The B.C. Supreme Court dismissed a case this week brought by a Vancouver Island First Nation to have the E&N Railway corridor land returned to their ownership.
The Corridor bisects the Snaw-Naw-As reserve just west of Lantzville. It was acquired in 1912 by the E&N Railway Company.
The Snaw-Naw-As First Nation had argued that the land, currently owned by the Island Corridor Foundation (ICF), has been sitting unused despite a requirement that the lands be used for railway purposes.
In their statement of claim, the Snaw-Naw-As submitted that it was “a fiction to state [the land] is held for railway purposes.”
The ICF agreed that the land must be used for railway purposes, but argued that although passenger trains haven’t operated on the corridor since 2011, they are conducting their ownership with the intention of resuming service.
They went on to argue that the “purposeful” use of the land did not imply continuous passenger service and wrote that “a hundred years later, the railway is still there. The tracks have not been torn up.”
Supreme Court Judge Robert Punnett sided with the ICF in dismissing the claim.
In his ruling, which has been made public, he wrote that while the future of the railway may be unclear, even describing it as “bleak,” the provincial government’s recent studies on the area show that they haven’t completely closed the door on rail service returning.
The ICF wrote in a release on their website that they were pleased by the ruling, but also stated that they recognized the “frustration” of First Nation partners and the public towards the lack of progress on the rail line.
“This determination should not be mistaken for an invitation to delay progress but as a clarion call to move forward with restoration of rail service,” the ICF said.
For the claimant’s, Snaw-Naw-As Chief Gordon Edwards said that he was “disappointed” with the decision and would be considering options including whether or not to appeal the ruling.