On November 4, 2016 the Quebec Superior Court dismissed an application for judicial review of a decision rendered on August 21, 2015 by the Quebec regulator of agricultural and food markets, the Régie des marchés agricoles et alimentaires du Québec (the “Regulator”) in favour of one of the largest producers of maple syrup in the province, based in the Montmagny region1. Langlois lawyers represented the producer in this matter.
Following an inspection carried out during the 2012 harvesting season by the Quebec maple-syrup producers federation, the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec (the “Federation”), the producer, which held a production quota pursuant to one of the Federation’s bylaws, had its entire production from its 125,000 taps – some 604 barrels of syrup – declassified by the Regulator.
The Federation maintained that the producer had contravened another of its bylaws, which prohibited the possession or use of formaldehyde in any form. The Federation’s position was based on a presumption, following an analysis performed by a laboratory it had retained of three samples of wood from a tap cutting that had been selected at random from the producer’s sugar maple trees. The samples had a formaldehyde content higher than the administrative standard used by the Federation on the basis of the only known scientific study in this regard. No other material evidence was filed by the Federation with the Regulator.
The producer impugned the Federation’s decision-making process on the grounds that there was no standard in the bylaw regarding an acceptable level of formaldehyde, a substance that is naturally present in the atmosphere.
The producer also pleaded that it had been unable to produce a rebuttal expert’s report on the three samples of wood taken from its trees, as the Federation’s inspection procedure did not call for providing the producer with an identical set of samples. The producer was thus deprived of its right to present a full and complete defence, as it had no way of verifying the accuracy of the analysis results obtained by the Federation.
The Regulator has until December 8 to seek leave to appeal the Superior Court’s decision.