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YMCA-YWCA kids camp near Sooke fighting to stop road incursion

Organization’s efforts to stop mining claim access through camp continue despite recent court ruling
The YMCA-YWCA is fighting to fend off an Alberta company’s push to build a road through the Camp Thunderbird property to access mineral claims. (Mark Page/News Staff)

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has dealt a blow to the Vancouver Island YMCA-YWCA’s effort to prevent an Alberta-based company from building a road right through the Camp Thunderbird property near Sooke, but the organization vows to fight on.

“We don’t want to have roads built through lands that we’re using for outdoor activities for young people,” said Derek Gent, who manages the organization’s Island branch.

The Alberta company is seeking to gain access to three mineral claims in an area adjacent to the camp that is currently inaccessible as it is hemmed in by park land, Crown land and the camp.

The YMCA-YWCA says the effort doesn’t a have anything to do with mining claims, but is actually a bit of a ruse to try to get a road declared public so a different Alberta company — one that has common shareholders with the company making the mineral claim — can build a subdivision on property it owns that is also hemmed in.

In a decision on Oct. 31, 2022, B.C.’s chief gold commissioner had agreed, and invalidated the mineral claims.

The company then appealed to the B.C. Supreme court and in a March 27 ruling, Justice Jennifer Whately sided with the company, Victoria Teleport Corp., finding that the commissioner’s decision was made after a hearing that was not procedurally fair, saying the company wasn’t given a clear indication of what it needed to do to prove the validity of the claims.

Whately did not rule on the merits of the case though, instead sending it back to the gold commissioner to be reheard in front of a different person in the commissioners office, ideally the deputy commissioner.

This is just another chapter in a dispute that dates back decades, said Gent.

“It’s our contention that this is all related to an effort that’s been going on for decades … from a group of landowners of a parcel north of Camp Thunderbird,” he said. “And there have been a few different efforts, most recently through the staking of mining claims, and then petitioning for access to the mining claims, for road-building activity.”

The attorney for the Victoria Teleport Corp. would not comment for the story, and the company itself did not respond to a request, which was passed through the attorney.

A local contractor who worked for the company, Terrance Martin, was reached for comment, but would only discuss the road issues in a more general way.

He said these types of issues exist all across the province with what he called “orphan roads” that were once developed with public funds, but have fallen into disrepair and therefore don’t appear on land titles.

This can result in situations in which one property owner thinks they have a piece of land that has no roads running through it, while another property owner may be landlocked by a road they thought was usable but may not be a legal access route.

He related this to the current situation.

“It’s being claimed by one of the parties ‘that’s not a road, that’s our driveway, and that’s our property, and you can’t go there,’” Martin said. “There’s two sides to that.”

Gent said his organization disagrees with this characterization of the road.

“They’re contending that there was a historical highway that goes up directly through our campgrounds to access their sites, and we are objecting to that,” Gent said.

These types of disputes arise often enough for the B.C.’s Ombudsperson to open an investigation into the problem, finding that legislation needs to be changed to provide clarity for these cases.

“This legislation continues to give rise to problems and disputes between neighbours, private citizens and government,” said Ombudsperson Jay Chalke in a March 5 press release. “It needs to be fixed, to protect the public interest and address an ongoing injustice.”

Until then, cases like these will continue to be fought out in the courts and varied dispute resolution processes like that of the gold commissioner.

“It’s going to cost us more resources that we’d rather spend on our charitable programs and activities,” Gent said.

About the Author: Mark Page

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