Courts Uphold Transfer of University Golf Course to Musqueam

In 2008, the Province of BC transferred the University Golf Course, two plots of land in Pacific Spirit Park and a plot of land in Richmond that the River Rock Casino sits on, to the Musqueam. They also gave them $20M. All this so that the Musqueam would drop three lawsuits against the province.

The parcels of land that were transferred from the Province to the Musqueam in 2008.

Upset that the province had given away pieces of Pacific Spirit Park (PSP) while offering no compensation, Metro Vancouver launched a court challenge trying to block the transfer. At the time, the Vancouver Sun ran an editorial sympathizing with Metro Vancouver’s plight but ultimately advancing the point that the lawsuit was a waste of time and money. The editorial ends with “What is needed to resolve this impasse is not a court ruling, but rather a political accommodation. The only way to reach one is for the parties to sit down together and work it out.”

They didn’t sit down together to work it out. It was a waste of time and money. (About $20,000, according to other news reports.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of BC ruled against Metro Vancouver. The case was appealed to the BC Court of Appeals. On August 15, the Court of Appeals issued their decision upholding the land transfer. Metro Vancouver’s case revolved around a clause in the Local Government Act (LGA) that states “notice and consultation is [sic] needed for Provincial government actions that directly affect regional district interests…” Metro Vancouver claimed they weren’t consulted or given notice about the transfer of the lands that were located in PSP, in violation of the LGA.

The province was then put in the hilarious position of arguing that this clause, in their own legislation, “is merely “aspirational”, is not binding, and should be given no legal effect, not only as a matter of interpretation, but as a matter of substantive law.” The decision, extremely semantics-heavy, will not be summarized, except to say that the court agreed. Despite what the LGA says, notice or consultation with Metro Vancouver was not mandated.

On the surface,the outcome of this case is ironic because in 2003, the Province had attempted to sell the University Golf Course to UBC for $10M and the Musqueam challenged that sale in court. Ultimately, “the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled that the Province failed to adequately consult with the Musqueam when the government approved the 2003 sale of the UBC Golf Course lands to the University of British Columbia.”

(It’s not actually ironic – let’s call it “Alanis ironic” – because the ruling concerns itself much more with the “honour of the Crown toward Aboriginal peoples” and the duty to accommodate them rather than the duty to consult. As well, the Musqueam’s case is based on the Canadian Constitution while Metro Van’s is based on a provincial statute.)

The only place left for Metro Vancouver to go is to the Supreme Court of Canada but in all likelihood this is the end of the road. Meanwhile, the Musqueam took BC Assessment to court in an attempt to not pay property taxes on their new lands. The Musqueam lost that one.


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  1. Great article Neal!

    Posted by Hayden Hughes | August 30, 2011, 4:15 pm
  2. “What is needed to resolve this impasse is not a court ruling, but rather a political accommodation. The only way to reach one is for the parties to sit down together and work it out.”

    yah, good luck with that! the attempted sale in 2003 is just icing on the cake for this debacle.. sigh.


    Posted by tracy | August 31, 2011, 5:14 am
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