The blue-listed Western Toad. Photo by Jon Nelson. Published under CC BY 2.0

Judicial review launched against unlawful Site C approvals

July 20, 2016

VICTORIA—Sierra Club BC and environmentalist Josette Wier filed a petition for judicial review today in the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking a declaration that the Province unlawfully authorized BC Hydro to remove amphibians from their habitat along the Peace River knowing that the Province lacked the legislative authority to do so.

As part of the civil works for the Site C project, BC Hydro had applied for a permit under the Wildlife Act from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to remove amphibian species from a part of the Peace River that was going to be dewatered for dike construction.  Removing wildlife from its habitat without a permit is an offence under ss. 29, 33 and 37 of the Wildlife Act punishable by imprisonment and fines.

Ministry emails show that officials deliberately and knowingly disregarded the statutory permitting process and gave BC Hydro an “exemption from prosecution” as a shortcut to avoid delays in the construction schedule.

“The Minister is not entitled to jettison the rule of law and facilitate the commission of offences under his enabling statute when the proper administration of that statute becomes inconvenient,” said Jason Gratl, legal counsel for the Petitioners.

“Encouraging the commission of offences under the Wildlife Act by issuing illegitimate exemptions from prosecutions is, from the perspective of the rule of law, much more problematic than passing legislation to allow Site C to evade ordinary financial scrutiny by the BC Utilities Commission.”

According to BC Hydro’s application, several amphibian species were subject to removal from the area, including the Western Toad, which is provincially Blue-listed and designated as a species of special concern under the federal Species at Risk Act.  The Joint Review Panel report on Site C found that the dam project would cause significant adverse effect on the Western Toad, and the wetlands that are its habitat.

“Damage to any species, especially a species at risk, has grave implications for the ecological integrity of the Peace valley, given the onslaught of oil, gas and hydro projects in the region,” said Sierra Club BC Executive Director, Bob Peart.

“At the very least, the BC government should have done a cumulative impacts assessment, as the Joint Review Panel recommended. Unfortunately, the unlawful permits for amphibian removal are only the latest in a series of attempts to evade due process on Site C by the BC Government.”

– 30 –

Sierra Club BC and Josette Wier Petition

Sierra Club BC and Josette Wier Affidavit #1

Contacts:

Bob Peart
Executive Director, Sierra Club BC
(250) 386-5255  x249
Cell: 778-677-4740
Jason Gratl
Gratl & Company
Legal counsel to Sierra Club BC and Josette Wier
(604) 694-1919