Chris Tollefson


Chris Tollefson

Chris Tollefson

Tel: 250-721-8170
Fax: 250-721-8146
Faculty of Law
University of Victoria
PO Box 1700, STN CSC
Victoria, BC  V8W 2Y2

Chris Tollefson is Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. Chris has played a leading role in the development of Canadian public interest environmental law.  He was the founding executive director of the UVic Environmental Law Centre, a position in which he served for over twenty years.  He also served for fifteen years as a director of Ecojustice, including four years as Chair and national President.  From 2011 to 2016 he held the Hakai Chair in Environmental Law and Sustainability at UVic Law.

Chris has appeared before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada. His litigation experience includes trial and appellate counsel work on various complex public interest and criminal defence cases. He has also acted for public interest clients in numerous regulatory proceedings including the Northern Gateway pipeline review (Nature Canada & BC Nature: 2012-2015); the Trans Mountain pipeline review (for Nature Canada and BC Nature: 2014 to date); the Pacific North West LNG environmental assessment (for Skeena Wild: 2015-2018); and the Teck Frontier Oils Sands environmental assessment (for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society: 2017 to date). 

He has degrees from Queen’s, University of Victoria and Osgoode Hall Law School, and clerked at the BC Court of Appeal for Justices Lambert and Macdonald. His publications cover a range of environmental and natural resource topics including environmental assessment, climate change, and access to justice. He is co-author (with Meinhard Doelle) of Environmental Law: Cases and Materials (Carswell 3rd edition, forthcoming 2019). He has won various awards for his teaching and research, and in 2014 was the recipient of Nature Canada’s Conservation Partner Award for his work leading their legal team during the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

He is passionate about litigation, and about training and inspiring young litigators to take on challenging public interest cases.  In 2016, he co-founded and became the executive director of Canada’s first legal NGO focused on training and inspiring Canada’s next generation of public interest environmental litigators.  The Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation  (CELL) pursues this goal by offering students the opportunity to gain hands-on litigation experience working as part of a team on carefully selected and closely supervised public interest environmental cases that have strong experiential learning potential.

Chris is principal of Tollefson Law a public interest-focused law firm that is co-counsel, along with Arvay Finlay LLP, on La Rose v HMTQ, a climate lawsuit case filed by fifteen Canadian young people against the federal government.


  • “Biodiversity Litigation in Canada” in G. Futhazar (eds) Biodiversity Litigation (forthcoming: Oxford U Press) with F. Perron-Welch and J. Ginsberg

  • “Foreign Wrongs, Corporate Rights & the Arc of Transnational Law” in O. Fitzgerald (ed) Corporate Citizen: New Perspectives on the Globalized Rule of Law (2020: CIGI, Toronto) with Jason MacLean

  • Chris Tollefson, Meinhard Doelle, Environmental Law Cases and Materials, Third Edition, (Carswell, 2019)

