Defense argues flooding one of numerous unauthorized actions taken by Douglas Lake Ranch

By Vanessa Ybarra
February 1, 2017 - 6:17pm Updated: February 1, 2017 - 9:15pm

KAMLOOPS — Closing arguments began Wednesday in B.C Supreme Court in the civil suit launched by the Douglas Lake Cattle Company against the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club.

The cattle company is suing the club for trespassing, in a legal battle over access to a pair of lakes near Merritt.

During the 2000's, the shoreline of both Stoney and Minnie Lake were raised through flooding.

On Wednesday Defence Lawyer Christopher Harvey claimed the flooding occurred without a permit, one of many authorized actions they say Douglas Lake Cattle Company has taken over the years. 

Harvey argued the Water Sustainability Act states all water, including lakes, is owned by the Crown unless rights are granted otherwise.

Harvey also claimed the Hunting and Fishing Heritage Act states a hunter or fisher is entitled to cross over the entirety of a land whether it's crown-owned or not, the only requirement being having a valid license.

Another issued raised in court was government transparency.

Harvey argued Douglas Lake Ranch General Manager Joe Gardner convinced Sherry Eland, the former district manager of transportation, to quitclaim of Stoney Lake Road, claiming a land exchange had taken place in 1976 which made Stoney Lake Road private property.

"They proceeded as though a land swap for Stoney Lake Road for the bypass did take place,"said Rick McGowan, Director of the Nicola Valley Fish & Game Club. "They started legal proceedings and surveys based on that, which are all false."

In reference to the Trump administration, Harvey called Gardners claims 'alternative facts.'

According to Harvey, Eland and Gardner's corroboration to present the case to the ministry has never been found.

"In a court proceeding like this, all parties are required by law to present all evidence relating to the case in a timely fashion," said McGowan. "November 7 was the deadline for all documentation to be produced. Now, as late as yesterday we're getting relative documents and upwards of 80 of them have been withheld by the government."

When asked by Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves why Eland was never contacted regarding the matter, Harvey said she no longer worked for the district of transportation and he was reluctant to 'call someone who's dishonest.'

The issue of Douglas Lake's close relationship with the RCMP was also questioned.

Harvey argued RCMP have helped the company identify the owners of vehicles on Douglas Lake property, adding Douglas Lake Cattle Company carries 'a lot of weight' in the Nicola Valley region.

With two days of closing arguments left, the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club says its 'cautiously optimistic' presented evidence will lay the more than 30-year battle to rest, saying the real winner in the case is the next generation.

"In my particular situation, I have one little granddaughter and I'd like to fight this fight so that maybe, somebody, her and her children can freely recreate in British Columbia," said McGowan.

Supreme Court Justice Joel Groves was scheduled to hear closing arguments from company lawyers late in the afternoon.

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