Yves Faguy of Nimonik recently chatted with Dianne Saxe about the certification of a class action lawsuit for noise issues on the Laurentian highway in Quebec. Dianne at EnviroLaw.com blogged about this interesting case with potentially far reaching impacts (blog post here), but we thought that a video was in order, so here it is. Quebec just passed an act that affirms the collective nature of water resources, could noise issues be next?
Title: Quebec Laurentian Autoroute Highway Noise Class Action Lawsuit video
Note: Unclear word/s is/are time-stamped and highlighted.
So the Quebec court of appeals has certified the carrier class action by neighbors of the major Quebec freeway. You wrote about this on your blog on envirolaw.com and I was just wondering if you could tell us why this decision is important:
It’s very important because if the class action is successful, it would be one of the first cases in Canada where neighbors will suffer from a major infrastructure project had a remedy. There is one previous case also in Quebec where a snowmobile trail was incredibly noisy and was restrained on the class action but that was a very unusual case. And it was probably affected by the fact that the snowmobile trail, while nice, doesn’t have a compelling contribution to the public interest. Highway on the other hand is quite fundamental to modern society. The free movement of people and goods and we depend on highway to do it. The Laurentian highway in particular has been a great for the people who live nearby for more than 25 years. The noise levels around the highway exceed the ministry’s own standards as to what is an acceptable level quite significantly. We talked a few minutes ago, we talked before. If you think about other cases for example the Erickson case where the acceptable level of noise was 40 decibels and even so even though the maximum permitted level is 40 decibels, there was fierce public opposition. In the Carrier case, a material group of people has been exposed to more than 55 decibels which is more than 15x louder than 40 decibels.
So these people have been exposed to these amounts of noise everyday for 25 years. They say it’s like living under a constant artillery bombardment, and they have no remedy. They tried the political remedy, they appealed to the government and the federal government wouldn’t do anything. The provincial government said they would pay for half of the barrier, a noise barrier, but only if the municipality would pay the other half and that fight between the province and the municipality has gone on no resolution all these years. And as a result, the home owners were left exposed to this huge level of noise with no remedy. If the court allows them a remedy and either gives them compensation or orders the provincial and/or municipal governments to build the noise barrier or both, it will set a very important present for people again. Anywhere in the country will have a significant nuisance impact from an infrastructure project.
And it could be a private infrastructure project too.
Well it’s already easier to get a remedy against private infrastructure because they aren’t the government. They don’t have quite the same authorization but if in this particular case, it’s possible, the Quebec court appeal has said, to decide that while it’s… the government has the power to build the highway, that doesn’t mean they have the right to build the highway without noise control. It doesn’t mean that they have an untethered right to do what they want without considering the interest of those who live right next door. And if that rule applies to this particular piece of highway, it could apply to all the highways, it could apply to railways, airports, ports, gravel pits. There’s a lot of very noisy activities that take place that people are expected to put up with and maybe they won’t have to anymore.
But that has to still be decided, that’s all we can certify.
That’s right. There’s a long wait. I’m sure that we will have, I guess I don’t know for sure, but probably a year or two before we have the trial decision and after that given the stakes that I’ve expected will be appealed possibly to the Supreme Court of Canada. So it may take sometime before we know the ultimate result is. But this is an important question, what kinds of impacts the people have to put up with for infrastructure? It’s the same issue that was litigated in Vancouver over the impacts of the Canada land. It’s the same issue that’s been litigated in Toronto over the impacts of the St. Claire street car. Public infrastructure has significant public benefits but it also often imposes disproportionate cause on a certain group. And how much do they have to suck it up for the rest of us and how much are they entitled to compensational protection. The courts will have to decide.
Ok with Diane Saxe, thank you very much. This has been a Nimonik interview and until the next time