  • "The Trials and Tribulations of the Precautionary Principle” invited chapter in A. Ingelson (ed) Environment in the Courtroom (U of C Press, 2019)
  • "Canada's Petro Paralysis, Diagnosed" The Tyee January 28, 2019
  • Climate-Proofing Judicial Review after Paris: Judicial Competency, Capacity, and Courage” (2018) 31 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice  (with Jason MacLean) 245
  • “Environmental assessment Bill is a lost opportunityPolicy Options February 14, 2018
  • C. Tollefson, “Here is why BC must do its own review of the Kinder Morgan pipeline” (May 23, 2017) The Globe and Mail (with J. Maclean)
  • C. Tollefson, “A plan that promotes environmental stewardshipPolicy Options (May 30, 2017) (with Jason MacLean, Jocelyn Stacey, Aerin Jacob, Caroline Fox, & Martin Olszynski)
  • C. Tollefson, “Polyjural and Polycentric Sustainability Assessment: A Once-in-a-Generation Law Reform Opportunity” (2016) 30 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice 35-66 (with J. Maclean and M. Doelle)
  • C. Tollefson, “Sustainability-based Assessments of Project-related Climate Change Impacts: A Next-Generation EA Policy Conundrum” (2016) 30 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice 67-95 (with Anthony Ho)
  • C. Tollefson, “Canada’s Current Environmental Assessment Law: A Tear-down not a RenoPolicy Options (July 13, 2016)
  • C. Tollefson, “Rebuilding Federal Environmental Assessment” BarTalk (August 1, 2016)
  • C. Tollefson, “The Past, Present and Future of Canadian Environmental Law: A Critical Dialogue” (2016) 1 Lakehead Law Journal 79-104 (with Jason MacLean and Meinhard Doelle)
  • C. Tollefson, “Understanding Canada’s Responses to Citizen Submissions under the NAAEC” (2014) 7 Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal 55-79 (with Anthony Ho)
  • "New Governance Arrangements at the Intersection of Climate Change and Forest Policy" (2012) 90 Public Administration 37-55 (with M. Doelle et. al.)
  • "Symposium Overview: Conceptualizing New Governance Arrangements" (2012) 90 Public Administration 3-18 (lead author and symposium editor: with T. Zito and F. Gale)
  • "Costs in Public Interest Litigation Revisited" (2012) 39 The Advocate's Quarterly 197-221
  • "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: The British Columbia Experience" (2010) Review of European Community & International Environmental Law, with Michaelin Scott
  • "Tears from an Onion: Layering, Exhaustion and Transformation in B.C. Land Use Planning Policy" (2009) 28 Policy and Society 111-124, with Tim Thielmann
  • "Costs in Public Interest Litigation: Recent Developments and Future Directions" (2009) 35 Advocates Quarterly 181-201
  • "From Government to Governance in Forest Planning? Lessons from the Case of the British Columbia Great Bear Rainforest Initiative" (2009) 11 Forest Policy and Economics 383-391, with Howlett and Rayner
  • "Litigating the Precautionary Principle in Domestic Courts" (2008) 19 Journal of Environmental Law and Practice 33-58, with Jamie Thornback
  • "Charting a Course: Shellfish Aquaculture and Indigenous Rights in New Zealand and British Columbia" (2006) 150 B.C. Studies 3-41, with R.M. Scott
  • "Costs and the Public Interest Litigant: Okanagan Indian Band and Beyond" (2006) 19 Canadian Journal of Administrative Law and Practice 39-61
  • "The Implications of Okanagan Indian Band for Public Interest Litigants: A Strategic Discussion Paper" (presented at the AGM of the Court Challenges Program of Canada: Winnipeg, November 19, 2005)
  • "Charting a Course: Assessing Regulatory Regimes for Shellfish Aquaculture in New Zealand and British Columbia", with R.M. Scott (presented to the AGM of the Aquaculture Association of Canada, July 2005)
  • "Towards a Public Interest Costs Jurisprudence" (2004) 83 Canadian Bar Review (50 pages) lead author with D. Gilliland and J. DeMarco
  • "NAFTA's Chapter Eleven: the Case for Reform" Choices (Institute for Research in Public Policy: Ottawa, March 2003)
  • "Games without Frontiers: Investor Claims and Citizen Submissions under the NAFTA Regime" (2002) 27 Yale Journal of International Law 141-191
  • "Metalclad Corporation v. The United Mexican States Revisited: Judicial Oversight of the Investor-State Claim Process under NAFTA" (2002) 11 Minnesota Journal of Global Trade 182-223
  • "Advancing An Agenda? A Reflection on Recent Developments in Canadian Public Interest Environmental Litigation" (2002) 51 UNBLJ 175-196
  • "A Fluid Situation: Evolving Drinking Water Law and Policy in British Columbia" (2001) 59 The Advocate 527-542, with Peter MacPherson
  • "Aboriginal Rights and Cumulative Environmental Effects" (1998) 18 Environmental Impact Review 371-390, with Karen Wipond
  • "Contaminated Sites Liability in British Columbia" (1997) Environmental Liability, with Diana Belevsky
  • "Bill 26 Arrives" (1997) The Advocate, with Diana Belevsky
  • BA – Queen's (1982)
  • LLB – UVic  (1985)
  • LLM – Osgoode Hall (1993)
Professor Tollefson is interested in supervising LLM and PhD students in the areas of: environmental and climate litigation; new governance arrangements; public participation; resource co-management; joint and shared decision-making.