NL court hands down landmark victory for protection of Gulf of St. Lawrence

Court confirms that NL Offshore Petroleum Board was wrong to extend Corridor Resources’s exploration licence

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, July 7 2020 – Ecojustice lawyers and their environmentalist clients are celebrating a landmark victory in the wake of a court decision rendered July 3, which protects the Gulf of St. Lawrence and other sensitive ocean ecosystems. 

A Newfoundland and Labrador court quashed a licence for oil exploration in the Gulf, agreeing with the environmentalists that the offshore petroleum board was wrong to extend it beyond its legal term limit. 

Lawyers with Ecojustice and the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic represented SNAP Québec, Attention FragÎles, Nature Québec, the David Suzuki Foundation, and Sierra Club Canada Foundation in a lawsuit that challenged the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board’s (C-NLOPB) decision to extend the Headwater Exploration (formerly Corridor Resources) Old Harry licence well past the maximum nine-year lifespan permitted under federal and provincial laws. 

The court’s ruling confirms that the C-NLOPB lacked the authority to extend the licence in the first place and means that no company can permanently obtain a right to explore at its leisure. As a result of the ruling, oil companies will need to pass an environmental assessment under the Impact Assessment Act and appropriately consult with Indigenous Peoples within the specified time. 

Representatives from the groups issued the following statements in response to the recent court decision: 

Ian Miron, Ecojustice lawyer, said:

“We welcome the court’s decision to uphold the law and enforce the time limit for this oil exploration licence in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. 

“Not only does the decision protect the Gulf and the communities that depend on it from a risky drilling project, it sets an important precedent for offshore oil and gas regulators around the country. As recently as May 2019, federal regulators proposed similar artificial extensions for expiring licences in the Beaufort Sea. The court’s decision sends a clear message: such artificial extensions are illegal.” 

Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director for Sierra Club Canada Foundation, said:

"We continue to call for a full moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Gulf, and immediate action to protect and restore this shared and precious ecosystem. Right whales make their way here every summer and a major oil spill and seismic blasting would be devastating to them and other marine life, as well as coastal communities that rely on a healthy ecosystem."

Sylvain Archambault, biologist at SNAP Québec and spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition, said:

“SNAP Québec is pleased with the court decision and would like to salute Ecojustice’s truly professional and relentless work in this file. This environmental victory follows over a decade of mobilization by the St. Lawrence Coalition, countless groups and citizens around the Gulf as well as First Nations. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is now free of oil and gas projects but only a Gulf-wide moratorium can ensure permanent protection to the Gulf’s precious and fragile ecosystem.” 

Diego Creimer, Interim Co-Director General,Quebec and Atlantic Canada for the David Suzuki Foundation, said: 

“The Gulf of St-Lawrence is a rich ecosystem that provides habitat for hundreds of species and millions of Canadians. Oil exploration activities would put this fragile ecosystem at risk and threaten fisheries and tourism which are essential to the economy of the Atlantic region, in addition to threatening First Nations’ traditional territory. The federal government and the five provinces surrounding the gulf should work together with First Nations to protect this emblematic Canadian ecosystem.”  

Danielle Giroux, spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition and president of Attention FragÎles, said:

“The Magdalen Islands community, as well as all those surrounding the Gulf of St. Lawrence, are very pleased with the court’s decision. An oil and gas industry in the Gulf would be totally incompatible with the sustainable economic activities based on fishing and tourism. This victory shows us the importance of constant vigilance and citizen mobilization to ensure the protection of the Gulf. We salute the hard work of all the groups and citizens involved in this fight along with Ecojustice who has defended this file with professionalism, dedication and conviction“.

For media inquiries

Venetia Jones, Communications Specialist | Ecojustice
613 447 4546,

Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Programs Director | Sierra Club Canada Foundation
902 444 7096, 

Sylvain Archambault, Biologist | SNAP Québec
581 995 4350, 

Diego Creimer, Interim Co-Director General Quebec and Atlantic Canada | David Suzuki Foundation
514 871 4932 #1458,

Danielle Giroux, Spokesperson for the St. Lawrence Coalition and president of Attention FragÎles
819 943 4042,