Ministry of the Environment

Office Snapshot

  • Location: Toronto
  • Lawyers: 48
  • Articling Students: 3
  • Summer Law Students: 3
  • Types of Law: Aboriginal, Access & Privacy, Administrative, Commercial, Constitutional, Contract, Corporate, Environmental, Provincial Offences

Who we are

Counsel in the Legal Services Branch (LSB) at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) are employed by the Ministry of the Attorney General. Our job is to help our client, MOECC, to achieve its mandate of protecting Ontario’s air, land and water. Counsel work with MOECC staff to prevent pollution, restore and protect the environment, and enhance public health, environmental quality and economic vitality in Ontario. Counsel help draft, interpret and enforce the province’s environmental laws. Counsel in our branch include experts in environmental law; but counsel also have expertise in many other areas of law including aboriginal law, contracts and procurement, legislative and regulatory drafting, administrative hearings, and the prosecution of provincial offences.

What we do

Our Branch provides legal services to the MOECC. There are generally two types of practices in the Branch – litigation and solicitors.


Solicitors’ files generally fall into one or more of the following groups:

  • Indigenous law,
  • agencies (governance and appointments),
  • assessment and approvals (Environmental Assessment Act, Renewable Energy Approvals, Environmental Compliance Approvals, financial assurance, and pesticides)
  • corporate commercial (contracts and procurements, and bankruptcy and insolvency),
  • emergency preparation;
  • general advice (legislative interpretation, access and privacy, and review of policies, guidelines etc.),
  • inter-jurisdictional (climate change, Great Lakes (water quality and quantity), air pollution and NAFTA)
  • legislative development and drafting
  • program advice (drive clean, brownfields and sector compliance), and
  • regional (permits to take water, abatement and orders).

Our Solicitors have been significantly involved in all aspects of the Ministry’s climate change initiatives, including drafting legislation and regulations for the cap and trade program and assisting with the implementation of the various plans and programs (including the Climate Change Action Plan). They have also been very busy helping the province with its waste initiatives, including new legislation and regulations. Counsel have also provided advice with respect to provincial issues such as water bottling, renewable energy approvals, contaminated site clean-up and contaminated sites in the context of a bankruptcy or insolvency.


Litigation files include both prosecutions and hearings matters. Our litigators generally appear on both types of matters and files fall within one of the following groups:

  • prosecutions conducted under MOECC’s legislation in the Ontario Court of Justice,
  • appeals of MOECC prosecutions at all levels,
  • administrative hearings before the Environmental Review Tribunal, and periodically, other tribunals,
  • appeals of tribunal decisions,
  • judicial review applications and appeals,
  • bankruptcy or insolvency matters with respect to contaminated sites,
  • arbitrations, and
  • advice and training for investigators.

