freeways = climate crime

The SFPR threatens Burns Bog – Environment Canada agrees (read their letter from 2007).

In 2010, Burns Bog Conservation Society sued the Federal government for allowing the construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR).  Well, four years later the lawsuit plods on, as does the highway.

The Burns Bog Conservation Society tried to force the federal government to enforce the Conservation Covenant and halt construction. The claim was dismissed. You can read the judgement here. The Burns Bog Conservation Society is appealing this decision.

Current issues on the SPFR:

Jan 22, 2014. Roadkill. According to an article in the Vancouver Sun there have been 10 deer and numerous other, currently untallied, animals killed by cars since the SPFR opened. This is despite the $30 million spent on tunnels and bridges. The road also threatens any remaining black bears in Burns Bog.

Here’s a short video showing the wildlife crossings and some of the area that is currently around the SPFR.

FAQ: why was our case dismissed?

The answer is a little tricky. First, you need to know about the ongoing battle to develop Canadian environmental law. Canada has very little “jurisprudence” or case precedent on what the government’s duties to the environment are. Right now, it is commonly thought that the government does not hold the environment in “public trust,” and that it does not have a “fiduciary duty” to citizens. (A fiduciary duty is a fancy way of saying a relationship under the law between two parties.) This means that we have no say on what it does on land it owns, and that the government can do whatever it pleases on land it owns (legislation permitting).

The Burns Bog Conservation Society tried to argue that, because a Conservation Covenant was made on the land with the express purpose of preserving ecological features, this covenant imposed a form of fiduciary duty on the government to ensure its actions preserved those things specified in the Covenant. You would think it is rather obvious that a conservation agreement should be legally binding. But the judge dismissed the case before that argument was made, on the grounds that the government does not have a fiduciary duty to the Burns Bog Conservation Society. That’s why the Burns Bog Conservation Society is appealing. (Help bring the case back to court – every dollar makes a difference.)

Still confused? That makes two of us. What matters is, we’re part of a bigger fight by a lot of environmental groups trying to enshrine this kind of duty or right into law. The David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are working on a Right to a Healthy Environment bill. We’re trying to use the courts.

We may have lost one battle, but the fight continues. It takes much longer to build than to destroy.