skip to main content

Environment • Aboriginal • Energy

Donna S. K. Shier

Partner
Certified Environmental Law Specialist

T: 416-862-4822  E: dshier@willmsshier.com

Bio

With almost 40 distinguished years of experience practicing environmental law, Donna Shier is one of Canada’s leading environmental counsel to major industrial corporations. Donna is also frequently called upon by corporate, commercial and real estate lawyers to assist their clients with environmental legal issues, and provides environmental law expertise to external litigation counsel. Donna is a qualified mediator and is an accredited member of the ADR Institute of Canada. Donna is called to the bar of Ontario.

Rankings and Awards

  • Certified Specialist in Environmental Law, The Law Society of Ontario, since 1996
  • Named Best Lawyers 2014 “Lawyer of the Year”— Toronto Environmental Law
  • Peer selected annually to The Best Lawyers in Canada© for Environmental Law
  • Named annually to the international Who’s Who Legal—Environment and Who’s Who Legal—Canada
  • Rated “Consistently Recommended” in the Canadian Legal Lexpert directory for Environmental Law
  • Ranked “BV® Distinguished™” by peers in Martindale-Hubbell
  • Recognized annually as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers by Expert Guides “Women in Business Law”

Corporate D&O Environmental Liability Protection

Donna helps corporations and their directors and officers identify, reduce and manage exposures to environmental liabilities, including directors’ and officers’ personal liability for environmental issues.

Environmental Due Diligence and Liability Protection

Donna protects clients from environmental risks and liabilities that may arise from the purchase and sale of contaminated land and other corporate, commercial and real estate transactions. Donna advises clients about pre-purchase environmental due diligence and environmental compliance issues.

Contaminated Land Management

Donna is one of Canada’s leading experts in contaminated land issues, providing advice on the management of contaminated sites, their remediation and redevelopment.

Environmental Regulatory

Donna helps clients navigate the environmental regulatory environment. She assists with obtaining regulatory approvals for air, waste and water, and facilitates effective discussions with environmental regulators. Donna also helps clients manage regulatory inspections and investigations.

Clients

  • Industry—waste management, food processing, petroleum processing, chemical, steel manufacturing and many others
  • Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
  • Land developers, property owners, landlords, tenants
  • Directors, officers and other individuals
  • Insurers and financial institutions
  • Corporate, commercial and real estate lawyers; litigation counsel
  • Consultants

Representative Work

Environmental Law

  • Protection of REIT from Environmental Risk and Liability—Providing ongoing advice to a real estate investment trust with a portfolio value of approximately $2 billion about environmental risks and liabilities associated with its portfolio. Created action plan for addressing and ranking environmental issues and for setting priorities for action to deal with environmental risks and liabilities as part of client’s environmental management program.
  • Acquisition of a Federal Harbour with Contamination—Advised a municipality client about potential environmental risks, obligations and civil and regulatory liabilities associated with the acquisition by the client of a federal harbour with contamination issues. Advised on environmental terms to be negotiated in the divestiture agreement to address environmental liability.
  • Negotiation of Insurance Coverage for Landowner—Assisted a residential landowner to negotiate insurance coverage for the investigation and remediation of fuel oil contamination resulting from an underground heating oil tank. Assisted the homeowner to ensure that the insurer’s investigation and remediation complied with a Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) order and the TSSA’s Environmental Management Protocol.
  • Transactional Environmental Legal Advice—Providing environmental legal advice to transaction lawyers in connection with the negotiation of purchases, sales, and leases.

Environmental Litigation

  • Reduction of Charges Against Food Manufacturer—Assisted a food manufacturer to respond to an environmental regulator’s charges for failing to comply with an Environmental Compliance Approval and unlawful discharge of wastewater into a stream. Successfully negotiated a reduction in the charges and fine with the regulator.
  • Settlement of Civil Litigation Over Contamination—Represented a plaintiff development corporation in a lawsuit against a municipality for contamination that migrated to the client’s property, resulting in a highly advantageous settlement in the client’s favour and remediation obligations for the property.

