James H.C. Walker Memorial Award winner aims to set new policies to protect BC Land and Wildlife

Caitlin Stockwell
Caitlin Stockwell works with ELC students during at the 2018 Research-o-thon

Protecting BC’s land and wildlife

Fresh from a trip to Kamloops, Caitlin Stockwell excitedly explains the latest project she is working on, “The goal is not to not have mines but to have responsible mining in the right places.” Caitlin, a 2018 UVic Law graduate, is helping with the development of a comprehensive mining law reform package while articling at UVic’s Environmental Law Centre (ELC). “We’re engaging in a conversation with environmental experts, community leaders, and First Nations to come up with regulations that are both practical and in the best interest of the public,” Caitlin explains.  

Protecting British Columbia’s land and wildlife is what brought Caitlin to UVic. “To me, every area of the law is captured by environmental law because the environment isn’t siloed,” she explains. Caitlin’s passion for the environment is what made her the ideal inaugural recipient of the James H.C. Walker Memorial Award.

“Caitlin is one of the most brilliant students we have had at the Centre.” Environmental Law Centre Legal Director Calvin Sandborn says, “Most likely, forty years from now Caitlin will still be working on the issues that were dear to Jim’s heart.”

James H.C. Walker Legacy

As the Former Fish and Wildlife Director and Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment, Walker, is credited for increasing the number of British Columbia’s parks from 6 percent of the province’s land base to 14 percent. He also played a crucial role in protecting areas like the Muskwa-Kechika watersheds and the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Reserve. “He knew the power of law, and he wanted the law to change to protect the fish and the wildlife,” says Sandborn. Walker often worked in an advising role with the ELC, a role Sandborn says he took pride in, “Walker was very supportive of the Environmental Law Centre because he saw law students as agents of change for the future.”

After Walker passed away in November of 2017, several of his friends and family decided to honour his legacy by creating a scholarship to support students following in his footsteps.

“To receive an award in his honour to me is a sign I’m on the right path,” Caitlin says.

Looking Forward

Caitlin’s work with the ELC is already making a direct impact on environmental law, with the completion of a draft of critical principles for new legislation to update the provincial mining laws.  “The province must ensure that compliance with high environmental standards becomes a cost of doing business for mining companies in the province – a cost that cannot continue to be disproportionately borne by First Nations or paid for by the general public when a mining company leaves or goes bankrupt,” Caitlin says, “we simply cannot afford another Mount Polley disaster – neither from an ecological perspective or in terms of the financial costs of clean-up.”

After articling with the ELC and a law firm in Victoria that works with Indigenous clients, Caitlin will be heading to Vancouver to clerk for the BC Supreme Court. “It’s encouraging and humbling to reflect upon what James Walker achieved over his career as I begin to set out on mine.”