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Okanagan Indian Band argues case against rail deal in Vancouver Supreme Court

May 26, 2015 - 11:28 AM

OKANAGAN - The Okanagan Indian Band is arguing its case this week in Vancouver Supreme Court for an injunction to stop the sale of the CN Rail corridor.

The hearing, which began Monday, May 25, will determine whether there is enough justification to postpone the sale of the corridor until the band’s claim to the land is fully heard. If granted, the injunction would block a $22-million sale deal slated to happen June 1.

The band argues 22 kilometres of the 47.5-km Okanagan Rail Corridor sits on the historic Commonage Reserve, which was formed in 1877 by the Joint Indian Reserve Commission, and subsequently removed by the government about a decade later. The band says it never lawfully surrendered the land.

Over 30 band members attended the first day of the hearing, which is expected to conclude Wednesday.

According to the band’s lawyers, Kate Blomfield and Matthew Kirchner, they will have to meet a three-part test to secure the injunction: 1) Is there a serious question to be tried in the claim?; 2) Will the applicants (OKIB) suffer irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted? and 3) Does the balance of convenience favour granting an injunction in this case?

“Our case is distinguishable enough from other cases that we feel it deserves its own trial,” Chief Byron Louis said in a May 26 press release. “If the sale is allowed to proceed, our options are severely limited. That’s the crux of our ‘irreparable harm’ argument.”

The band insists there is no harm to the defendants, CN Rail and local municipalities, if the injunction is granted.

“Our understanding is that the rail line will have to be cleared and the environmental impact of the line has to be remediated before a trail can be built,” Louis said. “There’s nothing stopping CN from doing the work in the interim.”

More information about the band’s legal argument, and background on the Commonage Reserve, can be found here.

Read previous stories on the Okanagan Rail Corridor here. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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