 

 

 

Recognition

  • Certified Specialist in Environmental Law, The Law Society of Ontario, since 1996
  • Named Best Lawyers 2014 “Lawyer of the Year”— Toronto Environmental Law
  • Peer selected annually to The Best Lawyers in Canada© for Environmental Law
  • Named annually to the international Who’s Who Legal—Environment and Who’s Who Legal—Canada
  • Rated “Consistently Recommended” in the Canadian Legal Lexpert directory for Environmental Law
  • Ranked “BV® Distinguished™” by peers in Martindale-Hubbell
  • Recognized annually as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers by Expert Guides “Women in Business Law”

 

Organizations

  • The Law Society of Ontario—Certified Specialist in Environmental Law (1996-)
  • Ontario Bar Association, Environmental Law Section, member
  • Canadian Bar Association, member
  • Lambda Alpha International—honorary society for the advancement of land economics, member
  • Canadian Brownfields Network, member (2004-)
  • National Brownfield Associations, Legislative Policy Committee, past member
  • Canadian Environmental Auditing Association, past member
  • Canadian Environmental Regulation and Compliance News, Editorial Advisory Board, member (1992-)

 

Speaking Engagements

  • Brownfields Marketplace Summit Series, Impacts of New Regulations on Groundwater Testing and New Groundwater Standards, May 29, 2012
  • RTM Communications, Sustainable Property Transactions, May 1, 2012
  • RPIC National Contaminated Sites Workshop 2012, Due Diligence and Reasonable Care Panel Professional Development Session, April 30, 2012
  • ICSC 2012 Canadian Shopping Centre Law Conference, Environmental Law 101 - The Basics, February 24, 2012
  • The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), Six-Minute Environmental Lawyer, October 17, 2011
  • 19th Annual Canadian Environmental Compliance Conference + Tradeshow (CANECT 2011), Environmental Due Diligence, May 18, 2011
  • International Council of Shopping Centres Law Conference, Breakfast Roundtables, February 25, 2011
  • DEC, Toronto Contaminated Site Remediation Workshop, November 25, 2010
  • Envirogate 2010 – Environmental Due Diligence, November 24, 2010
  • Advanced Roundtable in Environmental Law – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), October 19, 2010
  • 6th Annual Real Estate Law Summit – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), April 22-23, 2009
  • Environmental Deal-Breakers in Real Estate and Business Transaction, Federated Press, Webinar, April 21, 2010
  • Advanced Roundtable in Environmental Law, – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), October 27, 2009
  • Advanced Roundtable in Environmental Law, – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), October 28, 2008
  • 5th Annual Real Estate Law Summit, The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), April 16-17, 2008
  • Recent Updates to Brownfields Regulations – Federated Press Brownfields Course, December 10 – 11, 2007
  • Advanced Roundtable in Environmental Law – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), October 24, 2007
  • 4th Annual Real Estate Summit, – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC),
  • April 18 – 19, 2007
  • Environmental Law Forum – Risk Assessment: Short – Term Gain for Long Term Pain?, – Cambridge Forums, January 24, 2007
  • Advanced Roundtable in Environmental Law – The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), October 17, 2006
  • Underground Storage Tanks – What are the Rules for Existing Owners and for Purchasers?, Law Society of Upper Canada – The 2nd Annual Real Estate Law Summit, April 6 – 7, 2005
  • Environmental Law: What’s In Store for 2004, LAWPRO Environmental Claims Workshop, January 22, 2004
  • Environmental Panel, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), March 4, 2003
