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Native blockade a risk of doing business in B.C.


Court rules against Apex lawsuit to recover losses as a result of 1994 blockade

The B.C. Court of Appeal has ruled against the former owners of the Apex Ski Resort and their $128 million lawsuit against the provincial government, saying that the company should have known the risks.

The former owners argued that the province didn’t do enough to discourage a five-week blockade by natives in 1994, which barred skiers, the public and government-contracted maintenance crews from using Green Mountain Road to the resort. The former owners said they were bankrupted by the government inaction.

The Penticton, Upper and Lower Similkameen bands blockaded the road in an attempt to prevent a $20 million expansion to the resort they said would damage the environment.

The case was watched closely, as it could potentially set a precedent whereby businesses would be able to sue the provincial government for any economic losses that are a result of a native blockade. In a province where native blockades are a common occurrence, the implications are huge.

Mel Reeves, former president of Apex Mountain, said he estimated that damages around the province could range between $5 billion and $10 billion.

The first Green Mountain Road blockades started in 1990, but it wasn’t until 1994 that Apex was in real trouble.

Since Green Mountain Road is a provincial highway, Reeves believed the province had an obligation to keep it open. Back in 1991, then premier Bill Vander Zalm, assured Apex that the province would provide access to the growing resort. NDP Premier Mike Harcourt, Vander Zalm’s successor, made a similar promise in 1993.

The Court of Appeal decision upheld a lower court judgement that found the province did act to resolved the blockade, "eventually obtaining an injunction that remains in force today."