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Québec’s Court of Appeal has struck down part of a municipal by-law that impinged on the public right of navigation, an area where only the federal government has jurisdiction to make laws.

As we noted in an earlier blog post, St.-Adolphe d’Howard’s by-law prevented non-residents from using their motorboats on two lakes.  Council reasoned that fewer motorboats on the lakes would preserve water quality and the lake banks, and prevent invasive species from reaching the ecosystem.   In August, two of the three appeal judges found that this restriction illegally infringed on federal jurisdiction, by interfering with access to a navigable body of water.

However, the rest of the by-law was upheld, including a requirement that all boat hulls be cleaned before use in local lakes, to control invasive species.

One judge, Mr. Justice Léger, would have upheld the entire by-law.  He argued that the by-law did not interfere with navigation, because non-residents could still access the lakes, as long as they did not do so in their own motorboats; they had the option of using sailboats and other types of boats, or could rent boats.  The by-law restrictions were reasonable to protect the environment.

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