Breach of BC Parks Act ?

It appears that Sunshine Village may have substantively breached the BC Parks Act.  If so, should there be a legal consequence?

In follow-up to the operation of commercial snow-cat tours beyond the Sunshine Village ski area boundary this past season, Sunshine Village Watch has obtained a copy of the BC Park Use Permit for Sunshine Village.  A review of the Permit for Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park indicates no apparent authorization for commercial snow-cat tours in the Park which is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

According to the permit, Sunshine Village winter operations are permitted in accordance with the following permit provision:

Winter Season Permit Area
Those portions of Sunshine Village Ski Area falling within the boundaries of Mount
Assiniboine Park, including the right of way containing the Continental Divide quad
chairlift and portions of the Boundary Bowl, the Green Run, South Divide and Lower
Divide ski runs. It includes 10 kilometres of undefined cross-country trail east of Rock
Lake and north of Larix Lake and a groomed track circumnavigating the slopes of
Standish Hump. The permit area includes approximately 40 hectares. It also includes a
20 meter wide water line right of way departing north from Rock Isle Lake following the
west side of the Rock Isle Lake trail to the Park Boundary.

The permit is very specific about limited activities beyond the ski area boundaries in the area where the snow-cat tours occurred.  The “cross-country” area may only be used on a non-commercial basis for team training.  The groomed track circumnavigating Standish is for search and rescue only.

Cross-Country Trails and SAR Trail
a) The Permittee may track set up to 10 kilometers of cross-country ski trails in the
meadows east of Rock Isle Lake and north of Larix Lake, for the exclusive
training use of cross-country teams. Park Use Permit fees charged for the use of
these trails are reduced as they are supplied as a non-profit service. The trails
may not be used commercially by the Permittee;
The Permittee may set a track around the perimeter of Standish Hump for the
purpose of Search and Rescue Operations.

The permit was only recently renewed for a period of 30 years and is dated December 2010, therefore it is reasonable to assume that the provisions of the permit must have been well known to Sunshine Village when the snow cat tours were being operated only a few months later.  Regardless, a brief review of the permit would have been prudent and would have also confirmed that nothing in the permit authorized such an activity by Sunshine Village.

There appears to be nothing in the permit that could be reasonably interpreted to allow commercial snow-cat operations and bonfires on the shores of Rock Isle Lake.  During the Easter 2011 holiday period, Sunshine Village conducted snow-cat tours to Rock Isle Lake. Rock Isle Lake is well beyond the Sunshine Village boundary and well outside the designated commercial operations area.  It is adjacent to the world-renown pristine Sunshine Meadows in Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.  It is also questionable that these tours occurred with adequate emergency planning and response capability for personal injury or environmental issues such as a fluid spill.

Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park is part of the Canadian Rocky Mountain UNESCO World Heritage Site.   To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one out of the ten selection criteria.  The UNESCO World Heritage Convention details the purpose for designating such sites and areas and the duty to protect and conserve them.

The BC Parks Act states as follows:

Occupancy and use of land restricted

16  Except as may be authorized by a valid and subsisting park use permit or resource use permit, a person must not do any of the following:

(a) use or occupy land in a park, conservancy or recreation area for a log storage area, mill site, road, right of way, disposal area for tailings or waste or any other industrial purpose;….

(e) establish or carry on any work or improvement or any commercial or industrial activity or enterprise in a park, conservancy or recreation area.

Where such activities occur without authorization or permit, the Act contains provision for legal sanctions as follows:

Offences and penalties

28  (1) A person who contravenes any provision of this Act commits an offence and is liable to a fine of up to $1 000 000 or a term of imprisonment of not more than one year or both.

….

(3) When a contravention of the Act or regulations continues for more than one day, the person is guilty of a separate offence for each day on which the contravention continues.

….

(5) The time limit for laying an information for an offence under this Act is

(a) 3 years after the date that the facts on which the information is based arose, or

(b) if the minister issues a certificate described in subsection (6), 18 months after the date that the facts on which the information is based first came to the knowledge of the minister.

(6) A certificate purporting to have been issued by the minister, certifying the date that the facts on which the information is based first came to the knowledge of the minister,

(a) is admissible without proof of the signature or official character of the person appearing to have signed the certificate, and

(b) is proof of the certified matters.

BC Parks is administered by the BC Ministry of the Environment.  The Minister responsible for BC Parks is the Honourable Terry Lake.

The Ministry of Environment’s contact information is:

PO BOX 9339 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA BC V8W 9M1
Telephone: 250 387-1161
Fax: 250 387-5669
E-mail: www.envmail@gov.bc.ca

Minister’s Office

Honourable Terry Lake
PO BOX 9047 STN PROV GOVT
VICTORIA BC V8W 9E2
Telephone: 250 387-1187
Fax: 250 387-1356
E-mail: env.minister@gov.bc.ca

A copy of the full BC Park Use Permit for Sunshine Village is available here