NEW! 2015 11 26: Supreme Court of Canada scheduled the appeal hearing for January 12, 2016 (previously it was tentatively set).
2015 11 24: November 9, 2015 Letter from Supreme Court of Canada on the Rosebud community petition to the court signed by 74 residents
“On behalf of the Supreme Court of Canada, we acknowledge receipt of your letter of November 1, 2015 and your petition concerning the Jessica Ernst vs Alberta Energy Regulator case (docket 36167). Your correspondence has been referred to me for reply. I regret to inform you that the Court is only permitted to consider material submitted by parties to an action or by an intervener. I am also sure that you will understand that it would be inappropriate for the court to comment on a case presently before it.”
Director, Communication Services
2015 11 19: Ernst Reply Factum
Hope is a horrible thing, you know. I don’t know who decided to package hope as a virtue because it’s not. It’s a plague. Hope is like walking around with a fishhook in your mouth and somebody just keeps pulling it and pulling it.
Ann Patchett in “State of Wonder”
2015 11 24: Encana still has not filed with Ernst cleaned up records for their document exchange (which had a December 19, 2014 deadline ordered by Justice Wittmann); chemicals Encana injected into Rosebud’s drinking water aquifers also not yet disclosed, even though required under the Court Rules, including all trade secrets.
2015 11 06: AER’s Factum repeatedly misstates Ernst’s claim and her Factum.
In 2004, when the EUB violated Ernst’s Charter rights, it was a government agency mandated to regulate industry in the public interest.
After the Ernst lawsuit went public, the Alberta government created REDA and turned the regulator into a corporation and removed “public interest” from it’s mandate.
The AER’s factum states:
6. The AER is a statutory agency responsible for regulating the development of Alberta’s energy resources. Through its governing statutes, it has broad purposes that range from the conservation of energy resources in Alberta, to appraising energy resources in Alberta, and providing for the economic, orderly and efficient development of the oil and gas resources of Alberta in the public interest. [AER’s counsel Glenn Solomon didn’t reference this statement.]
From REDA – the Alberta government’s legislation that created the AER:
The AER’s factum states:
39. … Ms. Ernst claims in her Factum that she seeks declaratory relief in respect of her Charter claim.76 [ Appellant’s Factum at para. 23.]
Ernst’s factum at para. 23 states:
23. Ms. Ernst has applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta seeking a remedy for the breach of her constitutional rights under s. 24(1) of the Charter. Ms. Ernst’s Charter claim includes both a claim for Charter damages, as well as a general claim for “further and other relief as seems just to this Honourable Court.”32 At trial, Ms. Ernst will seek both a judicial finding that her Charter rights to free expression were breached, as well as an appropriate Charter remedy for this breach, which may include monetary damages and/or declaratory relief.
The AER’s factum states:
46. The AER is a statutory regulator that owes only public duties.
But REDA doesn’t define any “public duties” for the AER, removed “public interest” from the regulator’s mandate and established it as a non-Crown “corporation.”
The AER’s factum twists Ernst’s:
47. … In her view, once a claim is brought under the Charter, any limits in respect of that claim would “effectively [neuter] s. 24(1) and [reduce] it from the supreme law of the land to meaningless words on a page.”89 [Appellant’s Factum at para. 66.]
Ernst’s factum at para. 66 states:
The unsupportable logical conclusion of the Court of Appeal’s ruling in this matter is that all governments in Canada have the ability to legislatively immunize themselves and all of their government agencies against any claim for a personal remedy brought pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter. As noted by McLachlin C.J.C., the purpose of section 24(1) is to provide “personal remedy against unconstitutional government action.”81 Allowing governments the ability to immunize themselves from such claims effectively neuters s. 24(1) and reduces it from the supreme law of the land to meaningless words on a page.
The AER’s factum leaps:
55. On Ms. Ernst’s construction, to immunize these judicial decision-makers from claims for personal Charter damages would “gut the remedial power of 24(1)” and “cannot be countenanced.”97 [Appellant’s Factum at para. 67.]
