Judge reflects on judicial review of horse access permit

A struggle between public and private played out in BC Supreme Court this week.

The judicial review, initiated by Friends of Strathcona Park, focused on the provincial government’s decision to allow a private resort to have horse access to parkland, counter to the park’s use plan, according to the environmental group.

After hearing both sides, Honourable Justice Sigurdson has decided to reserve judgment until a later date.

“We hope that this case will help set a precedent ensuring protection of our province’s parks,” says Bridget Horel, a spokesperson for the group in a press release.

“The granting of this permit is being challenged on the grounds that the Minister of the Environment never considered whether or not the permit was necessary,” Scott Bernstein, lawyer for Friends of Strathcona Park, says.

Bernstein says “while government looked at whether it was financially beneficial to them, they did not address the key question, whether it was necessary to preserve and maintain the existing recreational values of the Park, as is required by the Park Act.”

A lawyer for the BC government, Leah Greathead, suggests in her argument that the jurisdiction of ministers and bureaucrats is beyond the reach of the court. She continued that the minister had full authority, under the Park Act, to make the decision that he made.

“It seems as though our province is saying that the public and the courts have no place in questioning the decisions they make, Horel says.

“We believe that provincial parks are to be kept for the public and that the public does have a right to say whether or not parks can be sold, privatized or commercialized.”

The judicial review concluded Friday, Feb. 8 but the public will have to wait to hear the outcome of this court case until a written decision has been provided.

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