North Cowichan makes appeal in Chemainus water case

North Cowichan and the province are in B.C.'s Court of Appeal this week, fighting a court ruling in favour of Halalt First Nation's water rights.

In July, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Wedge ordered North Cowichan to stop tapping groundwater from its newly built Chemainus Water Wells system, and supported the band's demand for more consultation about municipal use of the Chemainus River aquifer.

North Cowichan quickly filed an appeal of the decision and is in court today until Friday — along with representatives for Halalt and the province — making its case, Mayor Jon Lefebure confirmed.

"I hope that all sides are fairly represented and the case is looked at properly," he said on Wednesday. "And we'll await the results."

Halalt members — and band advocates — are similarly awaiting those results.

"The Halalt appeal is of national importance to First Nation water rights and aspects of the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate," National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo said in Klahowya, the Naut'sa mawt Tribal Council's news source.

The Chemainus wells project has been an issue for years. It was meant to be the municipality's $5.7-million solution to Chemainus' semi-regular boil-water advisories, but Halalt has stated repeatedly it was not adequately consulted on the project.

In October, the courts also dismissed North Cowichan's request to tap the aquifer in the short-term while the appeal process is underway.


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