Ernst’s factum at para. 67 doesn’t mention judicial decision-makers:
67. Moreover, the effect of upholding the Court of Appeal’s ruling would be immediate and, in the Appellant’s view, disastrous. General statutory immunity clauses are very common across Canada; there are currently nearly identical statutory immunity clauses in the statute books of every jurisdiction in Canada.83 A ruling that s. 43 of the ERCA is constitutionally applicable to claims for personal remedies pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter would mean that dozens of other general statutory immunity clauses also block any and all attempts by Canadians to challenge the constitutionality of the actions taken by hundreds of governments and government agencies across Canada. Such a finding would gut the remedial power of 24(1), and render functionally useless this Court’s previous jurisprudence on s. 24(1). Such a result cannot be countenanced
The AER’s factum states:
77. A public decision-maker should be free to make the decisions it deems appropriate, having regard to all the various interests involved. It must be able to remain impartial in this important sense.
Like this? The Alberta government appointed Ex-VP Encana, advisor to Cenovus, CAPP creator and Chair for many years, Gerard Protti (photo below) Chair of the AER.
74 MIRACLES! 2015 11 04: Rosebud Hamlet Petition to the Supreme Court of Canada (with the 9 signature pages removed to reduce file size)
From: Shauna Murphy
Date: Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 3:35 PM
Subject: Fwd: to fwd
Please find attached a digital copy of the petition from Rosebud residents in support of your case, Ernst vs. AER, Docket 36167, mailed on November 2, 2015 to the Supreme Court of Canada. The signatures have been blocked to protect the residents and their privacy, the Supreme Court of Canada received the original petition complete with signatures.
It is through your case that we have been made aware of the huge threat fracking is to our precious water sources and that our charter rights are under attack. Thank you so much.
PETITION to the Supreme Court of Canada
Re: Jessica Ernst vs Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) Supreme Court of Canada Docket #36167
We, the undersigned residents of the Hamlet of Rosebud, wish to add our voices to an urgent call to allow the AER to be held accountable for any damages incurred to our water source and reservoir as a result of fracking operations by Encana. Beforehand, the AER and Encana failed to consult with us about fracking planned in our drinking water zones. Since then, they have never confessed that Encana fracked our water source, the exact chemicals injected or what dangers residents are living with and the AER continues to let Encana frack in the fresh water zones here.
The only reason we know anything about the illegal fracking here is through Jessica Ernst’s legal case and investigative journalist Andrew Nikiforuk who recently released a book called Slick Water.
For the AER, mandated to protect the public, to be legally immune from violating our charter rights in such an important drinking water contamination case is wrong and must be overturned.
We are not asking to file a factum or for time at the hearing.
Thank you for your consideration.
74 Rosebud residents signed!
THANK YOU, MY COMMUNITY!
2015 11 04: Supreme Court Order: Motion by Alberta landowners Dahm and Plowman dismissed. CCLA, BCCLA and David Asper Centre may each file 10 page factums each. The Court will decide after review, on whether or not to grant hearing time.
2015 10 19: David Asper Centre responds to AER
….the Court of the Queen’s Bench did hold that the appellant’s Charter claim may make out a valid cause of action, a finding that the Court of Appeal of Alberta did not overturn and which is not at issue in this appeal. [Emphasis added]
From Justice Wittmann’s September 2013 ruling (Not appealed by the AER, included in Ernst’s filings with the Supreme Court and copied to the AER):
… V. Overall Conclusion
… b. The Charter claim of Ernst against the ERCB is valid, subject to the application of the Limitations Act and section 43 of the ERCA.
… 12. Absolute immunity from Charter scrutiny is not available at common law. This
Honourable Court’s decision in Henry illustrates that the common law provides government with very limited protection from claims for damages under the Charter. 4 In addressing the Crown’s liability under the Charter for wrongful non-disclosure in criminal prosecutions, this Court held that the claimant must overcome a “high threshold” to make out a successful Charter damages claim but does not bar absolutely any such claims.5 The effect of this threshold is to provide some protection to the Crown in fulfilling its prosecutorial function. However, the Crown’s conduct is still subject to a degree of Charter scrutiny.
13. For the reasons that follow, the Asper Centre submits that it would be an anomaly if statutory immunity provisions like s. 43 of the ERCA could provide even greater immunity from Charter liability than the limited protection available at common law.
14. Immunity from the Charter is granted only in very narrow circumstances where there are compelling policy reasons for doing so.
