Why Does The Railway Company Have Rights To My Land?

If you own a property in this area, it is very likely that this is on your title.

Before I get to the hows and whys of it, I need to fill you in on what property “ownership” really is. It’s a bundle of rights associated with a given property. Ultimately, all land actually belongs to the Queen. (Weird eh? Makes you wonder what year it is.  I think of this as being much like how we’re supposedly governed by her too.) In practice, this means that the land is yours to do with as you please within certain limitations. You likely know about zoning restrictions, building schemes, building permits and of course the requirement of paying taxes. So to a certain degree you already know that it’s not totally yours in the strictest sense of the word.

On the title search (the government issue document which shows who has what rights to the property) you will see the name of the registered owner and then things like who their mortgage is with (because the bank owns the unpaid for parts), rights of way and potentially a myriad of other things. Usually the “charges” as we call them, don’t amount to much in the real world but sometimes they do and getting help on interpreting them is one thing you need professionals for.

The one that is so often there but is hard to make sense of for many people is this E&N Railway charge.  The wording will vary but there is generally a mention of how the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway company has undersurface rights and/or some other rights to your land. Keep in mind, that even without this charge you would be unlikely to have the mineral rights.   “Although landowners hold title to property, it should be understood that their Certificate of Title rarely includes what lies beneath the surface.  In British Columbia as in the other Canadian provinces, private surface does not include mineral rights. ” (as quoted from a government website)

So who/what is the E&N Railway?

Well, it’s a part of our national history. The E&N railway refers to the railway lines along the east coast of Vancouver Island and takes up almost twenty percent of the land and includes mineral rights to said area. According to The Encyclopedia of British Columbia, it was completed in in 1886 “when Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald, on his only visit to BC, drove the last spike at Cliffside near Shawnigan Lake. It was was the partial fulfillment of a promise by MacDonald that Esquimalt would be the terminus of the transcontinental railway.” . The railway was soon incorporated and over the years ownership of its rights has been passed from one company/entity to another.

If you’re still reading, you’re probably itching with the thought of “Ok, but are they going to take anything from my land?” Well, as far as I know, it is possible but it’s also pretty darn unlikely.

For further information, contact your Notary or Lawyer.

Ryan Coffey

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