Ecojustice was in court last month, doing what it does best – helping the little guy in the struggle to protect the environment.
On May 3, 2011, Tim Leadem and I appeared before the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Chilliwack to defend a small local conservation group, the Glen Valley Watershed Society, against a $5.5 million law suit.
In a decision handed down May 25, the judge ruled that all claims against the Society were dismissed.
The law suit arose when the Society voiced concerns about a large fill site proposed for its community. Due to the steep topography and proximity to an environmentally sensitive stream, the Society was concerned that the large quantities of fill would erode into the stream and damage fish habitat. It shared these concerns with politicians in letters and at a town council meeting.
The fill proponent, Mr. Robin Scory, sued the Society and two citizens for speaking out, claiming they had, amongst other things, defamed him. The judge’s decision however, rules that the Society’s
public statements about what could happen to the environment were not defamatory statements, but were “opinions on a matter of public interest.”
The decision confirms the public’s legal right to speak up when the environment is put in jeopardy. However, most people in the same situation are denied this justice. The cost to defend against these law suits can be prohibitively high, even when just seeking a quick dismissal. If a full trial is warranted, as is often the case, costs can easily reach six figures. Such cases can drain a person or organization’s resources to the point of debilitation. Ecojustice was honoured to be able to help the Society get the justice it deserves here.
The fight however, is not over. Mr. Scory has filed to appeal the decision. We will continue representing the Society in its defence.
By Jennifer Agnolin