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B.C. not trying to stop Trans Mountain, but aims to protect environment: lawyer

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  • VANCOUVER — British Columbia is not trying to stop the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, but it is attempting to prevent environmental damage and hold the corporation responsible for the cleanup of a spill, a lawyer argued Monday.

    The province’s Court of Appeal is considering a reference case filed by B.C. that asks if it has jurisdiction to regulate the transport of oil through its territory and restrict bitumen shipments from Alberta.

    Joseph Arvay, who represents B.C., said the province has no “axe to grind” against pipelines and proposed amendments to its Environmental Management Act are not aimed at blocking the project.

    “The purpose was never to prevent the construction or operation of the pipeline. The purpose and effect was always to protect the environment,” he told a panel of five judges.

    The case asks the court to rule on the constitutional validity of the proposed amendments, which would require companies transporting hazardous substances through B.C. to obtain provincial permits.

    The proposed permitting regime would order companies to provide disaster response plans and agree to compensate the province, municipalities and First Nations for any damages. If companies fail to comply with requirements, the province could suspend or cancel the permit.

    A five-day hearing began Monday and the Canadian government has not yet had an opportunity to present its arguments. It says in court documents that the proposed regime must be struck down because it gives B.C. a “veto” over inter-provincial projects.

    Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley have said Ottawa — not the provinces — has the authority to regulate trans-boundary pipelines.

    Alberta, Saskatchewan, Trans Mountain Corp. and the Canadian Railway Association are among 13 parties that have filed documents in support of the federal government in the case.

    Arvay acknowledged that B.C. Premier John Horgan said on the campaign trail in 2017, when his party was in opposition, that he would use “every tool in the toolbox” to stop the Trans Mountain expansion.

    However, after Horgan’s government took power, it received legal advice that it was constitutionally unable to stop the project but it could bring in environmental legislation, Arvay said.

    Under questioning from the Appeal Court judges, Arvay acknowledged that the proposed permitting system could lead to a situation where the Trans Mountain pipeline would not be allowed to operate.

    “But that’s really in the hands of the pipeline,” he said, adding the corporation would be responsible for ensuring it meets the permit conditions.

    “That’s as it should be. The Constitution shouldn’t provide the inter-provincial undertaking … an immunity from such lawful regulation.”

    Justice Harvey Groberman challenged Arvay’s assertion that B.C. must be able to enact laws to protect its environment from trans-boundary projects in case the federal government fails to do so.

    If the federal government didn’t regulate airplanes, for example, that could result in a disaster in the province’s airspace, Groberman noted.

    “But that doesn’t mean B.C. has power,” he said. “We assume the federal government is acting in the public interest. … That’s just the nature of divided jurisdiction.”

    Arvay outlined a number of cases that he said have established legal precedent for B.C. to impose environmental laws on trans-boundary projects.

    One such case was in 1899, when a court held that provinces and municipalities could require the Canadian Pacific Railway to keep ditches alongside its tracks clear of dirt and rubbish to prevent damage to adjacent properties, he said.

    However, Justice Lauri Ann Fenlon said the ruling didn’t necessarily prevent the railway from operating if it failed to keep the ditches clear — unlike B.C.’s proposed legislation.

    The federal government has purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion. The expansion would triple the capacity of the line from the Edmonton area to Burnaby, B.C., and increase tanker traffic in Burrard Inlet seven-fold.

    Arvay said a spill of diluted bitumen in B.C. would be disastrous. The National Energy Board heard differing opinions about the likelihood of a spill, but B.C. has the right to take precautions, he said.

    “We know that things don’t go according to plan. Accidents happen,” Arvay said.

    The energy board recently ruled the project is in the Canadian public interest despite adverse effects to endangered southern resident killer whales and related Indigenous culture.

    Arvay said the board has concluded that the benefits of the project are national and regional in scope, but that some local communities would shoulder the burdens of the expansion.

    B.C.’s opponents in the case are essentially saying provinces are powerless to hold companies accountable and reduce the risks of catastrophic harm from inter-provincial projects, he argued.

    “We say that the province is not required to accept such a fate, and that the province can be proactive in doing what it can to protect the environment.”

    Laura Kane, The Canadian Press


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    National

    Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government is warning Canadians in Sri Lanka to limit their movements and avoid affected areas after a series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more.

    Global Affairs Canada has issued a statement warning that the situation in the island nation remains “volatile,” and more attacks are possible. The government has also warned that the High Commission of Canada to Sri Lanka in the capital Colombo will be closed on Monday due to the security situation.

    Sri Lanka’s government has imposed a nationwide overnight curfew and blocked access to social media in the wake of the attacks at churches, hotels and a guesthouse on Easter Sunday.

    The country’s foreign minister says at least 27 foreigners were among those killed in the co-ordinated attacks, but it’s not clear if any Canadians are among the victims.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is among the world leaders responding to the tragedy, tweeting Sunday morning that Canada “strongly condemns the heinous attacks on Christians.”

    “Absolutely horrific news from Sri Lanka,” Trudeau wrote. “Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and loved ones of those killed and all those injured.”

    The Sri Lankan defence minister said seven suspects linked to the blasts have been arrested.

    — with files from The Associated Press

    The Canadian Press


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    Environment

    Hundreds of Canadian troops deployed to flood zones in Quebec and N.B.

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  • MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault will visit flood-damaged regions north of Montreal today, as warm temperatures and rising water levels threaten to worsen the spring flooding already wreaking havoc across a wide region.

    Legault will visit a community centre and flooded homes on an island in the Laval region, where Canadian Forces troops are expected to join the efforts to limit the damage. The city says it could receive another 20 to 40 millimetres of rain in the coming days.

    Many people across Quebec and New Brunswick have been filling sandbags in an effort to protect their homes. Officials say water levels are expected to rise in many regions due to warming temperatures that contribute to snowmelt and ice movement.

    About 200 soldiers started filling sandbags and carrying out evacuations in Quebec’s Outaouais and Mauricie regions overnight, with an additional 400 troops standing ready to deploy there and in Laval on Sunday.

    Urgence Quebec says that as of Sunday morning, 980 residences across the province had been flooded and more than 1,200 people had left their homes.

    Several major floods have been identified as threatening thousands of Quebecers, and so far one death has been blamed on the high water.

    Police say 72-year-old Louise Seguin Lortie died Saturday morning after driving her car into a sinkhole caused by flooding in the Pontiac area, about 30 kilometres northwest of Ottawa.

    Some of the worst flooding has been in the Beauce region south of Quebec City, where 883 homes were swamped and 765 people evacuated, up from 94 on Saturday.

    Quebec’s public safety minister has urged citizens in affected areas to avoid unnecessary risks and to leave their homes if necessary.

    Meanwhile, about 120 Canadian soldiers are being deployed across western New Brunswick to help residents threatened by rising floodwaters.

    Fifteen communities in that province have been warned to remain on high alert.

     

    The Canadian Press


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