The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador has overturned a decision that left one 75-year-old William’s Harbour resident out in the cold when the town resettled last year.
Laura Flynn lived in William’s Harbour on and off for 34 years, ending in 2014.
An independent reviewer was appointed to determine which residents were in fact permanent residents when the relocation request was made on April 12, 2013.
The reviewer concluded Flynn was not a permanent resident. The conclusion was reached despite Flynn’s affidavit stating she lived there from 1979 to 2014, had not established a permanent residence elsewhere and had resided in the town for at least 183 days in each of the previous two years.
In a decision rendered on Monday, Justice Gillian Butler ruled Flynn had satisfied the requirements to be included in the compensation package given to residents of resettled communities.
“I conclude that the evidence as a whole reflects irrationality, arbitrariness, a failure to follow the statutory requirements and an inconsistent application of medical absences for different individuals appealing their status as permanent residents of William’s Harbour,” Butler said in her decision.
Households in resettled communities are entitled to between $250,000 and $270,000, depending on how many people live at the address.
In order to be included in the resettlement process, residents must prove they were residents of the town in question for at least 183 days in each of the two years before a resettlement vote. Exceptions are granted by the government if a person leaves a town to attend school or for medical reasons, or if the person’s spouse worked outside the community and travelled back and forth.
Butler called Flynn’s exclusion “a breach of natural justice” in the government’s decision-making in the matter, saying then-minister of Municipal Affairs Keith Hutchings’ decision “failed to meet the reasonableness standard of review.”
Butler states the recommendation of the independent reviewer was not reasonable — part of the reason being that no reasoning for the decision was passed on to Hutchings.
Flynn did spend time outside of the community in the winter, citing “medical and mobility issues” that led her to stay with family in Foxtrap. Butler doesn’t dispute Flynn’s initial statement to the government didn’t meet the requirements for permanent resident status. However, Butler notes that accompanying documents explain the reasons for her repeated absences, and thus she should be included in the compensation package.
She was one of 13 members of the community who appealed an initial decision that they were not entitled to benefits. Those cases are still being heard.
Flynn was awarded the costs of her appeal. The decision on Flynn’s entitlement for compensation will now go to the Department of Municipal Affairs for re-evaluation.