Kirby Offshore Marine Pacific LLC v. Heiltsuk, 2019 FC 1009 (2019-07-26)
Facts: In October 2016 an articulated tug and barge ran aground on lands subject to Aboriginal title claims by the Heiltsuk First Nation, releasing diesel fuel and lubes into the sea. The cause of the grounding was due to the second mate of the tug falling asleep at the helm. Heiltsuk filed a claim against the owners of the tug and barge in the BC Supreme Court claiming for, among other things, a declaration of Aboriginal title over the polluted sea and land and that the limit of liability afforded by the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage, 2001, concluded at London on March 23, 2001 infringe its rights under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The owners of the tug disputed the jurisdiction of the BC Supreme Court and commenced a limitation action in the Federal Court pursuant to the Bunkers Convention and the Convention on Limitation of Liability for Maritime Claims, 1976, and also sought to enjoin Heiltsuk and any other parties from proceeding against the owner in any other Court. At issue was whether Heiltsuk should be enjoined from continuing the BC Supreme Court claim or whether the Federal Court should stay the limitation proceedings.
Decision Heiltsuk enjoined from commencing or continuing proceedings before any court or tribunal save except for pursuing its claim for Aboriginal title, rights and claims not subject to the determination of the limitation action; motion to stay the limitation proceedings dismissed.
Held: The test for enjoinment under s. 33(1) of the Marine Liability Act is one of appropriateness and is used as a discretionary power of the Federal Court. This power was granted by Parliament to allow the Federal Court to deal effectively with all issues pertaining to the limitation fund and various claims for limitation of liability. The limitation action should proceed in advance of the BC Supreme Court action as the issues before the BC Supreme Court will be narrowed by the determination of the owner’s limitation of liability in the Federal Court. Therefore, the BC Supreme Court claim against the owners are enjoined until the limitation action is determined. A limitation ought not to be tied to claims beyond the scope of the shipowner’s entitlement to limit liability; a stay of the limitation proceedings in favour of the BC Supreme Court action would circumvent the limitation process.