The BC Supreme Court has released a judgment rejecting Sun Wave’s requests for a declaration that it is the owner of Watson Island and orders quashing the tax sale and directing the City to transfer title back to Sun Wave < courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/ … SC1235.htm >.
The decision falls in line with a Court decision on December 17, 2012 ordering that Sun Wave’s Certificate of Pending Litigation be removed from the title. The CPL had been effectively blocking the sale of the lands since a purchaser would have taken title subject to Sun Wave’s claim that it is the rightful owner.
In the December decision the Court took the position that Sun Wave’s claims to title to the lands were overcome by provisions of the Local Government Act that give finality to tax sales. The Court adopted a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that stated: “The statute exists to allow property which is the subject of tax arrears to be sold by a municipality. As purchasers must be assured of the integrity of title, the legislature has stated that, with few exceptions, once a tax deed is issued, it is final and binding” (paragraph 51). The Court left open the possibility of a damages claim against the City relating to the tax sale (see paragraph 60 of the December decision < courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/SC/ … SC1908.htm >).
Notwithstanding that the December decision is under appeal, in the decision released today the Court felt bound by the previous conclusion that Sun Wave did not have good claim to title to the lands (paragraph 35).
The Court also noted that the decision about the lands has no bearing on a separate action by Sun Wave claiming ownership of equipment and other improvements on the lands (paragraph 17). The City also acknowledges that Sun Wave has claims for damages from the City (paragraph 25).
So what can we conclude? The City is one step closer to being in a position where it can complete a sale of the lands, although no doubt early resolution of the appeal of the December court decision would be welcome. Ownership of equipment and improvements that Sun Wave purchased separately from the lands is still unresolved. And the Court has not yet decided whether Sun Wave is entitled to damages from the City. The latest decision brings some clarity, but much uncertainty remains, it seems.