Blog: Faces of CELA, Chris McLaughlin

1) What is your role and how long have you been with CELA?
I’ve been a member of the Heathy Great Lakes advisory committee for two years.

2) What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?
I don’t mind telling you that I first voted for Brian Mulroney back in the late 80’s – the first time I could vote when I turned 18! – because theirs was the first green policy agenda in Canadian history. I’ve always wanted to make an impact in the world, from initiating things like recycling at my high school in the mid-80’s (before it was trendy!), to attending the environment program at the University of Waterloo. I almost became an environmental lawyer – having heard CELA Counsel Rick Lindgren speak to my class in 1991! The broad foundation I received at Waterloo, and my subsequent studies in two further graduate degrees, helped me have an expansive context for environmental policy work.

3) What’s the most rewarding part of working/volunteering with CELA?
There’s no doubt, it’s the sense of contributing to something meaningful. To be invited to be part of a committee like the Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee – with such experienced practitioners from a wide variety of backgrounds – is an honour.

4) What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today?
That not enough people in government are paying attention to the important voices. Perhaps they don’t have permission, time or resources to create thorough processes, engage, or even take chances. I wish the bureaucracy would thoughtfully and carefully listen to the diversity of voices – like those on the Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee – and design a process that builds on all those experiences and perspectives. We will need much better policies, incentives, communications, strategies and engagement to tackle the really wicked problems of the future.

6) If you were the Leader of the World, what environmental law or policy would you implement?
If I were Leader of the World, I would want to see the federal government bring a brand of moral authority to their leadership – to have more people in charge who are genuinely committed to making things better for more people.

7) When you’re not working on Great Lakes issues, what do you like to do?
Spending time supporting family – our grandchildren and children in particular. I love helping these young people get established in their lives. There’ll be a time when our home quiets down, and you’ll have to ask me that question again! And once the pandemic is over, I look forward to hosting people again, and to enthusiastically hugging everyone I know!