The Decade Dozen

From the Fall/Winter 2010 issue of Nexus.

Lara Tessaro

Lara Tessaro's dedication to promoting sustainability has taken her from the pristine beauty of northern BC (she was born and raised in Terrace, a small forestry town) to the highest halls of justice in the country.

As a staff lawyer for Ecojustice Canada and representing MiningWatch Canada, Tessaro, LLB 2002, landed a Supreme Court victory against the federal government in January 2010 in a case centred on the proposed Red Chris mine in BC.

"She brings her considerable creativity, knowledge and analytical abilities to battles to protect the planet," says Joan Kuyek, the former national coordinator of MiningWatch Canada. "It wasn't until we talked to Lara at Ecojustice that we found a way to challenge the government in the courts - and eventually win. She's brilliant."

The SCC held that the Canadian government acted unlawfully in excluding public input from its assessment of Imperial Metals' intended and massive open-pit copper and gold mine, slated near the origins of northern BC's three most important salmon rivers, the Stikine, Nass and Skeen Rivers.

Tessaro is now junior commission counsel on the Cohen Commission, the federal inquiry investigating the decline of sockeye salmon in the Fraser River.

 "This may not mean a lot to people in Toronto," says Brian Wallace, senior commission counsel, "but it is a pretty big deal here. It's a very complex federal, judicial inquiry under Justice Bruce Cohen."

That there's more than enough salmon to go around this year should make the inquiry all the more fascinating, just the challenge this "hard-working, committed, and highly principled" advocate craves.

"She really does see the law as a tool for creating social change," says former classmate, Gillian Hnatiw, LLB 2002, highlighting Tessaro was also junior commission counsel to the Arar Commission. "She always saw that as her purpose for going to law school. She truly epitomizes what is most noble about our profession."

Story: Lucianna Ciccocioppo

Photo: Hamish Hamilton

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