Rod Northey is a partner in Gowling WLG's Toronto office and past leader of the firm's Climate Change and Environmental Law Group in Canada.
He is in his 30th year of private practice in environmental law and certified by the Law Society of Ontario as a specialist in this field. His current practice focuses on regulatory approvals and strategies across the full range of approval regimes involving the environment — including environmental assessment, land use, endangered species, cultural heritage, energy, resource extraction, transportation, waste management, and water approvals.
Rod's strategic work in environmental assessment is widely acknowledged. From August 2016 to March 2017, Rod was a member of the expert panel appointed by the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change to carry out a Canada-wide consultation and review of Canada's environmental assessment process. Similarly, from May 2016 to May 2017, Rod was a member of the GTA West Advisory Panel appointed by the Ontario Minister of Transportation to conduct a strategic review of a major environmental assessment for future transportation infrastructure in the GTA West corridor (now, Highway 413).
Clients facing novel regulatory challenges retain Rod for his innovative regulatory strategies.
Ongoing client work has Rod leading legal teams for major environmental assessments and related litigation in the transportation, energy and mining sectors across Ontario, including:
- Five Ontario municipalities and a conservation authority in the Greater Toronto Area challenging in the Federal Courts a federal environmental assessment and related railway line approval, and an Ontario court challenge over constitutional issues.
- A northern Ontario First Nation carrying out an Ontario environmental assessment for a proposed all-season access road to its community within its traditional territory.
- A farm landowner challenging new road infrastructure across the Greenbelt for failure to comply with the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment and the Greenbelt Plan Act in Markham, Ontario.
Rod is also counsel for a City government participating in a major hearing over a proposed quarry expansion in the Niagara Escarpment at the Ontario Land Tribunal.
As litigation counsel, Rod has been involved in dozens of tribunal and court appeals, including more than 50 reported environmental law decisions before federal and Ontario trial and appellate courts, and Ontario environmental and land use tribunals, including acting for the applicant in Ontario's first renewable energy approval hearing, and leading the City of Burlington through a 100-day resource extraction hearing on the Niagara Escarpment.
Rod is author of the 2023 Guide to Canada's Impact Assessment Act (LexisNexis Canada), several annual editions of the Guide to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (LexisNexis Canada 2016-2019), as well as the 1995 Annotated Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and EARP Guidelines Order (Carswell). He is also author of law journal articles on the integration of environmental and planning law in Ontario infrastructure, federalism and environmental law, the role of municipalities in Canada's energy strategies, and the fading role of alternatives in federal environmental assessment.
Throughout his career, Rod has been active in environmental law reform. He was a member of the 2004 Ontario executive panel appointed by the Minister of the Environment to reform Ontario environmental assessment for green energy, transit, and waste management. He was also a member of the Ontario task force to develop the province's two-million-acre greenbelt. Rod has been retained by the federal government to deal with law reform on the precautionary principle, and applying environmental assessment to Crown corporations. For several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Rod provided advice and assistance to the then-Canadian International Development Agency on applying environmental assessment to projects outside Canada, including review of international and global assessment regimes and attendance at international discussions. He has also appeared before parliamentary and senate committees on the topics of environmental assessment and constitutional law related to the environment.
For more than two decades, Rod was an adjunct faculty member for various graduate and undergraduate courses on environmental protection, and environmental assessment at Osgoode Hall Law School, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa Law School, and Ryerson (now Toronto Metropolitan University). He is recognized by his peers in national and international listings for environmental law.
Panelist, Expert panel on Canada's environmental assessment process, appointed by the federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, 2016-2017
Panelist, Advisory panel on GTA West, appointed by the Ontario Minister of Transportation, 2016-2017
Chair, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and Greenbelt Fund, 2012-2016
Adjunct Faculty Member for Osgoode Hall Law School, LL.M. programs for Municipal Law and Infrastructure, for courses on environmental protection, 2008-2021
International Municipal Lawyers Association, 2012-present
Commonwealth Law Association, 2022-present