The Wolastoq Grand Council started their first day of a judicial review in the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick. This is the second highest court in New Brunswick next to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal. This case is being heard in the Woodstock Court House in Woodstock, New Brunswick and the judge presiding over the judicial review is the Honourable Richard G. Petrie.
On November 30th, the first day of court was taken up by procedure. Judge Petrie asked the lawyers to go through their affidavits submitted to the court and come to a mutual agreement on which portions will be used for the judicial review. A judicial review is based on affidavits submitted by both parties. This is in contrast to a court trial where evidence is entered by expert witnesses and they can be cross-examined by the other party.
Supporters of the Wolastoq Grand Council, including several members of the Council of Canadians – Fredericton chapter, were present in the court room.
(FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: Clanmother Sharlene Paul, lawyer Gordon Allen, Grand Chief Ron Tremblay of the Wolastoq Grand Council, Clanmother Alma Brooks, and Council of Canadian – Fredericton chapter members Mark D’Arcy and Jean Louis Deveau)
After hours of deliberation between the lawyers – Gordon Allen for the Wolastoq Grand Council and William Gould for the Government of New Brunswick – there was no time left for the arguments to start. Judge Petrie asked the court administrator to schedule another half-day of court as soon as possible for the arguments to be presented. In the meantime, the lawyers will prepare redacted, revised affidavits as agreed and submit those to the Court. These affidavits will provide the basis of arguments to be used by the lawyers at the next court hearing.
To date, the efforts of the Wolotoq Grand Council have had some tangible results, even as the issues await full hearing in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Initially the province denied that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was required, but after the Wolotoq Grand Council filed for a judicial review, the province registered an EIA for most of the grooming hub project. This means that no further work will proceed on the project this winter, and until the process is complete. By then, the main issues will have been heard and there should be a judicial ruling on the Wolostoq Grand Council’s efforts to compel the province to follow its own laws regarding having a Resource Management Plan in place for the Park before any development, ensuring any development is permitted by existing zoning in the park, and also that it be properly consulted by the province before any development can proceed.
The Government of New Brunswick has taken notice of these issues and appears to be taking the matter seriously, even if it disagrees with the Wolotoq Grand Council’s position. Important agreements on procedure were reached at the last hearing. Both parties have already submitted their written briefs to the courts and now await a date in the future to argue the Judicial Review.
As allies, we are providing as much support as possible to the Wolastoq Grand Council. By bringing this matter all the way to the Court of Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick, the Wolastoq Grand Council are speaking out for the plants and animals in this sacred place of New Brunswick. They are asking the judge to rule that the Government of New Brunswick did not follow their own plans in approving a snowmobile hub project through Mount Carleton Provincial Park. The significance of a judicial review for Mount Carleton Provincial Park is that it is an important test case for the environmental protection of our wildlife, parks, and waterways:
– This is the only wilderness park in New Brunswick. (1)
– This is the only provincial park in New Brunswick with a pre-existing park management plan.
– All New Brunswick provincial parks prohibit the use of ATVs and snowmobiles. (2) (The only exception are snowmobile trails in New Brunswick Sugarloaf Provincial Park which is designated as the province’s first downhill ski park.)
– The Parks Act and the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation are very clear that such a development proposal in a Provincial Park must trigger environmental review and public consultation.
To date, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $17,000 of the $25,000 goal to help cover court costs. All four New Brunswick chapters of Council of Canadians are supporting this court case. This court case is an initiative supported by allies within the Peace and Friendship Alliance.
What makes the idea so offensive of an extensive snowmobile trail system through a Provincial Park (rather than around) is that the Government of New Brunswick just completed an extensive public review of our Parks Act. (3) On page 2 of the 2014 Response Paper is the following:
“The general sentiment is that protection of New Brunswick’s natural assets should be top priority for current and future generations. Preservation of these natural areas should be law and not just a matter of policy. The Parks Act should explicitly define the measures for protection and preservation such as categorization of Parks; zoning within Parks; ban on industrial exploitation; creation of mandated resource management plans; and providing the Minister the authority to designate other protected areas under the Act.”
In summary, here are some of the reasons why this judicial review is so important:
– Do we want ATVs and snowmobiles to go through wilderness preserves for moose and deer?
– Does the Government of New Brunswick follow their own Environmental Impact Assessment law?
– Do we want our environmental regulations to be ignored for large development projects such as snowmobile hubs, campground parks, pipelines, and open pit mines?
– Do we want our park management plans to be ignored for large development projects?
– Do campers and hikers want ATVs and snowmobiles to use their trails in Provincial Parks?
– Why can’t the snowmobile trails stay along the outside edge of the provincial parks like in other provinces such as Quebec?
– How much will the encroachment of ATVs and snowmobiles damage the international reputation of Canada’s Appalachian Trail? Mount Carleton is a designated part of the International Appalachian Trail.
GENERAL REGULATION – PARKS ACT
(PAGE 18) Schedule A.1
“Wilderness Park – Mount Carleton”
GENERAL REGULATION – PARKS ACT
11(1) No person shall operate a motorized snow vehicle, off-road vehicle, all-terrain vehicle or all-terrain cycle in a provincial park other than in an area designated by the Minister for the use of such vehicles.
Parks Act Review
“The response paper outlines the public input received in the process to update the New Brunswick Parks Act for the 21st century. As the original Act was proclaimed in 1961, this review has been more than 50 years in the making. Such an extensive exercise takes research and planning:”