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Snaw-Naw-As files lawsuit for return of E&N Railway land

Snaw-Naw-As First Nation has initiated a civil lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court against the Island Corridor Foundation and the Attorney General of Canada over the E&N rail line.

The lawsuit asks for the return of Snaw-Naw-As land that was taken in the last century to build the railway, which runs through the reserve north of Nanaimo.

“The corridor, that was taken out of the reserve for the railway, was expropriated back in the early part of the 20th century and one of the conditions that goes with any expropriation like that for railways is that once it’s no longer needed or used for railway purposes, it goes back to the original owner,” said Robert Janes, Snaw-Naw-As legal counsel. “We are just bringing a claim to ask the court to determine that fundamentally, given where things are with the E&N Railway, that the time has come to return the land to Snaw-Naw-As.”

The foundation, a non-profit organization formed in 2003 to manage the railway, is awaiting $7.5 million in federal government funding to restore passenger train service to Vancouver Island. Passenger service was discontinued in 2011 due to unsafe track conditions.

Conditions for funding from the federal government include the completion of a federal project review, signing of a contribution agreement and confirmation no more federal money will be needed.

“If the E&N can actually prove that they are planning to genuinely run a railway, and have the ability to run a railway, and have the money to run a railway, then that obviously would impact the basic underlying part of our claim,” said Janes.

A phone message to the Island Corridor Foundation was not returned.

Bill McKay, Nanaimo mayor and chairman of the foundation’s board, said he had no comment as the board hasn’t been briefed on the situation yet. A response to the civil suit has not been filed at Victoria court services.

Janes said the attorney general was named because technically the land is owned by the Crown.

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