  • The Anatomy of a Contaminated Land Lawsuit, OBA – Environmental Law for Practising Professionals: Three Essential Modules, November 18, 2002
  • Wastewater Operator Liability, Water Environment Association Of Ontario, September 26, 2002
  • Mitigating Lawyers’ Liability in Contaminated Land Transactions, LPIC Environmental Claims Workshop, June 13, 2002
  • Controlling Risk and Liability When Purchasing Contaminated Property, Infonex – Brownfield Redevelopment, October 22, 2001
  • Industrial Wastewater Compliance Issues, Environmental Management, Compliance and Engineering 2001, April 10, 2001
  • Certificates of Approval – Expediting Applications, The Canadian Institute – What’s New in Environmental Law and Regulation in Ontario, October 26, 2000
  • Structuring Real Estate Transactions, Insight Information Inc. – Commercial Transactions for Contaminated Sites, February 21, 2000
  • Developing Contaminated Land: Opportunities and Constraints, Infonex, October 21, 1999
  • Confidentiality and Security, Environmental Management and Compliance ‘99, April 8, 1999
  • Solving Legal Risk and Compliance, KPMG, January 13, 1999
  • Environmental Liability/Municipal Environmental Responsibilities/ Planning Act Changes/Fisheries Act/Changes MNR & DFO Implications for Stormwater Quality, GTA Stormceptor Seminar, May 14, 1998
  • Contaminated Land Clean–up and Redevelopment: Municipal Policies and Tools, The Canadian Institute 4th Annual Provincial/Municipal Government Liability, February 26, 1998
  • Contaminated Sites: Minimizing the Risks and Costs, PM Expo – People and Buildings, Strategies for Success, December 3, 1997
  • Environmental Pitfalls, EPIC – Real Estate Investment, June 21, 1997
  • The Legal Perspective, Environmental Compliance ‘97 Site Assessment, Decommissioning and Remediation, March 13, 1997
  • Compliance and Law – What Gets Measured Gets Done, AWMA – Building Competitive Advantage Performance Evaluations, January 31, 1997
  • Real Estate Investment: Environmental Pitfalls, Insight Information Inc. Information Inc. – Pension Funds as Investors – Maximizing Investor Return, January 21, 1997
  • Environmental Risk: Who to Call and When, PM Expo – Management Legal & Financial Issues, December 4, 1996
  • Environmental Risks: Knowing Who to Call, and When, Law Society of Upper Canada – The Six Minute Business Lawyer, November 19, 1996
  • Civil Liability: Cutting Your Losses, Water Environment Association Of Ontario, October 24, 1996
  • The Legal Framework, CBAO – How Clean is Clean? Ontario’s New Guideline For Clean–Up Of Contaminated Sites, September 13, 1996
  • Regulatory and Legal Aspects of Site Remediation and Clean–Up, The Canadian Institute, Remediate and Redeveloping Contaminated Lands, May 22, 1996
  • The Legal Framework, Environmental Compliance’96 – Contaminated Land Clean–up in Ontario, May 7, 1996
  • Fairness and Personal Liability for Contaminated Land Clean–Up: The Appletex Decision, Insight Information Inc., the Impact of the New Environmental Regulatory Landscape, April 26, 1996
  • Municipal Liability: Is the Tide Rising, Water Environment Association Of Ontario Technical Symposium and OPCEA Exhibition, March 25, 1996
  • Clean–up Guidelines, CBAO, November 23, 1995
  • Environmental Risk Management for Real Estate Portfolios, Insight Information Inc. Conferences – New Strategies for Real Estate Portfolio Management, November 21, 1995
  • Understanding Environmental Regulations, EPIC, October 18, 1995
  • Liability Issues, EPIC – Sewage Lagoons, October 2, 1995
  • Contaminated Land Clean–up Regulatory Framework, The Canadian Institute, Contaminated Land – Preparing for a New Legal and Commercial Regime, March 2, 1995
  • Environmental Considerations: Business Purchase and Sale, Conference: Buying and Selling A Business: Real Solutions To Challenging Problems, LSUC – June 8, 1995
