Environment - General. 114957 Canada Ltée (Spraytech, Société d'arrosage) v. Hudson (Town)
In 114957 Canada Ltée (Spraytech, Société d'arrosage) v. Hudson (Town) (SCC, 2001) the Supreme Court of Canada, in an historic environmental case, considered the authority of a Quebec town by-law restricting pesticide use to non-cosmetic purposes. The SCC made some general statements on environmental law:
1 L’Heureux-Dubé J. – The context of this appeal includes the realization that our common future, that of every Canadian community, depends on a healthy environment. In the words of the Superior Court judge: “Twenty years ago, there was very little concern over the effect of chemicals such as pesticides on the population. Today, we are more conscious of what type of an environment we wish to live in, and what quality of life we wish to expose our children [to]” ((1993), 19 M.P.L.R. (2d) 224, at p. 230). This Court has recognized that “[e]veryone is aware that individually and collectively, we are responsible for preserving the natural environment . . . environmental protection [has] emerged as a fundamental value in Canadian society”: Ontario v. Canadian Pacific Ltd., 1995 CanLII 112 (SCC),  2 S.C.R. 1031, at para. 55. See also Friends of the Oldman River Society v. Canada (Minister of Transport), 1992 CanLII 110 (SCC),  1 S.C.R. 3, at pp. 16-17.
3 The case arises in an era in which matters of governance are often examined through the lens of the principle of subsidiarity. This is the proposition that law-making and implementation are often best achieved at a level of government that is not only effective, but also closest to the citizens affected and thus most responsive to their needs, to local distinctiveness, and to population diversity. La Forest J. wrote for the majority in R. v. Hydro-Québec, 1997 CanLII 318 (SCC),  3 S.C.R. 213, at para. 127, that “the protection of the environment is a major challenge of our time. It is an international problem, one that requires action by governments at all levels” (emphasis added). His reasons in that case also quoted with approval a passage from Our Common Future, the report produced in 1987 by the United Nations’ World Commission on the Environment and Development. The so-called “Brundtland Commission” recommended that “local governments [should be] empowered to exceed, but not to lower, national norms” (p. 220).
33 This Court stated in Hydro-Québec, supra, at para. 112, that Oldman River, supra, “made it clear that the environment is not, as such, a subject matter of legislation under the Constitution Act, 1867. As it was put there, ‘the Constitution Act, 1867 has not assigned the matter of “environment” sui generis to either the provinces or Parliament’ (p. 63). Rather, it is a diffuse subject that cuts across many different areas of constitutional responsibility, some federal, some provincial (pp. 63-64).” ...