Lawyer Profile Detail



Biography

Nicholas R. Hughes is a seasoned commercial litigator, with experience before all levels of court in British Columbia, including the British Columbia Provincial Court, the Supreme Court of British Columbia, the Federal Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal.  He is co-chair of our firm’s Global Mining Litigation Practice Group. 

Nicholas has extensive experience with complex commercial disputes, resource disputes, Aboriginal litigation and all facets of environmental litigation, including toxic torts, regulatory litigation and the defence of clients in quasi-criminal prosecutions. He brings to his litigation practice an understanding of scientific principles from his previous career as a mining exploration geologist (BSc in Geology).

Nicholas regularly represents clients in their dealings with the Ministry of Environment (MOE) and before the Environmental Appeal Board (EAB). In addition, Nicholas has acted for clients in numerous successful mediations and arbitrations.

Nicholas is recognized by Chambers Canada as a leading lawyer in the area of environmental law. He has also been recognized in the 2017 edition of Benchmark Canada, The Definitive Guide to Canada’s Leading Litigation Firms & Attorneys, as a local litigation star (British Columbia) in the areas of aboriginal law, general commercial litigation and environmental law. He is also ranked in the current edition of the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory as a leading lawyer in the area of environmental law.

Nicholas is a Vice-Chair of the Toxic Torts and Environmental Law Committee of the Torts Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association. Recently, he contributed to the firm's Mining in the Courts (Vol. VI) publication, released in March 2016.

MINING AND NATURAL RESOURCE LITIGATION

Throughout his career, Nicholas has represented clients in significant mining disputes and forest sector disputes.

Examples of recent retainers include:

  • acting for AMEC Americas Limited in relation to the Mount Polley Mine tailings facility breach;
  • representing Xstrata in a multi-party dispute respecting the ownership of a mining property in Argentina and the parties’ respective rights under a series of option agreements;
  • acting for a multi-national coal mining major on an arbitration of a $40,000,000 construction dispute with a major contractor; and
  • acting for Abitibi-Consolidated Company of Canada in a highly successful arbitration of a long standing fibre supply dispute with Ainsworth Lumber Company.

CONTAMINATED SITES

Nicholas has represented clients in respect of many of the most significant contaminated sites identified in British Columbia and has been involved in litigation touching virtually every aspect of the liability regime embodied in the Environmental Management Act, including representing clients in complex multi-party allocations of liability and complex technical challenges of remediation requirements imposed by the MOE.

His experience includes acting on contaminated site files that are diverse in both size and contaminant characteristics, spanning the spectrum from acid rock drainage to wood treatment chemicals.

Examples of some of Nicholas' more significant retainers respecting contaminated sites include:

  • acting for Canadian Gypsum Corporation in respect of the first remediation order issued in British Columbia (a coal tar roofing plant at 9250 Oak Street), which involved (i) numerous appeals to the EAB, (ii) multi-party litigation in the Supreme Court of British Columbia respecting liability, and (iii) an alternate dispute resolution process that resulted in the client’s early and beneficial exit from the litigation;
  • acting for Beazer East Inc. in respect of a former wood treatment plant (Meadow Avenue, Burnaby) involving (i) numerous appeals before the EAB regarding issues of liability and remedial requirements imposed by the MOE, (ii) judicial review of EAB decisions and (iii) multi-party, multi-proceeding civil litigation concerning the allocation of liability amongst numerous parties, including three government entities; and
  • currently acting for the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority in respect of a remediation order issued for a former wood treatment plant operated by Domtar Inc. on land that is now a ship building and repair facility operated by Seaspan International Ltd. in North Vancouver.

TOXIC TORTS AND ENVIRONMENTAL LAW

Nicholas acts for a wide range of clients in respect of a broad range of environmental issues, including tort liability claims and regulatory dealings in respect of a broad range of emissions, including:

  • sulphur dioxide emissions;
  • hydrocarbons;
  • particulates;
  • formaldehyde emissions;
  • heavy metals;
  • naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs);
  • herbicides;
  • asbestos; and
  • sanitary sewage effluent.

Nicholas also provides environmental advisory services on matters such as species at risk, riparian area regulations, recycling programs, waste disposal facilities, and asbestos contamination and regulation. As well, he assists clients with environmental assessment (EA) matters at the federal and provincial levels.

FISHERIES ACT AND ENVIRONMENT MANAGEMENT ACT PROSECUTIONS

Nicholas represents a diverse array of industrial, forestry sector and land development clients in defending against regulatory prosecutions under the Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Environmental Management Act and Water Act.

Examples of Nicholas' more significant retainers on such files include:

  • acting for Canadian National Railway Company on charges arising from a derailment that resulted in the discharge of caustic soda into the Cheakamus River;
  • acting for Marsulex Inc. on charges relating to the release of sulphur dioxide gas that resulted in the hospitalization of a number of workers at an adjacent sawmill;
  • acting for First Professional Shopping Centres on charges resulting from the discharge of a significant quantity of silt into the Fraser River in Prince George, British Columbia; and
  • acting for an engineering firm that faced charges in respect of the rupture of a Kinder Morgan pipeline that resulted in the discharge of many thousands of litres of crude oil into Burrard Inlet, British Columbia.

ABORIGINAL LITIGATION

Nicholas acts for proponents of projects in relation to challenges by First Nations of project approvals. Examples of his more significant retainers in this regard include:

  • acting for SmartCentres in successfully defending against a judicial review application brought by the Neskonlith Indian Band challenging the issuance of a development permit for a shopping centre. The Court ruled that municipalities do not owe First Nations a duty to consult; and
  • successfully representing TimberWest on an appeal brought by a First Nation in respect of TimberWest’s use of herbicides as part of its silviculture program on privately owned forest lands.

GENERAL COMMERCIAL LITIGATION

In addition to the above, Nicholas also continues to act in a broad range of real property disputes, property tax assessment appeals, intellectual property disputes, contractual disputes, tort claims and breach of fiduciary duty and duty of confidence claims.

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McCarthy Tétrault delivers integrated business law, tax, real property, labour and employment, and litigation services nationally and globally through offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montréal, Québec City and London, UK.
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