The Legal Challenge

Gastem, a gas exploration company, maintains that the municipal bylaw adopted by Ristigouche Sud-Est to protect its water sources is causing irreparable prejudice and it must therefore be compensated for damages. Gastem is claiming an amount of $ 1.5M from Ristigouche Sud-Est, a sum representing  5.5 time the annual budget of $ 275,000 of this little municipality in the Baie des Chaleurs.

Ristigouche Sud-Est upholds that, in the absence of any provincial regulation, the municipality was completely in its rights to adopt a bylaw creating a separation distance to protect its sources of drinking water from the introduction of any substances produced by industrial activities.

[1] Règlement 2013-002 déterminant les distances séparatrices pour protéger les sources d’eau et puits artésiens et de surface de la municipalité de Ristigouche-Partie-Sud-Est.


November 22, 2011 Gastem presents its drilling project during a public meeting at the F.P. Adams community center in Ristigouche Sud-Est to about 50 people, half of which are non-residents.

July 12, 2012 Gastem receives a drilling permit from the Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources on the territory of the municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est.

March 13, 2013 :  in the absence of any provincial regulation, and at the request of a majority of its residents, Ristigouche Sud-Est adopts a bylaw prohibiting the introduction in the ground, by drilling or other means, of any substance susceptible of altering the quality of groundwater or surface water used for human or animal consumption, within a two kilometer radius of any drinking water sources used by 20 people or less.

May 1, 2013 : Gastem sends the municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est a notice of intent to sue for $ 2.0 M in damages and interest for adopting a water protection bylaw which has the effect of “paralyzing Gastem‘s exploration activities in Ristigouche Sud-Est”.

August 30, 2013 :  A court bailiff delivers a $ 1.494 M lawsuit in the hands of the Ristigouche Sud-Est mayor of that time.

Judging that the municipality’s bylaw was illegal due to its “abusive and unreasonable” nature, Gastem serves Ristigouche Sud-Est with a $ 1.5 lawsuit. However, Gastem does not ask for the annulment of the bylaw which it says is illegal.

March 18, 2014 :  the Superior Court rejects Ristigouche Sud-Est’s request to dismiss and declare the lawsuit inadmissible sending the lawsuit into a full trial.

The case will probably not be heard before 2015 or 2016.


Ristigouche partie Sud-Est

Municipal budget : $275,000
Tax revenue $121,000
Government transfers $154,000


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