By Christopher Trider

In Court on April 1, Judge Brothers asked Jamie Simpson to explain:

If Canadian courts were to recognize the public trust doctrine, then future Ministers of Lands & Forestry could more easily be held responsible if they failed to consult the public on critical decisions that appeared to be in violation of the public trust.

So it was not surprising that Judge Brothers asked Simpson to explain, “Why should I be the first judge in Canada” to rely on the public trust doctrine, given the reluctance thus far of other Canadian judges to cite the doctrine. Simpson went through statements of Canadian judges from a series of cases arguing for the benefits of incorporating public interest doctrine into Canadian law; from their perspective, the common law is not a fixed, unchanging entity, but something that has changed over time in order to deal with changes in the world at large.

Owls Head Goes to Court by Richard Bell

I can answer Judge Brothers’s question: because somebody has to be the first.

The government’s actions with respect to the secret removal of Owls Head Provincial Park, as referred to as site #694 in the “Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan,” and the offer to sell the property to the American owned private development company, clearly demonstrate the need to enshrine this concept in law.

If the government, as freely admitted by Premier Rankin, will use a path to legally circumvent the public interest and ignore decades of public commitments and obligations to protect an ecologically significant property like Owls Head, he demonstrates that he values the benefits and profits of connected friends more than the clearly established public interest. He demonstrates the ignorance of his government in understanding the social and environmental values of Owls Head to future generations. Those values are based on profound increases in scientific knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem functions. He fails in his obligations to protect sites like Owls Head in perpetuity.

Rankin’s actions and his “I would do it all again” response to the concerns of thousands of Nova Scotians constitute a serious threat to all our parks and particularly the 150+ provincial parks, nature reserves, and wilderness areas that have the same legal status as Owls Head Provincial Park did in the Protected Areas Plan. Apparently, his “listen, learn and lead” mantra means “I will listen to the lobbyists and private developers, I will learn how to legally cheat the system, and I will lead them to a promised land of cheap Crown land so they can profit at the expense of the people of Nova Scotia.” Who knew that was what he meant?

Stop the sale. Save Owls Head.

Related Reading:

RICHARD BELL: Owls Head Goes to Court

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