Decision Date: May 28, 2003
Court: B.C.S.C. Edward, J
Cite: 2003 BCSC 832
Lloyd Bentley appealed a decision of the Forest Appeals Commission (the “Commission”), which predominantly upheld a decision of a Review Panel under the Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act. The Review Panel had upheld a decision of the Forest District Manager of Fort St. John that Mr. Bentley had breached sections 96(1) and 97(1) of the Code.
Mr. Bentley admitted that he had logged timber from Crown land in violation of the Code, and had failed to ascertain the boundaries of his private land before beginning logging. However, he was appealing on the basis that the Commission had failed to address his argument for a reduction in penalties because of the alleged contributory negligence of the Ministry of Forests in failing to correct his mistaken belief that he was logging his land rather than Crown land. Also, Mr. Bentley argued that the Commission had erred in failing to deal with his request for an order for costs.
The Court found that the Commission made several findings of fact pertinent to the contributory negligence claim, most importantly that officials at the Ministry of Forests were uncertain about the ownership of the area Mr. Bentley was proposing to log, and gave no express assurances that the land was not Crown land.
The Court therefore found that the Commission did not err with respect to the argument of contributory negligence. Although the Commission said it would not address the issue, it in fact did comment on it with respect to the section 97 penalty, and decided that ultimately it was Mr. Bentley’s responsibility, and not the Ministry’s, to determine the boundaries and ownership of the property that Mr. Bentley logged. The Court was confident that, had the Commission specifically addressed the contributory negligence argument, it would have rejected it.
However, the Court held that the Commission had erred by failing to deal with the issue of costs. Despite this, the Court decided not to direct the Commission to rule on costs, unless one of the parties applies to the Commission to do so.
Accordingly, the Court dismissed Mr. Bentley’s appeal. The Court also ruled that the parties could apply to the Commission for a ruling on costs for the prior proceedings.