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Tiny Quebec village faces $1.5M lawsuit for trying to protect its water – Montreal

A tiny village on Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is going through off in opposition to an oil corporate in a prison combat that might finally end up costing the neighborhood $1.five million.

The municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est is being sued by means of Gastem, a Montreal-based oil-and-gasoline exploration and building corporate, for passing a bylaw in March 2013 organising a two-kilometre no-drill zone close to the supply of the village’s water.

At the time, Gastem had provincial lets in for exploration within the house, and Gastem president Raymond Savoie​ mentioned the bylaw was once handed with out consulting the corporate.

​The trial, which is anticipated to final 10 days, were given underway Tuesday in Quebec Superior Court in New Carlisle, Que. A complete of 30 other folks, together with native councillors and professionals in municipal regulation, are anticipated to testify.

“The stake is this: Does a municipality have the right to adopt a bylaw towards the protection of the common good without fearing a lawsuit?” Mayor François Boulay mentioned in an interview Wednesday.

Mayor François Boulay

Mayor François Boulay says it’s going to be inconceivable for the village to pay Gastem if the exploration corporate wins.

If the village  —  house to best 157 other folks — finally ends up shedding, it could have a hard time footing the invoice. The $1.five million in damages sought by means of Gastem is greater than 5 occasions Ristigouche’s annual finances.

“From a citizen’s standpoint, I can tell you that many people are anxious. They fear losing this trial,” Boulay mentioned.

Oil corporate desires ‘rights known’

Savoie, a Liberal cupboard minister below former premier Robert Bourassa, did not need to speculate previous this week when requested if he hopes to get the entire quantity from the village. 

Gastem bought its exploration rights quickly after submitting the lawsuit in 2014. 

“We will see what will result from the trial, but at least we want to have our rights recognized,” he instructed The Canadian Press.

A prison victory for Ristigouche, however, would set a precedent that municipalities have the appropriate to ensure their voters a wholesome residing atmosphere, Boulay mentioned. 

Map Ristigouche-Sud-Est

Ristigouche-Sud-Est is at the south facet of the Gaspé Peninsula. (Radio-Canada)

In 2014, the village introduced a fundraising marketing campaign to assist pay its prison charges. Solidarity Ristigouche has up to now raised greater than $281,000 from citizens, environmental teams and municipalities around the province.

The village additionally has the backing of Quebec’s Federation of Municipalities.

Municipalities need stricter limits on oil exploration

Villages and cities throughout Quebec are hoping the trial spurs the provincial govt to introduce stricter regulations round oil and gasoline exploration.

Last June, 230 municipalities filed a request with Quebec’s Environment Ministry looking for equivalent protections to the ones in position in Ristigouche: a distance of 2 kilometres between a gasoline-and-oil corporate’s installations and the resources of consuming water on their territory.

Environmentalists also are staring at the case carefully. Several dozen protesters amassed outdoor the courthouse on Tuesday in enhance of the village.

Protesters

Environmental activists acquire Tuesday outdoor the courthouse in New Carlisle, Que. (Radio-Canada)

Environment Minister David Heurtel has mentioned a two-kilometre boundary, like the only in Ristigouche, is simply too restrictive, and restrictions will have to be evaluated on a case-by means of-case foundation.

A spokesperson for Heurtel declined to remark Wednesday, bringing up the continued courtroom case.

Under present provincial regulation, handed a yr after Ristigouche handed its bylaw, exploration should be no less than 500 metres from a water supply.

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