Bench Press 37-6: Water Woes

BenchPressA Court of Queen’s Bench judge has ruled that the provincial Environmental Appeal Board has no jurisdiction to grant public interest standing to interested parties who wish to appeal decisions of the Director of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development. The applicants wanted to challenge amendments to water licences the Director approved that will allow Irrigation Districts to sell water for other purposes. The Applicants argued that, by way of analogy, the Appeal Board, like the courts, has an inherent jurisdiction to grant public interest standing. Justice R. J. Hall rejected the analogy, writing “While Courts have inherent jurisdiction it is clear law that administrative tribunals do not. Their jurisdiction is solely derived from the statute that provides that jurisdiction. In this case, that statute is the Water Act. The Water Act does not provide them with any jurisdiction to grant public interest standing.” Adam Driedzic of the Environmental Law Centre notes “ ‘No jurisdiction’ means the Court did not need to consider the test for standing. It’s a test that these groups could likely meet.” The test for granting public interest standing as set out in the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Canada (Attorney General) v. Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence is threefold:

  • Is there a serious justiciable issue;
  • Do the groups asking for standing have a genuine interest or real stake in the proceedings or is engaged with the issues that it raises; and
  • Is this a reasonable and effective means to bring the case to court?

Alberta Wilderness Association v. Alberta (Environmental Appeal Board) 2013 ABQB 44 (CanLII)

Canada (Attorney General) v. Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society, 2012 SCC 45, [2012] 2 SCR 524

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Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell
Teresa Mitchell is the Editor and Legal Writer for LawNow Magazine at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

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