Supreme Court decision denying Sydney Tar Ponds Residents a hearing is a “travesty” says Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

OTTAWA – Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, described yesterday’s Supreme Court decision not to hear the case launched by Cape Breton residents exposed to the Sydney tar ponds as “devastating.”

“Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada is nothing short of a travesty,” May said. “Cape Breton residents, through no fault of their own, were wrongfully exposed to harmful contaminants because of their proximity to the Sydney tar ponds. This community has had historically higher rates of cancer and numerous health issues and they deserve compensation.”

In 2013, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal overturned the certification of a class-action lawsuit. Local residents had sought compensation for contamination resulting from the Sydney Steel Corporation’s mill operation between 1967 and 2000. In overturning the certification, the Court also ordered the claimants to pay more than $700,000 in costs.

“For the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal to not only reject their lawsuit, but charge them costs is beyond cruel,” May added. “These people have been through hell and the soil in backyards has still not been cleaned up. As a matter of public policy, and of justice, the decision to find costs against the plaintiffs, is outrageous.”

Although the plaintiff’s motion to appeal the 2013 ruling was denied yesterday by the Supreme Court, this decision does not prevent them from pursuing compensation claims individually. However, Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, was quoted as saying that those involved cannot afford to bring individual actions.

“Should the plaintiffs decide to proceed individually, the Green Party support will support their fight,” May concluded. “They have suffered enough and I hope that, one day soon, justice will be served.”