R v. Kupchanko

In Constitutional Issues in Maritime Law on (Updated )

This case raised the issue of the constitutional validity of an Order made pursuant to section 7(4) of the Wildlife Act of British Columbia prohibiting motorized vessels in excess of 10 horsepower from navigating part of the Columbia River. The accused argued that the Order was an invalid infringement on Federal Government jurisdiction over navigation and shipping. At first instance, the Provincial Court agreed and the accused was acquitted. On appeal, the summary conviction appeal judge held that the impugned order was aimed at promoting the dominant purpose of the Act to which it was a part. That purpose was to protect wildlife and their habitat, a matter clearly within the constitutional jurisdiction of the provinces. The judge held that the fact that the Federal Government through the Canada Shipping Act had also legislated restrictions on boating similar to those in the impugned Order did not render the Order invalid as the Federal Government had not legislated specifically with respect to that part of the Columbia River the Order regulated. The summary conviction appeal judge held that there would have to be an express contradiction between federal legislation and provincial legislation before otherwise valid provincial legislation could be declared invalid. In reaching this decision the summary conviction appeal judge relied in large measure upon dicta of the British Columbia Court of Appeal in Windermere Watersports Inc. v Invermere, (1989) 37 BCLR (2d) 112. On further appeal the Court of Appeal of British Columbia reconsidered the Windermere case in light of recent judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada which were recognized to significantly narrow the scope for the application of provincial laws to maritime matters. The Court of Appeal affirmed the result in the Windermere case but noted that the holding therein that the province could enact legislation affecting a matter of shipping and navigation was incorrect. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal and held that the Order under the Wildlife Act was inapplicable to conveyances operating in navigable waters.