Les procès au paradis

Comment trois résidents du Nouveau-Brunswick rural se tenant debout pour leur collectivité peuvent-ils se retrouver face à des poursuites judiciaires?  L'auteur Jerry Cook raconte l'histoire des résidents d'une petite ville qui se sont opposés à une porcherie industrielle.

Dès le début du processus, les citoyens ont réalisé qu'ils ne seraient pas entendus et, qu'en dépit de leurs objections, l'usine porcine serait construite.  Au début de l'an 2000, une immense porcherie fut construite et bientôt des camions-citernes de 10 000 gallons transportant du purin vrombissaient à travers le village.

Un jour, les citoyens organisèrent un rallye automobile et détinrent un tracteur semi-remorque, qui fut plus tard retiré des routes par des responsables provinciaux parce qu'il était dangereux.  Mais pour leur intervention trois résidents furent poursuivis.  Après diverses dates de comparution et appels, les juges décidèrent en faveur de l'entreprise et imposèrent une injonction permanente.

Lawsuit in Paradise

Jerry Cook
Association for the Preservation of the Bouchtouche Watershed
March 2007

ow did three rural New Brunswick residents sticking up for their community find themselves slapped with a lawsuit? How did all others, including you the reader, now that you are aware of the issue, become subject to one of the widest ranging injunctions ever imposed by a court in New Brunswick?

About 3,500 people live in the idyllic, predominately Acadian Local Service District of Sainte-Marie-de-Kent, in southeastern New Brunswick.  Our story begins in June of 1999, at a community meeting called to discuss the establishment of the largest hog factory under one roof east of Manitoba.  At the meeting were representatives of the proponent and several officials of the government of New Brunswick.  Two quotes rang out over the capacity crowd of 500 people…

The proponent, despite considerable objection from the crowd, insisted that, "The barn will be built."  The other outstanding remark came from a government official, in response to a mother's question regarding the disruption that the hog factory was likely to cause to her life.  He told her that, if there was a problem in one year's time, "You can move away."

The tone for the next seven years was set.  Citizens realized that they were not going to be heard and that, despite their objections, this operation was being foisted upon them. 


Citizens block tanker trucks.  
(photo: Neil Gardner)

A few weeks later, on Canada Day, a major car rally ended at the road beside the construction site of the hog factory.  Immediately, the dis-information machine was cranked up.  First, an article appeared in the newspaper that a break-in and vandalism had occurred at the site and "protesters" were suspected.  This was later proven to be a petty crime unconnected to the protesters.  Then, an attempt was made to discredit the spokesperson for the Committee Against Hog Factories by calling him a racist!  (At the July rally, he stated that the government was not supporting local citizens but was supporting "those from away.")

An operating license, the first under the newly passed Livestock Operations Act, was granted to the new hog factory the first weekend in August by then Minister of Agriculture, Milt Sherwood.

Small pigs began arriving at the operation in the fall of 1999 and, by early 2000, the full compliment of hogs were inside the building. Trucks came and went daily, bringing young pigs, taking animals to market, and delivering feed.  Then came the inevitable - the first manure spreading was to begin in the fall of 2000.

There had been operational conditions placed on the license by the Department of Agriculture, but citizen's attempts to have them enforced were met with government obfuscation.  Citizens notified the government that if they did not monitor the operation for violations, then the citizens themselves would perform this function.

The first "spreading season" began. Huge 10,000-gallon tanker trucks, like the kind you see delivering gasoline, roared through the village, past the school and playground with no regard for the speed limits.  The trucks appeared to citizens to be in serious disrepair.  There were spills of liquid manure on the road and, as observed, there were spills of manure in the ditches at the spreading sites.


Huge 10,000-gallon tanker trucks 
roared through the village.
(photo: Neil Gardner
)

Citizens decided to organize another car rally. Citizens had obtained the use of an abandoned house near the operation.  It was christened the "Poop House" and, soon after, the "Poop Patrol" was born.  On one weekend afternoon, the car rally was proceeding to the Poop House when a tractor trailer truck was returning to the hog factory for another load of manure.  Citizens on the road in front of the Poop House detained the truck, which was later taken off the road by provincial officials for being unsafe.  Out of this incident, three citizens were charged in a lawsuit.

The proponent had hired a private investigation company to observe the actions of citizens.  As was revealed in court, the firm had several observers and collected videotape, photographic, and journal evidence.


Citizens obtained the use of an abandoned house, which was christened the "Poop House." 
(photo:
Marion White)

The court case to impose a temporary injunction was heard on October 17, 2000. Judge Rideout of the Court of Queen's Bench heard the case.  Judge Rideout found in favour of the proponent and imposed the temporary injunction that was put forward by the proponent's lawyer with only one exception: the Judge removed the section that pertained to gathering and having meetings because it was obviously against the Charter of Rights.  As stated earlier, the injunction was one of the widest ranging ever passed by a New Brunswick court.  It made it illegal to even observe the operations or the spreading of manure.

In a related court proceeding, Judge Hugh McLellan, who heard the case, gave a glowing dissertation on the efforts of citizens to protect their way of life, decided in favour of citizens, and quashed the injunction.  The proponent appealed this decision to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal.  Judges Robertson, Turnbull, and Larlee heard this appeal and decided in favour of the proponent and imposed a permanent injunction as it now stands.

Citizens did challenge the injunction once, because it was not available in French, but to no avail.

For more information:
Judge Rideout's decision
Judge McLelan's decision
Court of Appeal decision