Supreme Court considers Federal Jurisdiction

By Kevin Psutka


COPA’s long awaited day in court occurred on October 14, when the Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments for and against the continuing concept that the federal government should have exclusive jurisdiction over aeronautics, and specifically the regulation of aerodromes.

The issue was brought to the Supreme Court of Canada as an appeal by the Quebec Government on Quebec Court decisions that are in our favour.

Presentations were made by the Attorneys for Quebec, and in support of their position were the Agricultural Commission APTAQ, the city of Shawinigan, British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick.

In favour of continuing federal jurisdiction were attorneys for Annabelle Lacombe (Air Mauricie), COPA (corporate legal counsel Dan Cornell and Quebec lawyer Pierre Beauchamp), the federal government and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority.

The Court heard summaries of the arguments and asked several questions to clarify both sides of the issue. Our case was well presented and supported by the federal government and GTAA attorneys in favour of continuing the precedent that has been in place since 1952 with the Johannesen V. West St Paul Supreme Court. After almost four hours, the Court reserved its decision.

Our lawyers believe that it could take a year or more for a decision. In the meantime, our advice to aerodrome owners who are challenged by local or provincial authorities is to remind them that the matter is before the Supreme Court.

COPA will assist with information, including our Guide to Private Aerodromes, but we are not able to spend further Freedom to Fly Special Action Funding on new cases while the matter is before this court. When the decision is made, we will provide a detailed explanation of the decision and its affect on our freedom to fly.

The work that COPA has done to bring this matter to the Supreme Court has involved a long and expensive process involving many cases and considerable financial resources. Thanks to contributions to the Freedom to Fly Special Action Fund, COPA was able to defend your freedom. No matter how this issue may be decided, we urgently need to replenish the Fund in order to demonstrate to challengers to our freedom that we are prepared to respond with funding to back our resolve.