PVLA, First Nations wins right for preparation time against Site C in judicial review

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B.C. Hydro put evidence before a judge arguing any delay in its Site C construction would put a significant damper on the crown corporation’s financial situation; essentially seeking to cut short the time available to the PVLA and the First Nations to cross-examine and prepare legal arguments for the federal hearings.

“This is Hydro’s first pitch to the court saying ‘we’ve got to hurry this up because we got this dam we want to get started on, and it will cost us if we’re facing the uncertainly of these court proceedings,’ and essentially what the court said in the hearing was ‘you’re going to be facing uncertainty for a long time because even if we get these heard quickly, you can’t force a court to render a decision quickly,” Council for the PVLA Maegen Giltrow explains.

The court also mentioned the likelihood of appeals, according to Giltrow.

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“They haven’t given us more time; they [the court] protected the time we’re entitled to.”

There are a total of four Federal Court cases against the construction of Site C, each of them arguing their own case, while the other two are slated for B.C. Supreme Court.

Giltrow explains the PVLA contention in this case surrounds the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, which states if the Minister of the Environment finds a project to have lasting, adverse environmental impacts after all mitigating avenues have been explored, it must then go to Federal Cabinet in deciding if the project is justified.

“The Federal Cabinet said ‘yes they are,’” Giltrow goes on to say. “The Peace Valley Landowners Association’s case is based on the argument that cabinet didn’t have anything on-the-record before it that could have reasonably led to that conclusion.”

Giltrow points to the Joint Review Panel’s recommendations as being counter to cabinet’s decision.

Community Relations Manager for the Site C project, David Conway says the court’s decision shouldn’t have any major implications on the corporation’s anticipated timeframe for construction.

“At this time, a hearing date for the federal judicial reviews has not been set,” Conway writes in an emailed response.  “Our current project schedule is to start site preparation and construction in summer 2015, and we are continuing to work toward this schedule.”

President of the PVLA Ken Boon is optimistic that at least one of the court cases will hold its own weight against Site C.

“There are six strong cases here, and if one of them wins, that quashes the certificate,” Boon concludes “…I don’t see how the government is going to get through all six of them and not have the certificate quashed.”

The court has also ordered that all of the four applications for judicial review will be heard consecutively by one judge.

This includes the two brought forth by Mikisew Cree and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, one by the PVLA, and finally one by Prophet River, Doig River, West Moberly and McLeod Lake First Nations.

 

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