Decision Date: January 30, 1997
Panel: Toby Vigod, Gerry Burch, David Ormerod
Keywords: Forest Practices Code of British Columbia Act – s.123; purpose of a stopwork order.
Members of the Alexis Creek Indian Band identified a possible aboriginal grave site on one of Weldwood’s cutblocks that had been harvested. The district manager issued a stopwork order as he believed that Weldwood had failed to stop operations in the vicinity of a cultural heritage resource, contrary to section 51(2)(a) of the Code, and failed to promptly advise the district manager of the existence of the resource, contrary to section 51(2)(b) of the Code. On review, the Review Panel rescinded the stopwork order, finding there was no contravention of section 51(2)(a). The Panel did find, however, that there was a contravention of 51(2)(b). Weldwood appealed the Review Panel’s decision that section 51(2)(b) had been contravened on the grounds that there was no proof of the existence of a resource feature, so there was no need to notify the district manager of the possible grave site. In the alternative, it argued that the district manager was promptly notified.
On the evidence presented, the Commission found that a resource feature existed, as the grave site was identified by an elder of the Band, and duly ribboned off by Weldwood. Thus the stopwork order was properly issued. The Commission also found as a fact that Ministry officials informed the district manager of the existence of the possible grave site within 2 days of it being identified. The Commission held that notification of a resource feature “promptly” means within a very short time frame. On the facts, the Commission found that this had been done and reversed the Review Panel’s finding.
The Commission noted in its decision that a contravention of the Code does not have to be “proven” before a stopwork order can be issued, only considered. Further, stopwork orders are not “determinations” of a contravention of the Code and should not be referred to as such in Ministry reports. The appeal was allowed.