GRENVILLE-SUR-LA-ROUGE – One defeat – and one victory for Grenville-sur-la-Rouge in its legal dispute with mining company Canada Carbon.
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge has lost its bid to have the $96-million lawsuit launched by Canada Carbon dismissed.
On November 9, the municipality made the request in Superior Court in St-Jérôme. Grenville-sur-la-Rouge is alleging that Canada Carbon’s lawsuit was designed to restrict the freedom of expression of the elected council and citizens.
The lawsuit from the Vancouver-based company resulted from council’s actions, which it says are hurting its efforts to establish a graphite mine and marble quarry in the municipality. The municipality declared that the two projects did not conform with permitted zoning uses.
Grenville-sur-la-Rouge had argued that the lawsuit was what is known in the legal world as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation or SLAPP. The municipality had also requested Canada Carbon pay $40,000 in legal costs which have been accumulated to date.
Canada Carbon has argued that $96 million dollars amounts to damages for the profits the company lost because of actions by the municipality which put roadblocks in place which have stalled the mine and quarry development.
Judge Danielle Turcotte rejected the motion by Grenville-sur-la-Rouge to have the lawsuit dismissed based on a section of the Québec Municipal Code that states companies have an obligation to file a claim for damages within six months in order to protect their rights, Canada Carbon’s claim does not meet the definition of a SLAPP lawsuit, the action was not intended to silence the municipality but rather to seek compensation for damages, and there was a lack of proof of abuse on the part of Canada Carbon towards the municipality.
Judge Turcotte also granted Canada Carbon’s request to have its lawsuit against Grenville-sur-la-Rouge suspended until December 1, 2019. The suspension means that is the next possible date the case could again be in court.
However, the company is also hoping to have a judicial review of its mining and quarry into two parts. One part would deal with the graphite mine, and the other would deal with the marble quarry.
Canada Carbon CEO Bruce Duncan said asking for the judicial review to be split into two parts is part of the company’s strategy for getting the project approved by provincial authorities.
The Superior Court will rule on the split on November 23. It was supposed to make the decision on November 16, but Grenville-sur-la-Rouge successfully had it delayed for a week to allow the CPTAQ to become more familiar with the case.
Even though the Superior Court ruled in favour of Canada Carbon on November 9, Grenville-sur-la-Rouge was successful in another case that day involving the mining company.
The Tribunal administratif du Québec (TAQ), which functions as a quasi-judicial body that resolves disagreements over decisions made by government agencies, ruled against Canada Carbon’s appeal of earlier actions made by the Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec (CPTAQ)—the provincial body that regulates the protection of agricultural land under agricultural land and activities protection legislation.
In December 2016, the municipality asked the CPTAQ for a ruling based on Canada Carbon’s plan to develop a graphite mine and marble quarry within its boundaries. In June 2017, the CPTAQ suspended the case and ruled it is a zoning matter to be dealt with by the municipal council.
In November 2018, council passed a resolution declaring Canada Carbon’s application did not conform with Grenville-sur-la-Rouge’s zoning and urbanism plans.
On January 3, 2018, the CPTAQ also ruled that Canada Carbon’s application did not conform to the zoning and urbanism plans and could not be received.
On January 25, the CPTAQ returned the application form and related documents to Canada Carbon.
TAQ documents state that the CPTAQ returning the documents to Canada Carbon and closing the file did not constitute an actual decision by the commission and did not give the company the ability to use the TAQ as a form of legal recourse. The documents state that the company was pretending the closure of the Grenville-sur-la-Rouge file by the CPTAQ was a decision, when it was not. The TAQ also stated that the case did not fall within the direct scope of its mandate.
A statement issued by Grenville-sur-la-Rouge explains the municipality is pleased with the TAQ’s decision.
“Citizens democratically support the current position and actions of the municipal council. The Tribunal administratif du Québec has, by its very decision, legitimized the decision-making process of the CPTAQ,” said mayor Tom Arnold.