It all begins with the general enunciation of article 976 of the Civil Code of Quebec, which states that:
“976. Neighbours shall suffer the normal neighbourhood annoyances that are not beyond the limit of tolerance they owe each other, according to the nature or location of their land or local usage.”
Of course, the section refers to the reasonable use that each person must make of his or her property rights. In this sense, if an owner abuses his right and commits a fault, he could be held liable.
However, this section also has the effect of creating or recognizing the existence of a no-fault civil liability regime for neighbourhood disturbances.
This is what the highest court in the country concluded in Ciment du Saint-Laurent inc. c. Barrette, 2008 CSC 64. In this case, residents of Beauport City brought a class action against a cement plant.
In fact, the neighbours of the cement plant were complaining about dust, odours and noise. It is worth noting that the operation of the cement plant was in compliance with applicable laws and that it was not possible to impute or identify any civil fault.
On the other hand, the evidence revealed that the members of the group suffered abnormal inconveniences, exceeding the tolerance limits that neighbours owe each other, even if the standards were respected.
As a result, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized no-fault liability in the following terms:
« Malgré son caractère apparemment absolu, le droit de propriété comporte néanmoins des limites. Par exemple, l’art. 976 C.c.Q. établit une autre limite au droit de propriété lorsqu’il dispose que le propriétaire d’un fonds ne peut imposer à ses voisins de supporter des inconvénients anormaux ou excessifs. (…) Le droit civil québécois permet donc de reconnaître, en matière de troubles de voisinage, un régime de responsabilité sans faute fondé sur l’article 976 C.c.Q. »
The state of the law is therefore clear and the ownership of an immovable does not confer an absolute right and the whole must fit and be understood in the concepts of life in society.
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