Environmental Resource Centre et al. v. Canada (Minister of the Environment) et al., (2001) 214 F.T.R. 94 (TD)

JudgeHeneghan, J.
CourtFederal Court (Canada)
Case DateDecember 20, 2001
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2001), 214 F.T.R. 94 (TD)

Env. Resource Centre v. Can. (2001), 214 F.T.R. 94 (TD)

MLB headnote and full text

Temp. Cite: [2002] F.T.R. TBEd. JA.016

Environmental Resource Centre, Prairie Acid Rain Coalition and Toxics Watch Society of Alberta (applicants) v. The Minister of Environment (Canada) and The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Suncor Energy Inc. (respondents) and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Alberta as represented by the Minister of Environment (intervenor)

(T-274-99; T-1799-99; T-100-00; 2001 FCT 1423)

Indexed As: Environmental Resource Centre et al. v. Canada (Minister of the Environment) et al.

Federal Court of Canada

Trial Division

Heneghan, J.

December 20, 2001.

Summary:

Three public interest groups sought judicial review of Ministerial decisions respecting a major Alberta oil sands project by Suncor Energy. A preliminary issue was whether the groups had standing to seek judicial review, as they were not "directly affected" by the challenged decisions. Assuming standing was granted, the groups claimed, inter alia, that there was a failure to complete a proper environmental assessment as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (i.e., cumulative environmental effects not properly assessed). Alternatively, if a proper assessment was done, the groups submitted that the finding that the project was unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects was unreasonable.

The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, allowed the application. The groups had public interest standing to challenge the decisions. The Minister erred in interpreting the Act. Alternatively, the Minister's decision was an unreasonable exercise of discretion or authority.

Pollution Control - Topic 1846.2

Environmental assessments or impact studies - Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order (Can. Environmental Assessment Act) - Scope of assessment - Three public interest groups sought judicial review of Ministerial decisions respecting a major Alberta oil sands project - The groups claimed that the Minister failed to complete a proper environmental assessment as required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act - Alternatively, the groups submitted that the finding that the project was unlikely to cause significant adverse environmental effects was unreasonable - The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, quashed the decisions for error of law by the Minister - The court stated that "reliance by the [Minister] upon provincial regulatory powers and initiatives, including the [Regional Sustainable Development Strategy] and industry based initiatives including the [Cumulative Environmental Effects Management Initiative], which are beyond enforcement or control by the federal authorities, amounts to a misinterpretation of her duty to consider mitigation factors when she reviewed the [Comprehensive Study Review]. She erred in her interpretation of the Act." - Alternatively, the court held that "I am not satisfied that reliance upon processes over which [the Minister] has no control constitutes a reasonable exercise of authority or discretion." - See paragraphs 140 to 156.

Pollution Control - Topic 1852

Environmental assessments or impact studies - Environmental Assessment and Review Process Guidelines Order (Can. Environmental Assessment Act) - Judicial review - The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, stated that to the extent that a Minister's decision under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act involved a question of law (whether as to jurisdiction or interpretation of statutory authority), the standard of review was correctness - With respect to the Minister's exercise of discretionary authority within his or her jurisdiction, the standard was reasonableness - See paragraphs 136 to 139.

Practice - Topic 221

Persons who can sue and be sued - Individuals and corporations - Status or standing - Public interest standing (incl. requirements of) - Three public interest groups sought judicial review of Ministerial decisions respecting a major Alberta oil sands project by Suncor Energy - A preliminary issue was whether the groups had standing to seek judicial review, as they were not "directly affected" by the challenged decisions - The Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, held that the groups had "public interest standing" to challenge the decisions - There was a serious issue raised, the groups had a genuine interest in the matter and there was no other reasonable and effective way to bring the matter before the court - See paragraphs 129 to 135.

Cases Noticed:

Alberta Wilderness Association et al. v. Cardinal River Coals Ltd., [1999] 3 F.C. 425; 165 F.T.R. 1 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 52].

Friends of the West Country Association v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) et al., [2000] 2 F.C. 263; 248 N.R. 25 (F.C.A.), affing. [1998] 4 F.C. 340; 150 F.T.R. 161 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 52].

