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Squamisn Nation wins court battle over Garibaldi at Squamish

The Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) proposal was set back this week by a B.C. Supreme Court decision. B.C. Supreme Court Justice M. Marvyn Koenigsberg ruled on Monday (Sept. 27) that Land and Water B.C.

The Garibaldi at Squamish (GAS) proposal was set back this week by a B.C. Supreme Court decision.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice M. Marvyn Koenigsberg ruled on Monday (Sept. 27) that Land and Water B.C. (LWBC) failed to properly consult with the Squamish Nation on the proposed four-season resort for the Brohm Ridge area when the project ownership changed and the size of the project proposal increased.

The Squamish Nation filed the lawsuit last October, asking the courts to quash a provincial government decision to increase the amount of land for the project. It also asked the courts to quash a September 2002 decision hat recognized Bob Gagliardi and Luigi Aquilini as the controlling partners in the venture.

Greg McDade, lawyer for the Squamish Nation, said the judge's decision made it clear that the judge accepted the arguments presented by the natives.

"She ordered costs to the Squamish Nation, so there is no question as to who won this thing," McDade said. "The judge issued oral reasons but the written reasons are supposed to be out in a week or so."

Justice Koenigsberg took a full day to deliver her ruling and the orders that go with the ruling.McDade said the judge set another court date to continue her ruling and to release her written reasons. That hearing is set for Friday, Oct. 15 and McDade expects more hearing dates will follow.

Justice Koenigsberg ruled that a decision by LWBC to allow an expansion of the GAS project after the principles in the project changed was done without sufficient consultation with the Squamish Nation.

"She ordered that the LWBC consult in good faith with the Squamish Nation in respect of reinstatement and control," McDade said.

This goes back to the issue of who should rightfully control the project as Wolfgang Richter, the main driving force behind the proposal dating back to the late 1980s and earlier, lost control of the project in 2002 to Aquilini and Gagliardi. Richter and his partners filed lawsuits against the company Aquilini and Gagliardi created to take over control of the project. Richter alleges that the current owners of the project took control illegally. Those lawsuits are in the discovery stage.

McDade said that in Justice Koenigsberg's decision she said LWBC had a duty to consult with the Squamish Nation on the transfer of control to the company that currently has the rights to the project.

The judge's ruling also puts a halt to the environmental assessment process that is currently under way and far behind schedule. The Environmental Assessment Office granted GAS an extension to the submission deadline from June 30, 2004 to Dec. 31, 2004.

The environmental assessment study for the project started in the 1990s and a number of deadline extensions have been granted by the environmental assessment office. The environmental assessment report is a key document used by the provincial cabinet to decide if the project will get a project certificate and ultimate permission to begin construction.

McDade said that the decision sends the project's consultation process with the Squamish Nation back to the beginning.

"She found that there was a duty to consult and the duty was breached," McDade said. "We're back to the beginning of the drawing board.

"There will have to be a great deal of information gathering that has to take place through this process," McDade said and he noted that there is a great deal of work to be done by the Squamish Nation and LWBC.

Richter declined to comment on the court ruling and his lawyer, Howard Shapray, is currently on vacation.

Paul Pearlman, the Victoria attorney acting on behalf of LWBC, declined to comment as he was not directed by LWBC to speak with reporters.

Telephone messages left by The Chief with LWBC and Gagliardi were not returned ahead of the newspaper press deadline. Mike Esler, the president and CEO of Garibaldi at Squamish Inc. was not able to discuss the results of the hearing until after the press deadline.