BC Supreme Court rules on contentious drone video surveilling Vancouver Island company

BC Supreme Court rules on contentious drone video surveilling Vancouver Island company

A court decision has shed light on the use of a drone in the ongoing battle between neighbours and a shipbreaking operation in Union Bay.

It’s a partial win for the drone operator who flies the drone over the operation, sometimes daily, as she looks for activities that may be illegal.

Recent drone footage shows workers from Deep Water Recovering cutting apart a ship on the shores of Union Bay, south of Comox.

It’s an activity neighbours have opposed because of environmental concerns that asbestos from the ship or other toxic materials, such as lead, might get released into the environment.

The drone has proven to be valuable to the group.

“Huge. We were seeing things but we weren’t being believed,” said Kathy Calder, a neighbour.

“We were using that drone footage to notify the governments when we thought there was something happening that we thought was against the rules,” said Marilynne Manning with Concerned Citizens of Baynes Sound.

READ MORE: Union Bay shipbreaking neighbours worry about asbestos getting airborne.

The drone has led to a legal battle in B.C. Supreme Court with both sides suing each other over the drone. Now, a decision has been made in one of those cases.

The Justice has dismissed part of a counterclaim against drone operator Mary Reynolds for publicizing the drone footage.

In its claim for damages, Deep Water Recovery had characterized Reynolds’ flyovers as harmful and “deserving of rebuke,” but the Justice has ruled those statement over-the-top-rhetoric, calling them troubling.

The right to fly the drone over this specific kind of industrial site though, and whether that’s an invasion of privacy, has yet to be decided.

Neighbours are calling it a win as they point to a provincial order one month ago for Deep Water Recovery to stop polluting the environment.

“None of that would’ve happened if we didn’t have the drone footage to actually establish that there were infractions in the first place, so the public has a right to see what’s going on,” said Manning.

Authorities say the company is cutting the NOAAS Miller Freeman apart near the high tide line because the company lacks the equipment to pull it higher onto the pavement for disassembly.

Neighbours say that’s a problem and they want shipbreaking at the site to stop altogether.

“It doesn’t belong on a shallow tides where they’re dragging the vessels. It belongs at a deep water port with full containment with regulatory oversight. That’s our number one goal,” said Manning.

“Thank you very much to the drone operator and the person that is providing us correct information on allthingsunionbay.com.”

The company’s owner and director of operations declined to comment, saying he was too busy.

Reynolds’ initial lawsuit claiming the company took and damaged her drone before returning it is scheduled for 14 days starting in October of 2025.


Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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