Blog: Faces of CELA, Maneka Kaur

What is your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I am the current articling student at CELA, for the term of 2021-22. I have been working with CELA since June of 2021.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?

My tryst with environmental law began in 2012, when I was in my final year of law school and had the honour of interacting with the pioneer of environmental law activism and legislation in India. As I heard him discuss his struggles and victories as a lawyer, activist and a reformer, I realized that environmental law is way beyond what is taught in text books. I was awed by how this field encompassed a myriad of subjects ranging from macroeconomics to humanities and realized that to save our inherited world, the battle has to be fought both inside and outside the court room. It was then that I decided that I wanted to study environmental law further and use my capacity as a lawyer to help educate the system as well as the people about the threats that we face today.

Since 2012, I have interacted with numerous people in my capacity as a student, a lawyer and an activist, and they all have inspired me to continue in the field.

What’s the most rewarding part of working/volunteering with CELA?

The most rewarding part of working with CELA, as an Internationally Trained Lawyer, is getting the opportunity to be actively involved in environmental reform and legislation despite being a new comer into both the country and the Canadian legal arena. As part of CELA’s summary advice service, I get to interact with individuals from all walks of life, which has helped me gain a deeper understanding of not only the various legal and environmental issues faced by the people but also the laws. I could not have hoped for a better place to begin my legal career.

What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge today?

My brief time with CELA has made me aware of many environmental issues faced by Canada including the need for stronger climate change laws, transparency in decision making and a mandatory cumulative impact assessment. For me, all these issues point towards the biggest challenge as being the urgent need to align, and successfully implement, the efforts undertaken by both federal and provincial governments on environmental issues.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

Environmental law needs to be viewed holistically. Factors like demographics, social equity and access to justice are as important as understanding the science behind climate change in ensuring that the policies and regulations become a success. Therefore, I feel the best approach is for both levels of government to understand the need and requirement of all stakeholders and then come up with policies and regulations that can be successfully implemented. A system of checks and balances, in the form of access to justice and transparency, would go a long way in ensuring that all stake holders are represented in decision making and regulations are followed.

If you were the Leader of the World, what environmental law or policy would you implement?

As a leader of the world, I would first and foremost work on ensuring that all countries recognize the “right to a healthy and safe environment” a part of their fundamental right. I will also promote that the principle of “access of justice” to be an integral part of all legal systems.

When you’re not working on environmental issues, what do you like to do?

When I am not working, I like to spend time with my family and explore the magical world of books and colours with my toddler!