Quebec court: municipalities must protect citizens’ water

A municipality fighting back against a corporation has won its defence of a lawsuit, and its rights to defend citizens’ water has been upheld. The Precautionary Principle must be applied. This case will be important to Chatham-Kent area residents whose wells have failed during wind turbine construction activity.

March 1

Gastem continued Restigouche Southeast for $ 1 million to have adopted a regulation prohibiting drilling within 2 km of the sources of drinking water.

Oil and gas developer Gastem sued municipality Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est for $ 1 million for adopting a regulation prohibiting all drilling within 2 km of its drinking water sources. Photo: Radio-Canada

From ICI Radio Canada

Restigouche-South-East: Gastem dismissed

 

The Superior Court dismissed the motion of Gastem, which sued the Municipality of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est for $ 1 million.

A text by Joane Bérubé with the collaboration of Sylvie Aubut and Ariane Perron-Langlois

The oil and gas exploration company claimed that the municipal by-law protecting drinking water had forced it to stop its exploration activities in the area.

In her decision, Justice Nicole Tremblay states that the by-law “is the result of serious work” and that “Restigouche must ensure the protection of watercourses in accordance with government rules”.

The judge ordered Gastem to pay Restigouche-Partie-Sud-Est $ 154,000 within 30 days of the decision.

The company will also have to pay $ 10,000 for part of the costs incurred by the Municipality to defend itself. The trial took place in September in New Carlisle, Gaspésie.

A relieved municipality

Restigouche-Part-Southeast welcomes with relief the decision of the court. For four years, the small municipality of 157 inhabitants tried to raise funds to finance his defense against Gastem. The Restigouche Solidarity campaign raised more than $ 340,000.

“Today, we raise our glass of drinking water to the health of Quebec’s water and to all those who supported us! “Said the mayor of Restigouche-Part-South-East, François Boulay.

According to Mayor Boulay, the bill for the expenses incurred by the Municipality amounts to $ 370,000.

The money that Gastem has to pay will be welcome. Should Gastem waive its recourse rights, the surpluses will be transferred to another case for drinking water in Quebec, says Mayor Boulay.

The Municipality, however, prefers to wait to hear Gastem’s decision on his right of appeal before disposing of it.

François Boulay, Mayor of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est.

François Boulay, Mayor of Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est Photo: Radio-Canada

The case was very important for other municipalities, since it involved their power to legislate to protect drinking water. The judgment also contains several references to the duty of municipalities to protect the environment and the duty to subscribe to the precautionary principle.

Gastem’s reaction

Raymond Savoie, president of Gastem, says he is disappointed with the judgment. “We read the document, we try to understand; for the moment we are there, “says Savoie, who refuses for the moment to comment on the decision.

Mr. Savoie does not rule out the possibility that the company can appeal the decision, but prefers to wait for a more detailed analysis of the judgment.

In the region, Sylvain Roy, MNA for Bonaventure, is pleased with the verdict.

Impacts on other municipalities?

The deputy Roy believes that this is a “great victory for democracy and territorial sovereignty”. Mr. Roy hopes the decision will serve as case law for similar cases.

The lawyer of the Municipality, Jean-François Girard, is not surprised at the amounts that will pay Gastem in Restigouche-Part-Southeast. “We had,” he said, “very carefully pleaded the abusive nature of the appeal and the fact that it was up to Gastem to reimburse us for these costs. ”

The fact that the court recognizes this element of law is also very important, according to Mr. Girard. “It will force companies who want to sue municipalities to think twice if it is not legally sound,” he says.

For the lawyer, the victory is indeed that of a small municipality struggling with a pursuit that had no other purpose than to be punitive. “You have to think about it, there are 84 taxpayers in Restigouche! Says Girard.

The latter also sees the victory of the municipal world. “This judgment,” he adds, “recognizes the role of municipalities and the fact that municipalities can take up the cause according to the interest of their citizens, interest in the health and well-being of their population. . ”

Mayor Boulay also believes that the judgment brings very important elements on the municipal competences in environmental matters.

The president of the Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM), Jacques Demers, also welcomes the fact that the judgment reaffirms the municipal powers and their duty to intervene in the protection of the environment. “However, we must not forget that these powers must be exercised in compliance with the legislative framework in force,” says Demers.

Comments

Sommer
Reply

It’s so good to hear about cases like this where municipal leaders actually fought to protect residents! That is why they were elected!
“The judgment also contains several references to the duty of municipalities to protect the environment and the duty to subscribe to the precautionary principle.”.
Doesn’t this also apply in Ontario municipalities?
In Ontario we have municipal leaders who threw up their hands and essentially said they were powerless to protect their residents. Some of these municipal leaders were early leaseholders, so they simply declared a conflict of interest. Witnessing a municipal leader exercising her “democratic right” to protect the leaseholders in her municipality by voting against those who were being harmed, who were sitting right there in the chamber, was one of the most outrageous violations. Even after the Medical Director of the Health Unit declared publicly that the ‘criteria for assessment ‘ had been met to launch an ‘investigation’ into the harm from turbines, there was a municipal councillor in Huron County who said he didn’t believe that people were being harmed by noise, low frequency noise modulations and infrasound radiation. How can a person have any faith in the political process?

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