Intervenor: Vol 25. No 1 January - March 2000

CELA Intervenes In Supreme Court Pesticides Case

The Supreme Court of Canada granted CELA, the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) and several other national and Ontario groups the right to intervene in a case before that Court involving municipal pesticides. The case involves by-laws passed by the municipality of Hudson, Québec, which control the use of pesticides on private properties in the municipality.

After Hudson passed its municipal pesticides by-law in 1991, two lawn care companies, Spray Tech and Chem Lawn took the municipality to the Québec trial division to argue that the by-law was invalid. The Québec trial court upheld the validity of the by-law. The spray companies appealed to the Québec Court of Appeal and lost again. They next asked the Supreme Court of Canada to grant them leave to appeal to that Court. Leave was granted last fall, meaning that this case will be argued before the highest Canadian court sometime later this year or next.

CELA, on behalf of several groups asked the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to intervene because of concerns about the implications of this case for Ontario and the rest of the country, and to uphold the principle that municipalities may validly pass pesticide-control by-laws. Many municipalities are considering pesticide application by-laws or have passed such by-laws. A variety of options have been considered and various models have been passed in various communities. For example, depending upon local circumstances, municipalities have passed pesticide application by-laws with restrictions framed in different ways, such as time of day, seasonal, proximity to day cares and parks, or provision of stream buffers. There are many other versions, each responding to local conditions.

The importance of the Hudson case, legally, is that the by-laws that are being attacked by the spray companies are based on general municipal legislation in Québec. Ontario and most provinces have similar provisions in their municipal legislation, which allow municipalities to pass by-laws for the general welfare of their residents. The Supreme Court of Canada's ruling, therefore, on the type of activities that such municipal legislation supports, will be of import nation-wide, not only for pesticides by-laws, but also potentially for many other environmental and health by-laws that municipalities might wish to pass.

The parties are in the process of exchanging the Appeal records and legal briefs and the case is expected to be argued before the Supreme Court of Canada by early next year. A ruling should follow by late next year.

Theresa McClenaghan is a lawyer at CELA