Montreal, February 2, 2022 The Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) welcomes the general direction of Bill 21, introduced today, which will put an end to the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons, namely oil and gas, in the territory of Quebec. This is a historic moment for Quebec that we hope will inspire the world and set an example for other governments.

A quick analysis of the bill already reveals some key elements.

“First of all, the bill is clear: the intention is to put an end to all hydrocarbon exploration and production. It is essential that the ensuing legislation to be adopted definitively closes the door to all forms of oil and gas exploration and exploitation,” explains Anne-Sophie Doré, lawyer and legal clinic coordinator at the CQDE. “The CQDE will keep a close watch for any attempt to weaken this ban in future legislation. It is vital to put in place a clear legal framework that leaves no room for interpretation: there will be no oil and gas development on Quebec territory,” she adds. 

With respect to the compensation provided for in the bill, CQDE will be particularly interested in the mechanisms and conditions of compensation. The rehabilitation of wells and the restoration of sites must remain a necessary precondition for any form of compensation to be paid. The Minister of Energy has announced that the government wishes to proceed in this way, and the CQDE will be attentive to the question and to the legal mechanisms put in place to ensure that the promised environmental protection is duly provided. 

Finally, it should be noted that the issue of expropriation, as put forward by the industry, needs to be reframed: the right to property is not an absolute right. The possibility of limiting property rights has been recognized by the courts on numerous occasions, particularly for environmental protection purposes. Since the Civil Code of Québec and the Expropriation Act are not quasi-constitutional or constitutional statutes, it is entirely possible to enact more specific legislation that would take precedence over these general provisions. The legislator may derogate from the general principles of expropriation provided that a statute is adopted that clearly expresses its intention, as has been done on other occasions, and as it proposes to do with this bill.

In the days ahead, the CQDE will take the time to analyze the bill in detail and wishes to participate in the specific consultations to follow. In the meantime, we welcome the proposed direction of banning this industry in Quebec.

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