  • Environmental Insurance, Willms & Shier Breakfast Seminar, November 22, 1994
  • Environmental Auditing: Confidentiality and Privilege, EPIC Environmental Compliance Audit Conference – Legal Framework, November 14, 1994
  • Stormwater Management and Land Development – Legal Issues, EPIC, November 7, 1994
  • Due Diligence in the ‘90’s Environmental Law and Liability, CWPA, 15th Annual Meeting, November 4, 1994
  • Regulatory and Legal Aspects, EPIC – Site Remediation and Cleanup, October 19, 1994
  • Public Consultation in Environmental Planning, EPIC, September 22, 1994
  • Environmentally Responsible Products, EPIC, September 20, 1994
  • Environmentally Responsible Organizations – Regulatory Review, EPIC, April 20, 1994
  • Liability, Environmental Site Assessments, Agreements, CCIM, March 2, 1994
  • Regulatory Perspective, EPIC – Environmentally Responsible Products, February 17, 1994
  • Preparing for and Surviving Inspections – Know Your Rights, Executive Enterprises Inc – National Environmental Regulation Update, November 15, 1993
  • Commercial and Real Estate Conveyancing, Willms & Shier Breakfast Seminar, November 4, 1993
  • Environmental Danger Zones: What’s New In Environmental Law, Condominium Conference, Novotel, October 22, 1993
  • Contaminated Property – How It Pertains to You, TREB Conference, October 6, 1993
  • 3 R’s Regulations, Willms & Shier Breakfast Seminar, June 10 & 15, 1993
  • Regulatory and Legal Aspects, EPIC – U of T, Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering – Environmental Property Assessment and Clean–Up, April 29, 1993
  • Audits and the Law – A Lawyer’s Viewpoint, EPIC – U of T – Environmental Audit, April 26, 1993
  • Confidential Audit Reports and Memos, Executive Enterprises, Inc. – The National Environmental Regulation Update: The Practical Course on Environmental Regulation in Canada, April 22, 1993
  • Negotiating with the MOE, Willms & Shier Breakfast Seminar, March 26, 1993
  • Protecting Your Assets: Environmental Liability and Penalties, Executive Enterprises Inc – Plant Level Environmental Compliance Course, February 4, 1993
  • Other Audit Issues, Tuns Conference, Environmental Risk Management, May 5, 1992
  • Environmental Risk Management, Tuns Conference, Legislative/Regulatory Framework, May 4, 1992
  • Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Spills Reporting Requirements. Pollution Control Association of Ontario 1991 Annual Conference, April 14, 1992
  • Investigations Executive Enterprises, April 7, 1992
  • Toxic Real Estate: A Legal Perspective, OSEM Seminar, A Municipal Guide for the Environment, April 3, 1992
  • Environmental Approvals, Executive Enterprises, October 29, 1991
  • Management of Underground Storage Tanks – Pollution Liability, Technical University of Nova Scotia, October 7, 1991
  • Environmental Legislation: Comparison of Ontario with Other Provinces, Insight Information Inc. Conference, September 26, 1991
  • Environmental Audits – Legal Perspectives, Haztech Canada 1990 Environmental Audits Workshop, May 14, 1990
  • Environmental Audits Legal Perspectives, Institute For International Research, Implementation Strategies for Environmental Auditing, June 19, 1990
  • Legal Issues and Toxic Real Estate, HazMat Canada Hazardous Materials Management Conference, September 26, 1989
  • Vendors and Purchasers Liability and Responsibility, Institute for International Research, September 19, 1989
  • Toxic Real Estate and Environmental Audits, Haztech Canada, May 15, 1989
  • Negotiating Environmental Provisions in Real Estate Transactions to Avoid Costly and Unnecessary Disputes, Institute for International Research – Environmental Management, April 5, 1989
  • Success at the Hearing: Advocacy Before Administrative Tribunals Motions Before Administrative Tribunals, LSUC, November 23, 1985

