The court hears arguments in case #28835, Imperial Oil Ltd. v. Attorney General of Quebec for and on behalf of the minister of the environment, André Boisclair, on February 14, 2003.
In the late 1980s, a developer purchased a tract of former industrial land in Lévis, Quebec, with the intention of building a residential complex. When environmental testing revealed the presence of hydrocarbons in the soil, the developer arranged for decontamination in order to satisfy the Quebec Ministry of the Environment. Building permits were issued, streets were laid out, and several houses were built. Then, in 1994, having discovered evidence of oil contamination, several homeowners sued the developer, as well as the City of Lévis, which had issued the building permits. The Ministry of the Environment was also joined as a party in the lawsuit, for its alleged negligence in supervising and approving the original decontamination work.
In 1998, the Ministry of the Environment ordered Imperial Oil Ltd., the former owner and operator of a petroleum depot originally located on the same site, to perform an independent study of the extent of the contamination and make recommendations for remediation of the site. Imperial refused, appealing first to the Administrative Tribunal of Quebec, then to the Quebec Superior Court and the Quebec Court of Appeal, all of which rejected its claims. Imperial Oil is now appealing to the Supreme Court of Canada for judicial review of the decisions.
Lawyers Claude Bouchard and Dominique Rousseau present arguments on behalf of the Attorney General of Quebec and respond to questions from the justices.