Quebec Farmers’ Union Challenges the Quebec Agricultural Land Protection Commission on reversal of decision
The Quebec Farmers’ Union (Union des producteurs agricoles - UPA) has opened a legal case challenging the Quebec Agricultural Land Protection Commission (Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec - CPTAQ) on its decision to annul one of its conditions for the construction of homes on agricultural land.
The CPTAQ governs the use and protection of agricultural land in the province and determines whether MRCs may use this land for purposes other than agriculture according to the Act Respecting the Preservation of Agricultural Land and Agricultural Activities.
The Act states that land in agricultural zones cannot be used for any residential or other developments without authorization from the CPTAQ. One exception to the regulation is when a residence was built before the Law on the Protection of Agricultural Land entered into force in 1978. In this case, the original home can be maintained, but no additional residences are permitted to be built unless also authorized by the commission.
In June 2021 the CPTAQ issued a press release stating that the condition which requires that MRCs request approval to build additional residences on agricultural land with preexisting homes was obsolete and now deemed unwritten.
This gives MRCs the authority to build additional homes without authorization from the CPTAQ. Prior to this, MRCs had to bring a formal request to the CPTAQ to build additional homes on agricultural land already containing one home and decisions about larger areas of a “collective scope” had to be informed by negotiations between the UPA, the municipalities in the MRC and the CPTAQ.
In an interview, UPA’s lawyer Rémi Jolicoeur, clarified the main claims involved in the case. Jolicoeur explained that the union is primarily concerned with the process by which the CPTAQ annulled the condition,
“The UPA is challenging the Commission because CPTAQ doesn’t have the legal right to suddenly say a prior condition doesn’t exist. A press release can’t overturn a decision of the commission in this way. There are proper processes for the revision of a decision that was previously made, but this is not what the CPTAQ did.”
Jolicoeur further explained that while municipalities and MRCs are not being directly challenged by the UPA, they are still implicated in the case. "Our claim is against the Commission, not against the MRCs.
The MRCs are implicated in the case because they have previously received decisions of collective scope from the CPTAQ for their requests to build. These decisions had the condition that it was prohibited to build additional residences on land with preexisting homes. MRCs are also interested parties because the court’s decision will ultimately impact whether or not the CPTAQ’s decision to build residences on agricultural land in the future should be fully respected.”
He said that the case is still in its early stages and there is no hearing date as of yet.