The Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation is calling for the re-purposing of the E&N Railway Corridor. (File photo)

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

The B.C. Supreme Court has dismissed a claim put forward by the Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation against the Island Corridor Foundation.

The civil lawsuit, initiated in late 2015, indicated that Snaw-Naw-As reserve land was wrongfully taken away to build the railway and the land now sits unused.

It asked for the return of the reserve land, which was expropriated in 1911. They said the inefficient use of their land “must trigger the right of reversion,” according to the court document. However, the court dismissed the case on June 30, saying that the ICF is attempting to restore rail on the land, rather than leaving it indefinitely.

The conclusion, from Justice Robert D. Punnett, reads: “[147] The desire of the plaintiff to have the Lands returned to their reserve is understandable. However, for the reasons given the ROW has not ceased to be used for railway purposes. The claim is dismissed. [148] In light of the conclusion I have reached respecting the plaintiff’s claim, I need not address the claim against the Crown seeking reversion to the plaintiff, not the Crown. [149] No submissions were made concerning costs. The parties have liberty to apply if required.”

Brent Edwards, a Snaw-Naw-As council member, said it was difficult getting the decision back, but that it doesn’t mean it’s all over for the First Nation.

“Of course, obviously, we’re disappointed in the decision, but we respect it,” said Edwards. “We’re going to take some time to see what steps we’re going to do next.”

Edwards said although it’s been decided that the ICF is still active by the courts, in his eyes a question still remains: what does the future of the ICF actually look like? The Snaw-Naw-As have called for repurposing the rail line into a trail system, saying that investment needed to reopen the line makes the project infeasible.

“There’s a lot of work to do to make sure that First Nations’ visions and values are instilled and interests are instilled into the future of the ICF,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”

As part of his decision, Punnett indicated he accepts “the future of the railway is unclear and will depend on funding from various levels of government which is uncertain.”

“Indeed, the likelihood of its future use for rail traffic may be bleak given it depends on the largess of government,” the decision read. “However, government support of passenger rail service is not uncommon. As evidenced by the Updated Condition Assessment, the provincial government has apparently not foreclosed the possibility of restoring service on the Railway. To the contrary, they have invested resources studying the viability of such. ICF, its stakeholders and other levels of government do not consider the corridor abandoned. Nor do they consider the future potential of the corridor hopeless. They at least contemplate its future use as an active railway as a possibility.”

READ MORE: Officials hope to resolve E&N rail dispute as court date looms

READ MORE: Snaw-Naw-As First Nation calls for repurposing of E&N rail line

READ MORE: Snaw-Naw-As lawsuit looms over Island Corridor Foundation

A release from the ICF said they were happy with the decision, but that the case highlights the frustration among both Indigenous nations along the line and the public regarding the lack of progress. The ICF owns the line, which stretches 220 kilometres from Victoria to Courtenay. Passenger service halted in 2011 due to concerns around track safety, while freight service continues sparingly on Vancouver Island. The ICF has been trying to restore freight and passenger service on the line, but have had difficulties getting the funds needed to do so.

Fifty per cent of the board seats on the ICF are represented by Indigenous nations, with the corridor running through 14 First Nation territories, including Snaw-Naw-As.

“While we are pleased with the determination, we also believe this case highlights the level of frustration among our First Nations partners, and the public at large, for the lack of progress on the return of rail service to the island,” read part of the July 2 release. “This determination should not be mistaken for an invitation to delay progress but as a clarion call to move forward with restoration of rail service. It should also send a clear message to our provincial and federal governments that they need to justly, and equitably, resolve Aboriginal title and rights issues with our First Nations partners which are in part behind this case.”

cloe.logan@pqbnews.com

BC Supreme Courtrailwaysvancouverisland

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer load onto barge crane

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

National Drug Drop-Off month aims to reduce substance abuse by house-bound youth

Expert says there is misconception prescribed medication is safe to take

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Auxiliary hosts pop-up fundraiser in Sidney

Temporary store to feature unique hand made gifts, collectibles, clothing, books and more

Victoria mayor wants newspaper boxes removed from downtown streets

Mayor Lisa Helps says the boxes are not needed, often filled with garbage

Langford firefighters raise $1,065 for Burn Camp

B.C. firefighters and burn survivors raise $200,068 this year for Burn Camp

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

Most Read