Press Release – “Solidarité Ristigouche” campaign : 1 week from the lawsuit filed by oil company Gastem, the municipality of Ristigouche still has to raise almost $ 69,000

Press Release
For Immediate Release

“Solidarité Ristigouche” campaign and protection of drinking water

One week from the lawsuit filed by oil company Gastem,
the municipality of Ristigouche still has to raise almost $ 69,000

Ristigouche Partie-Sud-Est, August 28, 2017 – The small municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est in the Bay of Chaleur will present its defense in the Quebec Superior Court against the oil and gas company, Gastem, during a public trial to be held from September 5 to 18 in New Carlisle, Gaspésie. The corporation is claiming $ 1.5 million from the municipality of 157 residents for adopting a by-law to protect its drinking water. The municipality still has to raise nearly $ 69,000 to cover legal costs related to its defense and calls on all Quebec citizens and municipalities to support the “Solidarité Ristigouche” crowd sourcing campaign.

“Finally, we are going to trial! We will be able to demonstrate why it is preposterous for a company to sue a small municipality of 157 inhabitants for wanting to protect its drinking water. We still need the energy and support of citizens and municipalities who are sensitive to the protection of drinking water. Make a donation to allow us to defend ourselves during the trial and help us ensure that citizens’ rights take precedence over those of corporations.” says François Boulay, Mayor of the municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est.

A critical trial for the municipal sphere
Gastem’s lawsuit is challenging the ability of municipalities to protect their drinking water sources. A legal victory by Ristigouche would establish jurisprudence recognizing that it is reasonable that Quebec municipalities have the right to guarantee their citizens a healthy living environment. The Ristigouche case is of paramount importance for all Quebec municipalities.

“It is important that municipalities have the regulatory tools to ensure the sustainability of their drinking water sources, a resource essential to the quality of life of their citizens,” says Marc Parent, Mayor of Rimouski.
While an upcoming revision, by the province, of its “Règlement sur le prélèvement des eaux et leur protection (RPEP)” is anticipated, 230 municipalities have filed a regulation similar to that of Ristigouche with the Department of Sustainable Development, Environment and Climate Change, establishing a distance of two kilometers between the gas and oil companies’ installations and the sources of drinking water on their territory.

“One of the fundamental roles of a municipality is to protect water sources for human and animal use. We cannot ignore all the court judgments recommending that elected officials be proactive and act to protect the health and well-being of their citizens. From the beginning, Ristigouche’s only concern has been to protect its sources of drinking water”, says Jean-François Girard, counsel for Ristigouche Sud-Est.

Increasing municipal solidarity
Since the launch of the “Solidarité Ristigouche” donation campaign in 2014, 118 municipalities in Quebec, as well as the Fédération québécoise des municipalités, the Union des municipalités du Québec and four regional county municipalities, have responded to Ristigouche’s request by providing moral and financial support.

Citizens and artists across Quebec mobilize for Solidarité Ristigouche
Since 2014, the solidarity from citizens and from municipal communities of Quebec has enabled Ristigouche Sud-Est to raise more than $ 259,000, which corresponds to 75% of the funding objective set by the municipality. In addition to individual donations, several artists have mobilized to support Ristigouche.

This past weekend, the Regroupement Vigilance Hydrocarbures committee of Lanaudière organized a fundraising concert for the municipality on August 26th, attended by many renowned artists: Jean-Pierre Ferland, Yves Lambert, Nicolas Pellerin and Les Grands Hurleurs, Domlebo, Vincent Pépin, Jean-Pierre Gagnon, Jean-Claude Mirandette, Jacques Giroux and Louise Morand. “A fabulous event that raised more than $ 12,000 1 and demonstrates the great generosity and a remarkable solidarity of the people of Lanaudière and elsewhere in Quebec,” says François Boulay, Mayor of the municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est.

“We would like to thank all the municipalities, artists, organizations, elected officials and citizens of Quebec who have shown great solidarity with our cause during the last 3 years. Thanks to them, we have the strength and energy to lead the battle to protect our drinking water,” concludes François Boulay.

To make a donation
• Online: www.solidariteristigouche.ca/help us
• By check sent to the municipality: in the name of Solidarité Restigouche

The Issue
In 2012, the Government of Quebec authorized the Gastem oil company to set-up their activities near the sources of drinking water in the municipality of Ristigouche Sud-Est. In the absence of provincial regulations, at the request of citizens, Ristigouche had to adopt its own regulations in 2013 to protect its drinking water. Believing that the Restigouche settlement is illegal because of its “abusive and unreasonable” nature, Gastem filed a $ 1.5 million lawsuit against Ristigouche, more than 5 times the $ 281,000 annual budget of this small municipality in the Baie-des-Chaleurs. The municipality’s original legal defense cost was $ 225,000. However, it rose to $ 328,000 as a result of the relentlessness of Gastem’s directors and lawyers to complicate and lengthen the trial.

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For further information:
Emilie Novales
514.577.5838
enovales@copticom.ca