Our major cases

  • R. v. Sault Ste. Marie (City of), 1978 SCC: Seminal case on due diligence defence in quasi-criminal matters
  • R. v. Bata Industries Ltd., 1992 OCJ: Leading case on officers’ and directors’ liability for environmental offences, and on environmental sentencing
  • Ontario v. Canadian Pacific Ltd., 1995 SCC: Frequently cited authority analyzing “void for vagueness” and “overbreadth” in public welfare offences
  • R. v. Consolidated Maybrun Mines Ltd., 1998 SCC: Leading case precluding collateral attack on administrative orders
  • R. v. Safety Kleen Canada Inc., 1997 OCA: Frequently cited authority on principles of corporate liability where an offence requires proof of mens rea
  • Castonguay Blasting Ltd. v. Ontario (Environment), 2013 SCC: Frequently cited for a using a broad and expansive approach to statutory interpretation of environmental legislation.
  • General Chemical Industrial Partners Inc. et al v. Director (MOE): $17 million settlement for the clean-up of a contaminated site in Amherstburg
  • Re Guelph (City Eastview Road Landfill):Leading case about Director’s discretion to impose conditions about financial compensation in a waste certificate of approval under the Environmental Protection Act
  • Re Ridge Landfill Corp Ltd. and Township of Harwich and Vallentin et al v. Director: Leading cases on when a mandatory hearing is required for a waste disposal site
  • Sutcliffe v. Ontario (Minister of the Environment), 2004 CA: Leading case on Minister’s discretion to approve scoped Terms of Reference for an environmental assessment
  • V.G. Gallo v. Canada, 2011NAFTA: Claim against Canada under NAFTA Chapter 11 for damages of over $355 million in respect to Ontario’s Adams Mine Lake Act
  • Lafarge Canada Inc. v. Ontario (Environmental Review Tribunal), 2008 Div Ct – leading case on the test for leave to appeal under the Environmental Bill of Rights, 1993
  • Kawartha Lakes (City) v. Ontario (Environment), 2013 CA - leading case on relevant considerations (no fault, “polluter pays”, fairness etc) in an appeal of an order issued by the Director
  • Midwest Properties v. Thordarson, 2015 CA – leading case on ability to seek compensation under s.99 of the EPA where the Ministry has issued a clean-up order
  • Prince Edward County Field Naturalists v. Ontario (Environment and Climate Change), 2015 ERT and Prince Edward County Field Naturalists v. Ostrander Point GP Inc., 2015 CA – leading case on renewable energy appeals, including the ERT’s jurisdiction to conduct a remedy hearing, and the factors that guide the exercise of its discretionary remedial powers
  • Nortel Networks Limited v Ontario (Environment and Climate Change), 2015 ERT – leading case on authority of Ministry to issue orders to companies subject to insolvency proceedings under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.
  • Currie v. Director (Ministry of the Environment), 2011 ERT - leading ERT case on management and control and liability of corporate directors.

Recent Legislation

  • Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 
  • Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act, 2016 
  • Great Lakes Protection Act, 2015

What students do


An Articling Student’s term is usually broken down into three separate rotations: Solicitors, Prosecutions and Hearings.

During the Solicitors Rotation, students will have the opportunity to work directly with Counsel in all of the various practice areas. Students have the opportunity to attend meetings, interact with the client, conduct research and draft documents.

During the Prosecutions rotation, students will prepare for and attend environmental prosecutions with Counsel and on their own. Students usually have carriage of at least one file on their own.

For the Hearings rotation, students will assist Counsel to prepare for and attend on hearings and arbitrations, and potentially judicial review applications and statutory appeals before the Divisional Court.

Students usually have the opportunity, and are encouraged, to attend hearings, trials and appeals with counsel.

A student’s Principal works with the student to ensure a rewarding experience from a learning and skills perspective. Students are able and encouraged to attend MAG and ALOC educational sessions.

Note: During the two litigation rotations, you may be required to appear on matters throughout the province.


Summer Students conduct research and generally have the opportunity to attend client meetings with counsel. Students usually assist counsel on environmental prosecutions and hearings and usually have the opportunity to appear in court on their own. Students have the opportunity to attend trials and hearings with counsel.

A mentor is assigned to the student to ensure that the summer program is a rewarding experience from a learning and skills perspective.

Students are provided with in-house seminars and are encouraged to attend other MAG and ALOC learning sessions and training.

Note: Some travel within the province may be involved.

Why choose us

"Articling at MOE was fantastic. The lawyers here have such vast experience in every facet of environmental law, and are so helpful. There is no limit to how much you can learn, and you really can’t learn it all anywhere else." – Former Articling Student

At MOECC LSB, students receive a hands-on experience and are able to participate fully in each aspect of the practice of law. Our students do not spend all of their time doing research. Our job as counsel at MOECC is challenging, fast paced and interesting; and the work as a student-at-law is no different.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend court or a hearing to watch counsel in action. You are able to attend meetings with counsel to learn about client interactions and the development of a file.

Each student’s Principal or Mentor works with the student to ensure a rewarding experience from a learning and skills perspective. Students are also able and encouraged to attend MAG and ALOC learning sessions and training.

The following distinguished individuals were former MOECC counsel:

  • Mr. Justice Mindo Khoorshed
  • Madam Justice Sally Marin
  • Madam Justice S. Rebecca Shamai
  • Madam Justice Bonnie Wein
  • Mr. Justice Mario Faieta
  • Dr. Dianne Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario

Contact us

Patrick Hamilton

Justin Jacob