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

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

Port Alberni city hall. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni adopts tax increase below 4% for 2021

Financial plan looks for balance between residents, industry

Police cordoned off the block of Fifth Avenue from Burde Street to Bute Street in front of the Phoenix House sobering centre in the early-morning hours of Sunday, April 4, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Port Alberni stabbing suspect arrested in Nanaimo

Man was also in possession of fentanyl: RCMP

Paper Excellence took over Catalyst Paper operations in B.C. in 2018. (Paper Excellence photo)
(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
Port Alberni postpones organics collection to September 2021

Collection carts will be stored at Port Alberni Port Authority terminal

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read