Inverhuron & District Ratepayers' Association v. Canada (Minister of the Environment) et al. (2001), 273 N.R. 62 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 62].

Union of Nova Scotia Indians et al. v. Canada (Attorney General) et al., [1997] 1 F.C. 325; 122 F.T.R. 181 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 72].

Alberta Wilderness Association et al. v. Express Pipelines Ltd. et al. (1996), 201 N.R. 336; 137 D.L.R.(4th) 177 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 72].

Cantwell et al. v. Canada (Minister of the Environment) et al. (1991), 41 F.T.R. 18 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 72].

Paccar of Canada Ltd. v. Canadian Association of Industrial, Mechanical and Allied Workers, Local 14, [1989] 2 S.C.R. 983; 102 N.R. 1; 62 D.L.R.(4th) 437; 89 C.L.L.C. 14,050; [1989] 6 W.W.R. 673; 40 Admin. L.R. 181, refd to. [para. 75].

Alberta Wilderness Association et al. v. Canada (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) et al., [1999] 1 F.C. 483; 238 N.R. 88 (F.C.A.), refd to. [para. 76].

Friends of the Oldman River Society v. Canada (Minister of Transport and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 3; 132 N.R. 321; [1992] 2 W.W.R. 193; 88 D.L.R.(4th) 1, refd to. [para. 79].

Pushpanathan v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [1998] 1 S.C.R. 982, addendum [1998] 1 S.C.R. 1222; 226 N.R. 201; 160 D.L.R.(4th) 193, refd to. [para. 83].

Québec (Procureur général) v. Office national de l'énergie, [1994] 1 S.C.R. 159; 163 N.R. 241, refd to. [para. 86].

Grand Council of Crees v. Canada - see Québec (Procureur général) v. Office national de l'énergie.

Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada et al., [1992] 1 S.C.R. 236; 132 N.R. 241; 88 D.L.R.(4th) 183, refd to. [para. 96].

Shiell v. Atomic Energy Control Board (Can.) et al. (1995), 98 F.T.R. 75; 17 C.E.L.R.(N.S.) 286 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 103].

Citizen's Mining Council of Newfoundland and Labrador Inc. v. Canada (Minister of the Environment) et al. (1999), 163 F.T.R. 36; 29 C.E.L.R.(N.S.) 117 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 103].

Sierra Club of Canada v. Canada (Minister of Finance) et al., [1999] 2 F.C. 211; 157 F.T.R. 123 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 105].

R. v. Hydro-Quebec, [1997] 3 S.C.R. 213; 217 N.R. 241, refd to. [para. 117].

Vancouver Island Peace Society et al. v. Canada (Minister of National Defence) et al., [1992] 3 F.C. 42; 53 F.T.R. 300 (T.D.), refd to. [para. 136].

Statutes Noticed:

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, S.C. 1992, c. 37, preamble [para. 80]; sect. 2, sect. 4, sect. 12, sect. 16, sect. 17, sect. 23, sect. 37, sect. 38(1) [para. 128].

Counsel:

Timothy J. Howard and Margot A. Venton, for the applicants;

Kirk N. Lambrecht, Q.C., and Kenneth A. Manning, for the respondent, Ministers of the Environment (Can.) and Fisheries and Oceans (Can.);

Dennis R. Thomas, Q.C., for the respondent, Suncor Energy Inc.;

William A. McDonald and Grant D. Sprague, for the intervenor, Minister of Environment (Alta.).

Solicitors of Record:

Sierra Legal Defence Fund, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the applicants;

Morris Rosenberg, Deputy Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, for the respondent, Ministers of the Environment (Can.) and Fisheries and Oceans (Can.);

Fraser Milner, Edmonton, Alberta, for the respondent, Suncor Energy Inc.;

David Hancock, Attorney General of Alberta, for the intervenor, Minister of Environment (Alta.).

These applications were heard on June 5-9, 2000, at Edmonton, Alberta, before Heneghan, J., of the Federal Court of Canada, Trial Division, who delivered the following judgment on December 20, 2001.

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