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Government Law - Crown - Crown lands and property

Thursday, February 02, 2017 @ 7:00 PM  

Appeal by the trustees of the Pinder Family Trust from the summary dismissal of its action against the Minister of the Environment and Parks Canada. The family leased a cottage lot from Parks Canada in Prince Albert National Park under two 42-year leases, the first of which commenced in 1948. The trustees acquired the lease in January 1995. A cottage and deck were constructed on the lot. In 2005, one of the trustees, Pinder, applied for approval of repairs to and enlargement of the deck. The Waskesiu Lake Realty Officer responded that the deck did not comply with the approved site plan of 1994 and that the deck and a shed extended well into the setbacks. She advised that Parks Canada would not review the application until the deck was brought into compliance with all required setbacks. Pinder proceeded with the repairs and extension of the deck without a building permit. When the officer learned of the repairs, a site inspection was instituted. It was concluded that the reconstruction went beyond normal repair and maintenance, constituting a complete redevelopment of the deck with an increased footprint. Meetings ensued. In 2012, Parks Canada advised Pinder that the lease would be terminated if the deck was not brought into compliance with the applicable regulations regarding projections from cottage structures. The trustees commenced proceedings seeking declarations that their lease was in good standing and that their cottage did not contravene the regulations, an injunction preventing the authorities from terminating the lease or taking any other action with respect to the deck and cottage, and damages. The proceeding was summarily dismissed. The judge considered the deck a part of the cottage, not simply a projection that was exempt from the setback regulations the authorities sought to enforce. She found that Pinder’s repair work required a permit because it impacted the structural integrity of the cottage and deck. She found that estoppel did not prevent the authorities from terminating the lease. She found no basis for the trustees’ claims of defamation, breach of privacy and intentional misconduct. She found statements made by Parks Canada to Pinder’s neighbours substantially true. She found that no common law tort of breach of privacy existed. She applied the presumption that the Crown officers acted in good faith in dismissing the intentional misconduct claim.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The judge properly interpreted the deck as a part of the cottage, rather than a projection, for the purpose of establishing the setback requirements. If leaseholders were permitted to construct decks and other structures not defined in the applicable regulations, it would undermine the clear intentions of the Governor in Council to impose limits on the footprint of construction and would defeat the purpose of the regulations to allow for a minimum space between developments on contiguous lots. There was no procedural unfairness worked against the trustees in the judge’s interpretation of the deck as a part of the cottage for the purpose of applying the regulations regarding setback. There was nothing the trustees could have filed to change the judge’s interpretation of the regulations or her characterization of the deck as part of the cottage.