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June 2003

    Appeal Court reverses Nanoose Bay Expropriation

    Peace and public interest activists are disappointed over the recent Federal Court of Appeal decision to reverse last year’s Federal Court decision that had overturned the 1999 expropriation of the Nanoose torpedo test range near Nanaimo.

    ”Mr Justice Evans of the
    Appeal Court agreed with SPEC that there was a breach in the original expropriation procedure,” said West Coast Environmental Law Association staff lawyer Andrew Gage. “Unfortunately the Appeal Court did not agree with the 2002 ruling of Mr Justice Campbell that the breach was sufficiently serious for the court to overturn the expropriation. Obviously we are disappointed with the result.”

    In March 2002, Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell had ruled in favour of an appeal by the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and overturned the 1999 expropriation.
    Campbell decided that the officer in charge of the expropriation hearings had not given sufficient notice to a significant number of citizens groups and individuals to make presentations at the public hearings. Nor did his report fairly represent the level of opposition expressed by thousands of British Columbians opposed to the presence of US nuclear capable warships at Nanoose.

    Ottawa launched the 1999 Nanoose expropriation after former BC Premier Glen Clark refused to renew a lease of the underwater weapons range unless the US Navy provided assurances that no nuclear warheads would be brought into BC waters. Although its negotiators originally agreed to this condition, Ottawa later refused and launched the first ever hostile expropriation of provincial land.

    Since its establishment in 1965 as a branch of the US Navy’s
    Keyport, Washington underwater weapons facility, Nanoose has primarily been used by US nuclear weapons capable warships as a testing ground before proceeding to stations across the Pacific Ocean. The base has also sparked numerous protests by peace and environmental groups opposed to the potential presence of nuclear weapons in BC. They are also concerned with tests at Nanoose that result in the dumping of tons of lead, copper wire, lithium and other toxic materials into fish bearing waters of Georgia Strait.

    In 1996 the Federal Court rejected a SPEC challenge of a decision by then Environment Minister Sheila Copps to exempt US warships from Canadian environmental regulations that prohibit the dumping of toxic materials into fish bearing waters.

    SPEC will consult with legal council before deciding whether to appeal this latest decision.


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