In an oral judgment rendered on July 24, 2020 1 , the Superior Court criticized the trial judge for not having given the unrepresented parties the opportunity to settle a constitutional question.
Ten residents of Saint-Cuthbert (hereinafter “Neighbors”) sued DGNE (owner of the neighboring aerodrome, namely Saint-Cuthbert CCU2) for small claims (division of the Court of Quebec), alleging a decrease in property values due noise from aircraft.
DGNE raised federal jurisdiction over aeronautics, among other means of defense. The Neighbors invoked provincial laws: the Civil Code of Quebec in its articles 976 (neighborhood disturbances) and 1457 (extra-contractual liability for fault), and article 20 of the Environment Quality Act ( emission of a contaminant, noise in this case).
The Court of Quebec 2 ruled in favor of the Neighbors, applying the provincial texts in their favor without considering the impact of constitutional or federal law, and ordered DGNE to pay damages of more than $ 145,000 in total.
In judicial review, the Superior Court concluded that the reasons for the judgment of the Court of Quebec were insufficient with regard to the constitutional aspects of the dispute (division of federal and provincial powers). She also believes that the trial judge should have suspended the trial so that the attorneys general of Quebec and Canada could be implicated. They could thus have asserted the position of the levels of government concerned.
The first judgment is therefore quashed, but this is not necessarily the end of the story: the debates could resume before the Court of Quebec with the participation of the attorneys general. To be continued!
1 File 705-17-008492-181; the written version of the reasons is expected before the fall.
2 In Thériault and others v. Management DGNE , 2018 QCCQ 10264 .
Contributed by Elizabeth Cullen and Samuel Bachand, PFD Avocats
Photo: Jean-Pierre Bonin