Croisières Charlevoix Inc. v. Quebec

In Constitutional Issues in Maritime Law on (Updated )

Précis: The court held that intra-provincial carriage of passengers was subject to provincial law.

The appellant was a shipbuilder and tourist boat operator based in La Malbaie, Quebec, with offices in Quebec City and Saint-Siméon. It primarily provided tourist excursions for watching whales and marine mammals on the St. Lawrence River in Quebec. In each of 2005 and 2006, the appellant made one excursion between Quebec and Ontario. In 2007 and 2008, the appellant organized three interprovincial cruises. The appellant was found guilty and fined for having operated as a carrier of passengers by water without the permit required by ss. 36 and 74.1 of Quebec’s Transport Act, R.S.Q., c. T-12, and sect. 1 of its Regulation respecting the transport of passengers by water, R.R.Q., c. T-12, r. 15. The appellant appealed to the Quebec Superior Court, arguing that its operations were within exclusive federal jurisdiction and that it was not bound by the provincial statute and regulations. The appellant also argued that its tourist excursions did not constitute "transport" within the meaning of Quebec’s Transport Act. Quebec’s Transport Act applies to the "transport of persons… by… water from one place to another… by ship" . The appellant argued the Act did not apply because the tourists transported on the cruises concerned embarked and disembarked at the same "place".

Decision: Appeal dismissed and conviction upheld.

Held: The appellate Judge held that ss. 91(29) and 92(10)(a) and (b) of the Constitution Act, when read together, exclude marine transport operations carried on within the boundaries of a single province from the jurisdiction of Parliament. Where some operations of a marine carrier are carried on intraprovincially and others extraprovincially, the business becomes subject to federal legislation exclusively, but only if the extraprovincial operations are "regular and continuous” and not where such activities are merely "occasional or exceptional". The appellate Judge also rejected the appellant’s argument that the provincial Transport Act did not apply holding that the appellant’s interpretation was far too restrictive and one that would not coincide with the intention of the legislator. Moreover, the definition of “lieu” in Le Petit Robert dictionary (2000) was wide enough to include the site visited and the area travelled, as well as the points of embarkation and disembarkation.

Comment: Regrettably this decision is reported only in French. Therefore, this summary is based on a translation provided by Robert Wilkins of Borden Ladner Gervais, Montreal.