Canada: Case Law Summaries - Environmental Law

Last Updated: March 28 2019
Article by Aidan L. Cameron, Lindsay Burgess and Meghan S. Bridges

Most Read Contributor in Canada, April 2019


In this case, the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed Canada's petition requesting a statutory injunction to prevent Taseko Mines from carrying out exploration work authorized in a permit Taseko obtained from the B.C. government. The Court also heard Taseko's petition for a declaration that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply to its provincially authorized activities.

Canada argued the work authorized by the provincial permit was connected to another project under Taseko's management, which the federal government had not approved on the basis that it would have deleterious environmental effects (Taseko was pursuing an appeal of this decision at the time the issues in this case arose). Under s. 6 of the CEAA, 2012, undertaking activities connected to an unapproved project constitutes a federal offence.

A key dispute between the parties was the scope of the federally unapproved Taseko project, which had been described in a letter from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to Taseko as entailing "constructing, operating and closing an open pit mine." The Court held that the word "constructing" should not be construed so broadly as to contain all the series of approvals required prior to actually building the key components of the mine. Thus, the exploration activities authorized by the B.C. government approval did not have a sufficient nexus to fall within the definition of "constructing" the federally unapproved project.

The Court also considered whether the activities in the approved provincial permit were "incidental to" the rejected federal project pursuant to the definition of "designated project" in s. 2(1) of the CEAA, 2012. It held that the word "incidental" required a certain level of proximity as well as a possibly causal connection between the activities and the designated project. In this case, the Court concluded that such a level of proximity or causal connection did not exist between the work permit approved by B.C. and the project rejected by the federal government.

With respect to the declaratory relief sought by Taseko, the Court held that its determination with respect to the injunction had settled the issues in dispute and Taseko's declaration petition was moot.


This case involved a judicial review of issues arising from a proposal by Eagleridge International Limited to construct a gravel road for mineral exploration on land in Newfoundland and Labrador on which it held mining licenses.

In 2013, the Minister of Environment and Conservation granted approval for the project, but required Eagleridge to deliver an Environmental Preview Report. In 2014, a different Minister released Eagleridge from the obligation to provide the report. A group of concerned citizens appealed both the approval and the release, but their appeal did not reach the Minister's office within the statutory time limit and the Minister did not issue any decision on the appeal. In late 2015, a new government took office, and in 2016 the new Minister advised Eagleridge that the government intended to revive the concerned citizens' appeal. Eagleridge challenged the legal status of the revived appeal in writing, but received no response. The Minister then withdrew the release from providing an Environmental Preview Report.

On judicial review, the Court quashed the decisions to revive the appeal and to reverse the release of Eagleridge from delivering an additional environmental report. The Court found that the decision to release Eagleridge from the obligation to deliver a report was properly made, and rejected the distinction Newfoundland tried to draw between the Minister's decision to grant the release and the Cabinet's authorization of the Minister to do so. Having declined to reject the project proposal, it was open to the Cabinet to authorize the Minister to take a course of action, which in this case was granting the release. The Minister's decision to release the project was also reasonable — there were conflicting economic and environmental issues, and the Minister exercised his discretion after consideration of both sides and discussion in Cabinet.

The Court also considered the appeal launched by the group of interested citizens. The Court accepted that the concerned citizens' appeal was filed within time because all parties were aware of the existence of the appeal within the statutory time limit, even if the appeal was not technically properly filed on time. However, the Court found that the Minister's failure to make a decision on the appeal within 30 days necessarily led to a lapse of the appeal due to the mandatory language of the province's Environmental Protection Act. The appeal was not capable of being "revived" at a later date because there was nothing to be revived.

Relatedly, the Court held that it was not reasonable for the Minister to "revive" the appeal. The Minister breached rules of natural justice by failing to give reasons for his revival of the appeal. Finally, the Court held that Eagleridge proved all elements of public interest estoppel; therefore, if the government determined in the future (by lawful means) that the release should be reversed or altered in any way, Eagleridge would be entitled to claim its reasonable costs associated with actions taken pursuant to the release.

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