CP Rail has launched an unprecedented lawsuit to reclaim timber and mineral rights on hundreds of thousands of acres of land in B.C. 

The railway filed the claim in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday against the province and hundreds of unnamed landowners and contractors.

CP claims it never gave up resource rights on more than 800,000 acres of land it transferred to private owners and the province.

hi-cp-rail852-cp02711090-4col

CP Rail is sueing the B.C. government and hundreds of unnamed landowners for the mineral and forestry right to 800,000 acres of former railway land. (CP Images)

The land — mostly in the Kootenays and Okanagan — was originally granted to the railway companies in the late 1800s.

Now the company wants compensation for the harvesting of the resources on and under that land.

CP's director of public affairs Breanne Feigel says the company wants title and damages past and present — a claim that could reach back more than a century and amounts to millions of dollars in damages if their lawsuit is successful.

"It's a file that is very unusual and complex and really does go back to the founding of Canada," she says.

Feigel says the company and province spent five years trying to reach an out-of-court settlement with no success, so now they are turning to the courts to settle the issue.

"We couldn't reach an agreement between the parties, and so it is one of those matters given its complexity that we have turned to the courts to help and resolve our claims and get that baseline understanding of where we're at."