustice summer students attended a review panel on a project that threatens Southern Resident killer whales and wild salmon, got a behind-the-scenes look at the climate reference cases in Ontario and Saskatchewan, and helped shape upcoming cases you can expect to hear more about in the upcoming year.

As we bid our students goodbye and good luck with their studies in their final year of law school, here’s a look at Ecojustice through their eyes:

Kate Meagher (Halifax)

Dalhousie Environmental Law student Kate Meagher spent the summer working in Ecojustice’s Halifax law office. In her free time, Kate is a competitive weightlifter and loves climbing, hiking, and exploring beautiful Nova Scotia.

Reflecting on her experience with Ecojustice, Kate said she was particularly struck by how deeply the lawyers care about their work and clients.

“It was a happy surprise to see how close folks here are with the communities we represent and how we are able to support them outside of just presenting arguments in court,” she said.

“I remember one conversation in particular between Ecojustice lawyers and a community member in Shelbourne (N.S.). The two lawyers were smiling so broadly at the speakerphone. I was struck by how keen they were to help her in her endeavour and by how different that support looked from what I’d come to think of as a lawyer’s job.”

Kate added, “Something I’ve learned is to show compassion to the people we encounter. People are deeply affected by their experiences and are seeking help facing them. Even if their issue is outside of our mandate, it never hurts to provide a kind word.”

­Belema Itamunoala (Ottawa)

Belema Itamunoala is Master of Laws candidate at the University of Ottawa. This summer, Belema also worked in the Ecojustice law clinic at the University of Ottawa. In her free time, Belema loves board games, especially Scrabble and chess.

During her time with Ecojustice, Belema said she learned many valuable lessons from her mentor, lawyer Joshua Ginsberg.

“Joshua Ginsberg was such a great mentor! He’s the true definition of a leader. He balanced empathy and politeness with delegation and he always made sure I understood every task assigned to me and assisted if I didn’t. His cheerful nature helped to maintain a good atmosphere for learning.

“Josh involved me in the carbon pricing reference cases in Saskatchewan and Ontario, which helped me build a wealth of knowledge on this topic. Overall, I am thankful for Josh’s mentorship, as it fostered a learning atmosphere for me.”

Emily King (Toronto)

“Aaniin! My name is Emily King and I am from the Georgian Bay Métis Community. I am entering into my third year at Osgoode Hall. I had a wonderful experience at Ecojustice this summer in the Toronto office.”

Emily, who spent the summer of 2019 in Ecojustice’s Toronto office, said she came to the organization in search of people who had a common interest in doing better for the earth.

She found those people at Ecojustice, where she worked closely with the climate team and her mentor, lawyer Julia Croome.

“One of my mentors outside of Ecojustice, Dan Longboat, always reminds me about the teaching to work for the continuation of Creation. I realized within the first few days at Ecojustice that folks here have this common intention and our interests align,” Emily said.

“Julia taught me countless lessons that I will carry forward with me into my legal career but something that has really stood out to me is how she has demonstrated the strong voice of a successful mother, woman, lawyer, teacher and so much more — all while doing better for the earth. She has been and will continue to be a great role model for aspiring female lawyers.”

Logan Salm (Calgary)

Ecojustice’s Calgary office hosted Logan Salm, a law student at the University of Saskatchewan, this summer. Logan is an avid hiker, biker, and rock climber, who enjoys scaling both the Rocky Mountains and environmental policy challenges.

Logan said spending four months in Ecojustice’s Calgary office gave him a behind-the-scenes look at how much work goes into every Ecojustice case, from the fight to protect boreal caribou in Alberta to our work to stop the unlawful and lengthy “phase-outs” of bee-killing pesticides.

“TV can give the impression that complex problems like environmental litigation can be solved in an afternoon at the courthouse,” Logan said. “They tend to breeze over the tireless dedication of lawyers who painstakingly make sure that every case has its best chance to be successful.  The care lawyers in the Alberta Ecojustice office give each case constantly impressed me.

“Amidst the many negative headlines that we see, Ecojustice lawyers are able to stay positive and know that they’re making a real difference.  I think the ability to stay hopeful in the face of adversity is one of the main reasons that Ecojustice is able to be so effective — and I hope to take that same spirit of realistic optimism with me into the world.”

Ksenia Orehova (Vancouver)

Ecojustice’s Vancouver summer student, Ksenia Orehova, is currently studying at the Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law, specializing in environmental law. Ksenia loves to spend as much time outside as possible, and knew from a young age that she wanted to protect the natural world.

“Throughout the summer, I had the opportunity to work closely on a number of files and develop a deeper familiarity some of the issues and challenges environmental organizations commonly face,” Ksenia said.

The 2019 Vancouver student said some of her biggest takeaways from the summer came from the practical experience she gained working at Ecojustice.

“Specific highlights from my experience include attending a panel review on the Roberts Bank Terminal 2 Expansion, a project that threatens wild salmon and Southern Resident killer whales, and helping prepare written submissions for Ecojustice’s Progress Energy case, which deals with unauthorized fracking dams,” she said.

As summer comes to a close, Ecojustice is preparing for autumn — our busiest time of the year. Sign up to our email list to be the first to know when we launch a new case, appear in court, or have something to say about pressing environmental issues of the day.

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