This case was heard in the Federal Court of Canada.
As the federal government explored options for constructing either a toll bridge or a tunnel between Prince Edward Island and the mainland, the Department of Public Works assessed the environmental impacts of a hypothetical bridge. The environmental evaluation did not assess the impacts of a specific bridge design, but instead considered the concept in the abstract. Although the government indicated that its final choice would receive a more specific environmental evaluation, that evaluation was not carried out. Instead, the government referred the design to an Environmental Assessment Panel, which did not support the final choice that the government had made.
Friends of the Island Inc. applied for a Court order that would compel the Minister of Public Works to commission an environmental assessment of the specific bridge that it had chosen to construct. They also argued that the Government of Canada would breach the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union if it did away with the established ferry service between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.
After considering the relevant law and legal principles, the Court allowed the plaintiff’s application and ordered the Minister of Public Works to initiate the environmental assessment that was legally necessary. It also held that the plaintiffs were correct in their view that discontinuing the ferry service would breach the Prince Edward Island Terms of Union.
To read about this case in the Federal Court of Appeal, go to Friends of the Island Inc. v. Canada (Minister of Public Works) et al., 1995 CanLII 11068 (FCA).