SCC, Federal Court of Appeal hear appeals in environmental cases this week

Federal courts examine issues of fairness on the part of judicial, administrative decision-makers

SCC, Federal Court of Appeal hear appeals in environmental cases this week

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal heard matters raising environmental law issues under the federal Impact Assessment Act, 2019 (IAA). As for the Federal Court, it dealt with lawsuits commenced by Indigenous plaintiffs.

Supreme Court of Canada

Canada’s highest court heard the case of Attorney General of Canada v. Attorney General of Alberta, 40195 from Tuesday to Wednesday. The matter arose when Alberta’s government asked the Alberta Court of Appeal for its opinion on the constitutionality of the IAA and one of its associated regulations, the Physical Activities Regulations, SOR/2019 285.

The appellate court’s majority ruled that the IAA was unconstitutional since it went beyond the Parliament’s legislative authority under Canada’s constitution. The majority also found the regulations unconstitutional. On the other hand, a dissenting judge considered both the IAA and the regulations a valid exercise of Parliament’s authority to legislate on environmental matters.

Federal Court of Appeal

In Sierra Club Canada Foundation et al. v. Minister of Environment and Climate Change et al., A-10-22, the appellants wanted to quash the Regulations Respecting Excluded Physical Activities (Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Exploratory Wells), which allegedly exempted certain exploratory drilling from the IAA’s assessment requirements.

The appellants claimed that a judge failed to address its evidence that showed badges of unreasonableness and procedural unfairness in a regional assessment of offshore exploratory drilling east of Newfoundland and Labrador. The appellate court heard the appeal on Tuesday.

In Tanya Rebello v. The Minister of Justice et al., A-93-21, the appellant alleged that a judge denied her procedural fairness and showed biased judgment by deliberately denying her access to a hearing and by preventing her from defending herself at a motion to strike. The judge went on to dismiss her claim without leave to amend. This matter was set on Tuesday.

In Everett Rodger Stuckless v. Attorney General of Canada, A-303-21, the appellant challenged a decision of the acting director-general of Health Canada’s controlled substances and cannabis branch. The decision allegedly failed to comply with the duty to act fairly and with the appellant’s rights under s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This matter was set on Wednesday.

Federal Court

The case of Reginald Percival et al. v. His Majesty the King, T-1417-18 involved a proposed class action about the establishment, implementation, administration, and management of the Boarding Home Program for Indian Students. The conduct of Canada and its servants allegedly caused extreme and ongoing harm to the members of the proposed class. The Federal Court heard this case on Wednesday.

In Peter Louis Francis et al. v. Chief and Council of Acadia First Nation et al., T-1772-22, the plaintiff claimed that a First Nation chief and council breached an agreement with the federal government to employ Band members in the Atlantic commercial fishery under the 2000 Marshall Response Initiative and under the 2007 Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative. This matter was set on Wednesday.

In Fequet, Douglas Bryce v. His Majesty the King, T-2017-22, the plaintiff argued that the federal government’s failure to recognize him as an Aboriginal person was discriminatory and unjust. This matter was heard on Monday.

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