Township of Muskoka Lakes v. Ontario (Natural Resources)
The Township of Muskoka Lakes appeals the order of the Divisional Court dismissing its application for judicial review of the decision of the Minister of Natural Resources to prohibit access to certain Crown lands adjacent to Bala Falls under section 28(1) of the Public Lands Act, and for orders: (1) declaring that a portage protected by section 65(4) of the Public Lands Act passes over the site; (2) prohibiting the Minister or any other person from interfering with that portage; (3) setting aside the water frontage at the Site for recreational purposes and access purposes pursuant to section 3 of the Public Lands Act; and (4) prohibiting any interference with that frontage.
The Court sees no basis for interfering with the Divisional Court’s decision, as they believe that the Divisional Court identified the appropriate standard of judicial review and applied it correctly. Given the safety concerns, the Minister’s decision was reasonable, even if a portage protected by section 65(4) existed, or section 3 applied to the site. The Minister’s decision fell within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes, which are defensible in respect of the facts and law. Further, subject to any aboriginal and treaty rights, the Minister has the right to make an order under section 28(1) that has the effect of prohibiting passage over portages and Transport Canada has also provisionally concluded that navigation would not be substantially impacted by the proposed waterpower generation facility. The Court of Appeal agrees with the Divisional Court that the Minister’s decision was reasonable without having to make findings on the existence of the alleged portage and the sufficiency of the frontage.