A summary judgment against the Burns Bog Conservation Society (BBCS) has scuttled a lawsuit against the federal government over the South Fraser Perimeter Road’s (SFPR) impact on protected wetlands.
In presenting a compelling reason to go to trial, “the Plaintiff relies heavily upon assertion but brings little to Court by way of evidence and authority,” wrote federal court justice James Russell in his summary.
He wrote further that the statement of claim relied heavily upon the affidavit from BBCS president Eliza Olson who, while providing the court an understanding of the society’s concerns, “provides no evidence of relevance for the issue before me in this motion.”
Russell ruled that Canada has no obligation to protect the bog because it does not own any part of it, and is not contractually obligated.
“The government has washed its hands of the bog,” said Olson on Friday (Aug. 31), adding the ruling places the environmental onus on the municipality, Metro Vancouver, and the province.
Olson said the ruling was confusing because when the issue was brought up in council meetings, Mayor Lois Jackson reportedly said it was a federal responsibility.
“If you look at the hierarchy, the feds are at the top,” said Olson.
The BBCS will now have its lawyer look at the ruling and decide whether to purse other legal remedies.
Burns Bog, located just east of Hwy. 91 between Nordel Way and Ladner Trunk Road, is one of the largest raised peat bogs in the world.
The Corporation of Delta, the Greater Vancouver Regional District, and the province purchased six parcels of the bog for conservation purposes in 2004. The federal government chipped in $28 million in March of that year, although it did not take ownership of any part of the bog.
The BBSC launched a lawsuit against the feds in November of 2010, claiming the new SPFR broke an agreement with respect to protecting the sensitive wetlands.
The government, however, argued it had no duty to protect Burns Bog, denying the existence of any contract binding them. It was further pointed out that environmental assessments had been completed on the SFPR, and they found no adverse effects were likely to occur to the bog.
The SFPR will not pass through the bog, though a small stretch will run adjacent to the wetlands.
Olson said it’s not within the mandate of the BBSC to advocate where the SFPR would have been better located, suggesting the Corporation of Delta should have spoke up about that.
The lawsuit did not name the Corporation of Delta, the province, or the GVRD, who are signatory to the Burns Bog Management Agreement.