by John M. Simpson.
In a case raising unusual issues (to say the least), a trial court in the Canadian province of British Columbia recently dismissed a case in which the plaintiff contended that his rights under law were violated by the government’s apparent refusal to recognize the plaintiff’s belief in the existence of sasquatch. In Standing v. British Columbia, 2018 BCSC 1499 (Aug. 31, 2018), the plaintiff sought a declaration that “Sasquatch is a hominoid or primate … type of species, also known as bigfoot, and is an indigenous mammal living within British Columbia;” that defendant “infringed the fundamental human rights” of plaintiff by not recognizing the existence of sasquatch; and that defendant was derelict in its duties by not taking actions to recognize and protect such species. Id. at . The defendant sought to strike the claim on the grounds that the case was based on “assumptions and speculation, lacks an air of reality, and the alleged statements of fact are ultimately incapable of proof.” Id. at . The government also argued that the plaintiff, Mr. Standing, had no standing because plaintiff had identified no legal right that had been violated by any action of the government. Id. at .
The court agreed with the defendant:
“While the court is clearly without jurisdiction to embark upon an independent investigation of scientific matters, the court is also without jurisdiction to order the government of British Columbia to expend funds to conduct particular scientific investigations of the flora and fauna of the Province.”
Id. at . The court also rejected the plaintiff’s claim that the government’s action/inaction violated his rights of free thought and speech, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and equal protection under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As to freedom of expression,
“the government’s non-acknowledgement of the sasquatch does not in any way prohibit or restrict the plaintiff’s ability to express his thoughts, beliefs, and opinions regarding the sasquatch. Not revealing “specific locations where sasquatch sightings occur” is the decision of the plaintiff, and in no way infringes upon his ability to espouse his beliefs regarding sasquatch existence. “
Id. at . As to “cruel and unusual punishment,”
“there is no overt exercise of provincial control over the plaintiff; inaction — in the sense of the Province not recognizing the existence of the sasquatch — is by no means an exertion of control over the plaintiff on the facts of this case. The plaintiff has not been prohibited by the Province from sharing his beliefs regarding the existence of the sasquatch, or from any other action. No facts have been pleaded that amount to ‘treatment’ … let alone ‘punishment’ that would outrage standards of decency. Rather, bare assertions of a violation are made without reference to any prohibition or act of control. “
Id. at . Finally, as to equal protection,
“A belief in the existence of the sasquatch is not an immutable personal characteristic. First, there is no political belief at issue here; Mr. Standing’s belief in the sasquatch’s existence is not a political matter. Second, such belief is not akin to ‘constructively immutable’ grounds like religion. Where religion can be an element core to a person’s state of being in all aspects of life, the same cannot be said of a belief in the existence of the sasquatch.”
Id. at . The court struck the claim with prejudice and awarded the defendant its costs, deeming the case “a matter of ordinary difficulty.”