VANCOUVER, B.C.: On May 3, 2017, the B.C. Supreme Court certified B.C.’s first environmental class action against the Province of British Columbia. This action, brought on behalf of more than 2500 B.C. residents, concerns the July, 2013 spill of 35,000 litres of toxic jet fuel into the Slocan River water system in southeastern B.C. This environmental disaster, which occurred when a tanker truck overturned during a Province-led refueling operation, led to the emergency evacuation of thousands of residents in the Slocan Valley, causing millions of dollars of damage to both private property and the ecosystem.
This certified class action, originally brought on behalf of local farmer Robert Kirk, alleges that the Province of British Columbia caused this disaster with its operational mismanagement and then exacerbated this disaster’s effect by failing to adequately respond to the spill, leading to prolonged suffering for local residents. The Province hotly contested the application to certify this action as a class proceeding, attempting to point blame at its co-defendants, which include the firms with which the Province contracted to execute the refuelling operation. In his reasons for judgement, Justice David Masuhara rejected the Province’s position in its entirety.
The appointed lawyer for the class, David Rosenberg, Q.C., of Vancouver firm Rosenberg Kosakoski LLP, is troubled by the Province’s abrogation of its duties:
“In this time of proposed pipelines and increased transportation of dangerous substances, we should all be concerned when the Province of British Columbia fails in its duty to protect the environment and refuses to take responsibility for its mistakes.”