April 2011
PFD | Municipal

Recognizing the jurisdiction of local municipalities to implement by-laws for the restoration of lake and river shorelines

By Joanne Côté Lawyer

In recent years, many of Québec's local municipalities have adopted by-laws to restore the shorelines of lakes and rivers, prohibiting riparian land owners and occupants from cutting down the vegetation growing in a 10-metre strip (more or less) along the shoreline and requiring that shorelines be restored by planting shrub and tree species.

On April 7, 2010, the Honourable François Huot of the Superior Court, District of Québec, issued a judgement (Wallot v. Québec (Ville de), 2010 QCCS 1370, appeal filed C.A. Québec, 200-09-007031-104) that validated the city of Québec's by-law on shoreline restoration along Lac Saint-Charles. In his decision, the judge stated that "the recent adoption of key environmental laws (Sustainable Development Act, R.S.Q. c. D-8.1.1 and the Act to Affirm the Collective Nature of Water Resources and Provide for Increased Water Resource Protection (R.S.Q. c. C-6.2)) clearly demonstrates that environmental protection and the willingness to ensure the wellbeing of the citizens of Québec is a real and urgent social concern for provincial legislators. [translation]"

The judge ruled that the city of Québec had the power to adopt a by-law to restore the shoreline of Lac Saint-Charles (Règlement sur la renaturalisation des berges du Lac Saint-Charles) under the general provisions of the Municipal Powers Act:

19. A local municipality may adopt by-laws on environmental matters.

This provision therefore gives extended authority to local municipalities in environmental matters that do not fall under the Environment Quality Act or its regulations (section 124 of the Environmental Quality Act, R.S.Q. c. Q-2), since, under such circumstances, the approval of the Ministère du Développement durable, de l'Environnement et des Parcs would be required in order to bring a municipal by-law into force.