Another 80 people to join lawsuit

Lawyer says 185 people ready to sue Sydney Steel and Province

By Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thursday, Aug. 30, 2003

Another 80 people intend to sue the province and a Crown corporation for personal injuries and property damage resulting. from Canada's worst toxic waste site.

"That will bring it up to about 185 people," said Ray Wagner, of the Halifax law firm Wagner and Associates, who is representing the plaintiffs. In Supreme Court of Nova Scotia documents filed Friday the individuals who lived or are now living near the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites outline their allegations against Sydney Steel Corporation and the province.

Documents state that contaminants and carcinogens emitted as a result of the defendants operations impacted and still impact the properties of those intending to sue. Those same contaminants are also linked to "extensive, severe and wide-spread damage to the physical and mental health and well-being of the intended plaintiffs," according to the documents.

The allegations include that past and continuing release of contaminants interfered with the plaintiffs' enjoyment of their lands and premises: exposure to these contaminants caused and continue to cause extensive and severe and wide-spread damage to the physical and mental health and well being of those intending to take action.

The defendants' conduct in relation to their responsibilities under the Environment Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act may also result in some form of compensation, the document claimed. Both the Crown corporation and the province should have known or did know that a lack of sufficient care would cause damage to the plaintiffs, it said.

Also, the defendants should be aware that their past practices and their failure to clean up the sites would cause psychiatric injury to those planning to sue, it claimed. This negligent conduct by the defendants "caused the intended plaintiffs to suffer from chronic anxiety about their own and their respective families' personal health, safety and well-being, said the document. In the result, the intended plaintiffs suffer from recognized psychiatric illnesses," it is claimed.

It's also alleged that the Crown corporation and province interfered with the plaintiffs' right to live and the security of the person - a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is in result of the defendants' failure to prevent, contain and reasonably remediate toxic emissions from the steel plant and coke ovens, it is claimed.

"Such deprivation is not reasonably justified in a free and democratic society," states the document.

In July, more than 100 people with connections to the toxic sites filed a similar notice of intended action against Sydney Steel and the province. None of the allegations have yet been proven in court.

The province requires a two month notice of action before litigation can move forward. After that, Wagner said, he will file his first statements of claim against the other defendants - Nova Scotia Power Corp., CN Railway, the federal government, and Domtar - a company that ran a chemical refracturing plant next to the Sydney Steel coke ovens. That will likely take place near the end of September.

Wagner has said the civil case could take between two and six years and millions of dollars will likely be sought as compensation for the 'claimants.

He and a representative from the Ontario law firm Siskinds will be visiting the toxic sites next week.

In addition, a public meeting will likely be held once the statement of claims is filed, he said.