This case was heard in the Federal Court of Canada.
After the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans approved an application by Bounty Bay Shellfish Incorporated (“Bounty Bay”) and 5M Aqua Farms Limited (“5M”) to operate aquaculture facilities in St. Ann’s Harbour, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, the Sierra Club of Canada (“Sierra Club”) applied for judicial review of the Minister’s decision.
Prior to the approval, an Environmental Impact Statement was prepared and made available for public review; however, its availability to the public was limited. Print copies of the document were made available at certain public locations in Cape Breton, and interested parties had to visit those locations to review it. When the Sierra Club requested a copy of the document, its request was denied. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency ultimately obtained a copy of the document and provided it to the Sierra Club, but by that point the Sierra Club had little time to review the document and respond before the deadline for public commentary expired.
The Sierra Club argued that the Minister had demonstrated a lack of procedural fairness by approving the aquaculture companies’ application after such a restricted public consultation process. The Court determined that the Minister’s interpretation of the relevant legislation should be reviewed on the standard of correctness, and that decisions made within the scope of the Minister’s discretion should be reviewed on the standard of reasonableness. After consideration, the Court held that the Minister’s decision was unreasonable under the circumstances. It therefore quashed the decision.