We have a Legal System here in BC – but do we have Justice?
On May 27th, 2009, after four years of litigation, BC Supreme Court Justice, Ian Pitfield, awarded $600,000 in damages to my company Susan Heyes Inc. as compensation for business losses caused by the construction of the Canada Line. The appeal of this ruling in my favour was heard April 15th, 2010.
Today, the decision was finally announced contradicting the findings of the lower court.
In upholding this appeal, the legal system has supported the confiscation of individual citizen’s livelihoods by government funded private, for profit ventures. This shocking ruling has failed to protect the rights of citizens, and has failed to uphold justice and fairness in a democratic society.
The Canada Line project was built on the backs of hundreds of blindsided small business people along the Cambie corridor.
The project chose the most disruptive of several methods of construction. This discretionary and confidential decision alone should have negated the defence of Statutory Authority which the Appeal Court Justices used today as the basis for their ruling.
Under the law, the defence of Statutory Authority can only be used when it is proven in court that no other less disruptive method of construction was available. Instead of the devastating cut-and-cover construction, a bored tunnel method was not only available, but it was the basis of all public consultations and years of engineering reports and studies.
This project was enabled by the strategic use of confidentiality agreements at every stage, leaving citizens and even municipal officials misinformed and out of meaningful consultation. The last minute secret switch from underground bored tunnel to cut-and-cover, was never approved by Vancouver City Council, as a decision making body. They had authorized the City’s Engineering Department to negotiate the agreement that provided access to Vancouver’s streets for the project in a vacuum. The engineers were forced to sign confidentiality agreements that prohibited them from informing their bosses – City Council – of this critical switch.
I question the validity of any contract or agreement that allowed this project to proceed, that was obtained in the absence of the whole truth about the project and its impacts on citizens and small businesses. Compensation should have been factored into the business plan.
I am appalled that our legal system has failed to support the rights of citizens, and has attempted to provide a legal justification for the excessive harm caused by this P3 project. I further wonder how many tens of millions of dollars have been spent to legally defend the project, instead of fairly compensating the victims.
The May 27th 2009 ruling from Justice Pitfield must be upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada. The outcome of this litigation will set a precedent for all small businesses across Canada. The precedent that it sets should be just and fair, and reasonable. When governments use their powers to confiscate value for the common good – individuals must be compensated.
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