February 2009

The Superior Court specifies the extent of municipal powers in environmental matters

By Daniel Goupil Lawyer

In the decision of Chalets St-Adolphe inc. vs. Municipalité de Saint-Adolphe d'Howard, the honorable Jean-Yves Lalonde specifies the constitutional basis of municipal jurisdiction in environmental matters and thus allows municipalities to regulate access to watercourses concerning both the number of boats and the obligation to clean the boats before placing them into the water.

The issue at stake was to determine if the municipal bylaw regulating boat access to watercourses interfered with federal jurisdiction in navigation in a way that would invalidate the municipal regulation.

The Court concluded that the real substance of the municipal bylaw was to protect the environment and, notwithstanding the fact that the bylaw incidentally encroached upon federal jurisdiction in navigation, no inconsistency between the bylaw adopted by the municipality and federal jurisdiction had been demonstrated.

The Superior Court thus recognizes municipal jurisdiction in protecting bodies of water from contamination and allows municipalities to regulate access to watercourses.

At a time when the quality of our lakes is increasingly important, this decision is particularly important for municipalities in the Laurentians As the question of the jurisdiction of each level of government is highly complex, we invite you to contact a lawyer from our firm's environment and municipal department before adopting new bylaws or contesting the validity of a bylaw that is in force.