Articles

  • Ontario Brownfields RSCs and Liability Reopeners – Will Recent Legislative Changes Make a Difference?, Donna S.K. Shier & John Willms, December 10, 2007 – ReNew Canada
  • Directors’ & Officers’ Environmental Liability, June 2007, Donna S.K. Shier & Raj Bharati, Ultimate Corporate Counsel Guide Newsletter; June 2007 – Corporate Brief; Enviromation; July 2007 – Corporate Governance Quarterly (Chartered Secretaries of Canada)
  • Environmental Chapter – Directors’ & Officers’ Environmental Liability, June 2007, Donna S.K. Shier, John Willms & Barry Spiegel – CCH Ultimate Corporate Counsel Guide
  • Ontario Contaminated Site Guideline Changed to Appease Consultants, Insurers, Municipalities, October 1, 1998, Donna S.K. Shier – CERCN
  • Ontario Court Gives Clean–Up Contractor Priority Over Mortgage – Land Held Valueless Until Remediation Costs Determined, September 1, 1998, Donna S.K. Shier – CERCN (p. 1472)
  • Spills, Sewers And Stormwater: A Legal Opinion On Environmental Issues – Part II, September 1, 1998, Donna S.K. Shier – CERCN (p.1468)
  • Buyer Beware – There’s No Relief For Purchasers, A Contaminated Land Policy And Law Update, September 1, 1997, Donna S.K. Shier – Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Sterling To Study Contaminated Site Liability Problem Following Latest Karge Decision, July 1, 1997, Donna – CERCN (p.1264)
  • Contaminated Land Liability: Consultants reluctant to Sign Off on Record of Site Condition Affidavit, May 1, 1997, Donna S.K. Shier – CERCN (p. 1216)
  • Industrial Contamination Not “Defect of Title” – Vendor Not Liable For Failure To Disclose–Ontario Court of Appeal Dismisses Tony’s Broadloom Appeal, April 1, 1997, Donna S.K. Shier – CERCN (p.1204)
  • Guide to Major MOE Initiatives, September 1, 1996, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel – CERCN (page 1095)
  • Environmental Site Assessments: Cases Highlight Purchasers’ Need to Inspect, Read Find Print, Donna S.K. Shier, June 1, 1995 – CERCN (p. 860)
  • Environmental Issues in the Sale and Leasing of Land, September 1, 1993 – CERCN – Special Report
  • Confidentiality and Privilege in Environmental Management, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel, September 1, 1992 – CERCN – Special Report
  • Waste Reduction Legislation: Compulsory Waste Reduction Targets for Business?, Donna S.K. Shier, July 1, 1992 – CERCN (p. 326)
  • Court Of Appeal Upholds Northern Wood Preservers Decision – Court’s Careful Interpretation Of Environmental Protection Act May Protect Innocent Owners Of Contaminated Land, March 1, 1992–CERCN (p.278)
  • Environmental Approvals: Are Lawyers to Blame for Interminable Hearings, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel, Vol. VI, No. 2, 1992, Butterworths – Administrative Journal
  • Pollution Liability for Leaking Underground Storage Tanks, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry N. Spiegel, December 1, 1991 – CERCN – Special Report
  • A Gram Of Prevention Is Worth A Kilo Of Cure, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel, August 1, 1991 – Municipal World
  • Who Pays For Clean–Up? The Case Of Northern Wood Preservers, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel, August 1, 1991 – CERCN (p. 154)
  • Environmental Liability in Sales of Land, August 1, 1991, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel – CERCN Special Report (first edition – now outdated)
  • Spills Reporting: Mandatory Reporting May Offend Charter – Aggressive Enforcement Makes Spills Liaison Essential Corporate Function, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry N. Spiegel, June 1, 1991 – CERCN (p.130)
  • Is it a spill? Must I report it?, Donna S. K. Shier & Barry N. Spiegel, May 1, 1991 – Canadian Environmental Regulation & Compliance News
  • Special Focus: Ontario’s Environmental Compensation Corporation, Donna S.K. Shier & Barry Spiegel, April 1, 1991, Canadian Environmental Regulation & Compliance News (p. 99)
  • Bill 220 Increases Ministry’s Authority To Conduct Environmental Clean–Ups, Donna S.K. Shier, January 1, 1991, Canadian Environmental Regulation & Compliance News (page 62)
  • Extended Liability For Environmental Clean–Up, Donna S.K. Shier, October 1, 1990, Canadian Environmental Regulation & Compliance
  • Toxic Real Estate In Your Backyard – Municipalities Respond Part 1, Donna S.K. Shier, May 1, 1989 – Municipal World
  • Canadian Environmental Regulation and Compliance News, Editorial Advisor, Board (1992 to present)
  • Toxic Real Estate Manual, Corpus Information Services, Toronto, 1988 (co–author)

Education

  • Called to the bar of Ontario (1978)
  • Certified as a Specialist in Environmental Law by the Law Society of Ontario (1996)
  • LL.B. Osgoode Hall Law School (1976)
  • B.A. (cum laude), Barnard College, Columbia University (1973)
  • Accredited mediator, Arbitration and Mediation Institute of Ontario Inc. (1992)
  • Certificate of Completion, Environmental Management Systems, Canadian Standards Association (1996)
  • Certifications in Wastewater Biology for courses in Parasites and Pathogens, Activated Sludge and Sludge Dewatering, PennState (1996)
  •  

Expertise

"The firm is one of, if not the best enviro law firm in the country ..."

Senior Litigation Counsel