The future of Gatineau Park is playing itself out before the Federal Court this week.
On April 3 and 4, the Court will be hearing the case opposing the City of Gatineau and the National Capital Commission (NCC) over the closure of Gamelin Street – a 600 metre road cutting through Gatineau Park.
This closure is not only consistent with the Park Master Plan, it’s also been endorsed by eight municipal resolutions and two bylaws, by the City of Hull’s 1980 urban plan, and by an agreement between the City of Hull and the NCC .
In 2011, however, the City of Gatineau changed its tune, reneged on its commitments and contractual obligations, and decided it wanted the road to remain open. It has taken the NCC to court, even though it can’t possibly win.
Besides these resolutions and agreements, the NCC has the necessary authority to close Gamelin, since management of Gatineau Park is an issue of national concern, in accordance with Section 91 of Canada’s Constitution, with the National Capital Act, and with implementation of NCC master plans. I note that the courts have repeatedly confirmed NCC authority in this area.
For example, in 1966, in Munro v. NCC, the Supreme Court ruled that management of the National Capital Region is an issue of “national concern” and that the NCC has authority to implement its plans. The Court also ruled that once a subject matter is qualified of national concern, the federal government has “an exclusive jurisdiction of a plenary nature” in relation to that matter (R. v. Crown Zellerbach Canada Ltd.).
Unfortunately, the brief prepared by the NCC’s lawyers makes no mention of the NCC’s legal authority, or the case law supporting that authority. In short, it completely ignores the legal context surrounding this case…
Moreover, in their factum, NCC lawyers should have expanded on the principle of federal paramountcy, which provides that when a conflict occurs between local and federal laws, the federal law will prevail and the provincial/local statute will be inoperative insofar as it conflicts with federal law (Smith v. Queen; Multiple Access v. McCutcheon). Unfortunately, their brief barely touches on this principle on page 380, saying: “a municipal bylaw does not apply to the Federal Crown in the absence of a specific measure.”
Be that as it may, I hope the judges will consider this legal context when they render their decision.
In the meantime, I continue to wonder why the City did such an about-face on this issue. Are developers pressuring the City to renege on its commitments and contractual obligations relating to Gamelin Street because they want to change the Gateway Sector into a real estate development?
Say, didn’t the Genivar impact study commissioned by the City of Gatineau place Gatineau Park’s boundary north of Gamelin Street, while it’s located much farther south along Taché Boulevard? In fact, the Genivar study removed the entire Gateway Sector from Gatineau Park.
These are the types of questions our so-called journalists, parliamentarians and ecological groups have completely failed to raise. That’s too bad, because this court case has serious implications for the future of Gatineau Park and the nation’s capital.
 Resolutions: 73-569, 76-484, 76-484, 78-11, 79-318, 79-407, 81-460, and the resolution of August 30, 2011; City of Hull 1980 Urban Plan; City Bylaws 1540 and 1590; and an emphyteutic deed.