The Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) have filed a petition in the Supreme Court of British Columbia to “challenge the ability and authority of the government of BC to ignore the public’s interest in preserving and protecting natural resources in favour of supporting private business interests.”
While the specific case revolves around the granting of a park use permit to an exclusive private resort, allowing horse tours into a wilderness valley within Strathcona Park, it also raises the broader issue of the violation of public trust by government on a broad range of other issues, a FOSP statement says.
“Whether the local issue is the creeping privatization of B.C.’s parks, the sale of BC Rail, the diminishment of health care services, the abdication of environmental assessments, the pressure to construct oil pipelines without consultation, or unprecedented permission for new mining projects, almost every British Columbian can relate directly to a feeling of loss of control over their ‘commons,’” says Kel Kelly, a spokesperson for FOSP. “We have entered a new era, where the partnership between governments and private interests is so strong that it is rapidly eroding places, natural wonders and ideas that hold a powerful place in the hearts of most British Columbians.”
The FOSP have garnered support from the Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, an initiative of West Coast Environmental Law. FOSP will be arguing that there are limits to ministerial discretion in granting a permit including that the permit cannot violate the public trust and that the minister must consider environmental impacts in granting a permit.