Wildlands League and Ontario Nature, represented by Lara Tessaro and Anastasia Lintner, were at the Ontario Court of Appeal recently appealing the troubling decision by a lower court that puts already endangered species at further risk of extinction. We’ll keep you posted on a decision.
In the meantime, we thought we’d ask Lara and Anastasia a few burning questions. They inspire us and we thought they might inspire you too.
Here are Anastasia’s answers. If you missed Lara’s answers see Part One.
Why do you do this work?
My parents instilled an eco-ethic in me from the very beginning. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had opportunities to shape my career path toward furthering environmental protection, starting with being an academic and environmental economist and then moving on to become a lawyer.
What motivates you?
Two things. Helping people understand the economic and political lay of the land with respect to the importance of ecosystems; ensuring access to legal information and services. Seeking wins for environmental protection and conservation within the legal system.
Why on earth did you take this appeal for free?
The case is important to me personally. The legal profession requires that lawyers remember their duty to the public interest, and that’s part of it too. It’s also because species need a voice and I want to ensure that folks like Wildlands League that are willing to stand up for species are given opportunity to do so. Finally, I wanted to see this case through. I had been assisting Wildlands League, Ontario Nature, and their partners in their efforts to reform and implement Ontario’s species at risk legislation for most of my career as a lawyer. I also had been working with the very talented Lara Tessaro on this file when it was before Divisional Court. I’m honoured to be able to continue working with her on the appeal.
What do you think of the legal process when it comes to environmental issues and holding our governments to account?
My biggest frustration is that going to court in an adversarial system results in winners and losers. While degradation of biodiversity affects us all. That’s why I work to seek reform in our legal systems so that we are all held to account for ensuring healthy ecosystems, which form the foundation of healthy economic, social, and cultural systems.
What made you want to become a lawyer?
Strangely, it was my high school dream to become a lawyer. I had that path planned out – two years of business administration followed by early entrance to law school. That’s not the path that I took. In my final year of high school, my parents arranged for me to talk to various folks in various professions that I might want to pursue. The lawyer I spoke to was so unhappy in his role that it impacted my decision about where to focus my energy. Instead of law, I ended up pursuing economics and was inspired by the then emerging discipline of environmental and natural resource economics. I became the first graduate of the natural resource and environmental economics PhD program at the University of Guelph. After several years in my career as an academic at Memorial University of Newfoundland, I decided that I would attempt law school. When I mentioned this to my parents, they said, “It’s about time!”
What’s your favourite endangered or threatened species in Ontario? In Canada? Why?
Tough question. There’s so many that are special to me. I’m fond of the American Chestnut because it reminds me of when we collected and played with chestnuts as a child. Similarly, I’m fond of Fowler’s Toad because it reminds me of how the toads used to get in my grandparents’ window wells. I also adore the Small White Lady’s-slipper because they are beautiful. Nationally, my favourite is the barn swallow, also because it reminds me of my childhood. I guess you’d say that most of my favourites are inspired by nostalgia.
What should the public know about this case that they might not have heard about yet?
For me, it is important that everyone know that this case is not just about the exemption regulation. The Ontario Court of Appeal has been asked to determine the purpose of the province’s endangered species legislation. Is the overarching purpose the protection and recovery of species at risk (as Wildlands League and Ontario Nature have argued)?
How important is this case? Why does it matter?
Answering the question about the purpose of Ontario’s endangered species law is not just important to how this case is determined, it also impacts all decisions that are made under that law going forward. There are currently 161 endangered and threatened species in Ontario. Decisions made for these vulnerable species ought to be focussed on ensuring that they all once again thrive in Ontario.
How can we thank you?
You have already honoured me with your words of thanks and a copy of that awesome poster. All I need is for you to keep up your conservation efforts!
Do you prefer canoeing or kayaking? (we ask this of everyone it’s an ongoing debate in our office)
Canoeing! I confess, I haven’t spent much time kayaking. Right now, I can’t even recall if I’ve actually kayaked more than once. I have, however, spent lots of time in a canoe, starting when I was quite young. I’ve canoed with friends and family for decades, primarily in Ontario’s backcountry. Our summer canoe vacations are sources of great joy and often some adversity; I look forward to them every year, even more so now that our young son comes along with us!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Here’s some food for thought. It’s something that my spouse highlighted in the lead up to the hearing. He finds it curious that, in a situation where a law such as the Endangered Species Act which benefits all Ontarians is challenged, public money is used to fund the government’s arguments about why the province can favour industry and push vulnerable species to the brink of extinction, while nonprofit organizations like yours need to rely on supporters and volunteers to argue that the Legislature intended species at risk to be given priority. It just doesn’t seem right. Though there are some opportunities for public funding to participate in legal decision-making and processes, there ought to be more attention brought to this issue.