The Shawnigan Residents Association is supporting the Cowichan Valley Regional District in its ongoing court action against the controversial contaminated landfill above Shawnigan Lake.
SRA president Calvin Cook said the CVRD presented a “lot of weight” in evidence in its efforts against the landfill in its unsuccessful legal efforts against the facility in November in the BC Court of Appeal.
Cook said a lot of the CVRD’s arguments against the landfill were too easily dismissed by the Court of Appeal, and he believes the regional district could have better success if the Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear the CVRD’s appeal.
“The Court of Appeal’s decision is significant not only to the Shawnigan area, but to all local land-use issues across the country and whether they should be decided by local governments or provincial governments,” he said.
“We think the CVRD made the right decision to ask the Supreme Court of Canada to take on this case.”
But a statement from the owners of the facility, Cobble Hill Holdings and South Island Aggregates, said the companies believe that the court of appeal’s “review of the evidence and the law was careful and rigorous.”
The CVRD filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada on Dec. 29 to appeal its case against the landfill, located on Stebbings Road.
The regional district is asking that the Supreme Court review the decision made by the BC Court of Appeal on Nov. 3 that allowed the landfill to continue operations.
That decision reversed a ruling made by the BC Supreme Court on March 21 that found that the landfill is not a permitted use of the property under the CVRD’s zoning bylaws.
The CVRD is arguing that the BC Court of Appeal erred in setting aside “key factual findings” of the case, and that the court incorrectly determined that provincial mining decisions take exclusive precedence over the regional district’s land-use bylaws.
The landfill’s owners now have less than 30 days to respond to the CVRD’s application to the Supreme Court of Canada, after which the court will decide whether it will hear the appeal.
In their statement, the companies said that before 2013, the CVRD has never interfered in the mine’s operation, but apparently started only after the mine became “publicly unpopular”.
“Since that time, the issue has provided a platform for many local political hopefuls to generate attention to their various candidacies,” the statement said.
“Opposition to the mine continues largely due to consistent misrepresentation and overstatement.”
The company’s statement said the implications of the court of appeal’s decision are specific to the way B.C. regulates its mining industry.
“It has always made sense that the 29 regional districts across the province do not set their own rules for mining,” the companies said.
“[The companies] are hopeful that the Supreme Court of Canada will recognize the purely local nature of this matter and have respect for B.C.’s highest court, whose review of the evidence and the law was careful and rigorous.”
Meantime, Cook said the SRA is still waiting for a decision from Justice Robert Sewell of a judicial review of the operation that was heard over 11 days by the BC Supreme Court last February as part of its own efforts to bring the facility to a halt.
The project was previously given a permit by the province’s Ministry of Environment.
But documents that came to light in July, 2015, revealed a complex proposed deal between the companies working to establish the soil facility, which the SRA alleges throws doubt on information used by the ministry in its decision on the project.
“We were hoping for a final decision by mid-December, but that didn’t happen,” Cook said.
“We don’t really care how long the process takes as long as the right decision is made, even if that takes a lot of time. No matter what decision is made, it will likely be appealed, so we’re hoping for a strong and well thought out ruling in our favour.”