On January 12th and 13th 2021, the first hearing of BC Supreme Court case S15097, Anderson vs Strathcona Regional District, was held in Campbell River before Justice Geoffrey Gaul.
Counsel for the Respondent (SRD) was James Goulden assisted by Sarah McCalla. Counsel for the Petitioner (Anderson) was Paul Hildebrand assisted by Matt Voell. Both senior counsels are distinguished professionals.
Case S15097 is a petition for judicial review of certain decisions and actions taken by the Strathcona Regional District Board of Directors during 2019 and 2020. The fundamental question Justice Gaul is to decide is whether elected officials are entitled to independent legal counsel in matters touching on in camera business.
The right to independent legal counsel (which was not guaranteed to indigenous Canadians until 1977!) is considered “quasi-Constitutional,” which means that limiting it or setting it aside is a fairly serious matter. Whether in camera privilege as exercised by e.g. municipal bodies and regional districts can supersede such a quasi-Constitutional right is the question on which opposing arguments are being presented to Justice Gaul.
After two days of arguments, the case went into continuation and is now awaiting a second court date.
Judgment in the case (which could potentially set a precedent affecting all BC local governments) will almost certainly not be pronounced until some time after the hearing is complete. We expect to publish a second installment of this story after the second session of the hearing, and a third installment after judgment is rendered. Stay tuned…
Note: Some Cortes Islanders mistakenly interpret this case as a continuation of litigation launched in January 2019 against Director Anderson by 13 residents of Cortes Island, i.e. think that she is still defending herself against those charges. That litigation, however, is resolved. The original petition was dismissed in court in June 2020, after Petitioner’s and Respondent’s counsels agreed that it was without merit. However, some actions taken by SRD in 2019 and 2020 (and presently being challenged by the current litigation) were consequences of the 2019 petition; so the two are historically connected.
(reprinted and abridged from Cortes Currents
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