One of the men who constructed a cabin on the foundation of the former Eagle Pass summit fire lookout is fighting $20,000 in fines the province has levied against him.
Guy Maris is appealing a March 5 decision made by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) which finds him and Rene St. Onge in contravention of two sections of the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA). The appeal is now in the hands of the Forest Appeals Commission.
St. Onge died in December 2018. The decision from the ministry does not seek a financial penalty against him.
The ministry’s compliance and enforcement branch alleged that Maris and St. Onge conducted works on the lookout cabin without the proper authority. It also alleged that they failed to comply with a stop-work order when they installed a solar panel, a table, beds and a flag in the cabin.
The decision from the ministry rejects the assertion that Maris and St. Onge did their due diligence on exploring the regulatory requirements of repairing the cabin on Crown land.
At a May 2018 hearing on the case of the cabin, St. Onge stated he exercised due diligence by requesting information on the approval process for restoring the cabin at the FrontCounter BC office in Kamloops. St. Onge asserted he received verbal approval to work on the cabin from Peter Lishmann, the FrontCounter BC director he met with.
When interviewed by ministry staff, Lishman stated he did not remember the meeting with St. Onge but said he would not have given the approval.
According to the decision from the ministry, Maris based a due diligence defence on St. Onge’s assertion that he had made the necessary inquiries to determine that no authorization from the government was required. Maris also stated that he considered the efforts on the fire lookout to be repairs rather than new construction that would require a permit.
The ministry’s decision also rejected defences on the grounds that Maris and St. Onge mistakenly believed the work on the lookout cabin did not require approvals and that the erroneous information came from government officials.
Broken down, the fines levied against Maris are $10,000 for constructing on Crown land without authorization and $10,000 for failing to abide by the stop work order. The fine for constructing without proper authority is the maximum allowed by the legislation, while the one for ignoring the stop-work order is 10 per cent of the maximum.
The decision by the ministry is not requesting an order to demolish the cabin but states that it continues to be the property and the jurisdiction of the Crown. The stop-work order remains in effect until it is rescinded by the Crown.
Maris did not respond to a request for comment.