16. Furthermore, this Honourable Court has already presented compelling reasons for not immunizing statutory bodies from the Charter. In Blencoe, this Court found that “bodies exercising statutory authority are bound by the Charter even though they may be independent of government.”10 The underlying reasoning was that if statutory bodies could be insulated from the Charter, then the legislature could avoid the Charter’s constraints by establishing statutory bodies to fulfill government functions.11
17. In Godbout, La Forest J. expressed concern that allowing government to escape the
Charter in this way would “indirectly narrow the ambit of protection afforded the Charter in a manner that could hardly have been intended and with consequences that are, to say the least, undesirable.”12 A government’s attempt to restrict access to appropriate and just remedies by granting itself immunity from Charter claims should not be given greater effect than the limitations on immunity already imposed by this Honourable Court.
18. Even in those narrow circumstances where compelling policy considerations justify granting protection, this Court has steered away from absolute immunity and taken a nuanced and qualified approach that is absent in the legislation at issue. As articulated in Henry, the courts must attain a “reasonable balance” between respecting the serious policy issues that may justify extending immunity and the importance of remedying rights violations.13 Interpreting s.43 of the ERCA as an absolute bar to claims for Charter remedies would upset that balance by placing undue weight on policy factors while ignoring the claimant’s rights entirely.
19. Finally, the Asper Centre submits that this Court should be attuned to the consequences of allowing statutory immunity provisions to bar Charter claims: government would be capable of insulating itself from the Charter with the mere stroke of a legislative pen. In essence the government has through this provision attempted to pre-empt the analysis of what constitutes a good governance concern that justifies such protection and has substituted a legislative decision for a judicial decision about when and if damages are an appropriate and just remedy. The Asper Centre intends to argue that there is a presumption that such statutory articulations of good governance concerns, particularly where the immunity appears to be absolute, are overbroad and ought to be interpreted as incapable of ousting the constitutionally guaranteed s.24( 1) jurisdiction.
20. The courts below recognized that the appellant’s Charter claim makes out a valid Cause of action. The determination of an appropriate and just remedy is called for after such a case is heard on its merits. It should not be determined in advance by legislative fiat. As explained by this Court in Henry, once a claimant has made out a breach of his or her Charter rights and has demonstrated that an award of damages would serve a compensation, vindication or deterrence function, the onus then shifts to the state to rebut the claim based on countervailing considerations (the existence of alternative remedies and good governance considerations).14
21. The language of s. 24(1) of the Charter confers the widest possible discretion on a court to craft remedies for violations of Charter rights. Courts must be able to exercise wide discretion to fashion remedies that are just and appropriate to the particular violation. In Doucet-Boudreau, Iacobucci and Arbour JJ. stated:
The power of the superior courts under s. 24(1) to make appropriate and just orders to remedy infringements or denials of Charter rights is part of the supreme law of Canada. It follows that this remedial power cannot be strictly limited by statutes or rules of the common law. We note, however, that statutes and common law rules may be helpful to a court choosing a remedy under s. 24(1) insofar as the statutory provisions or common law rules express principles that are relevant to determining what is “appropriate and just in the circumstances”.5
22. Remedies cannot be illusory. For rights to be meaningful, violations of rights must be capable of being remedied. In Dunedin, this Honourable Court stated that “a right, no matter how [PAGE 20 AND 21 ARE MIXED UP IN THE PDF AT LINK] expansive in theory, is only as meaningful as the remedy provided for its breach.”16 An individual who has had a violation of his or her Charter rights must be allowed access to an effective remedy.
2015-10-09: Attorney General of British Columbia Response to the motion for leave to intervene: “The AGBC takes no position on this motion.”
… 21. The BCCLA will also address the related question of the role of limitation periods in the s. 24(1) analysis. Ravndahl v. Saskatchewan, 2009 SCC 7,  1 S.C.R. 181, loomed large in the Court of Appeal’s reasoning, as it was taken as authority for the proposition that the Legislature could limit personal Charter claims (at para. 26). There are two points in this regard. First, the BCCLA will explain why limitation periods could theoretically be regarded, at least in some circumstances, as defining what is “appropriate and just”. Second, the BCCLA will show that this Court has in fact never held that limitation periods extinguish Charter damages claims, and that the reasoning of the Alberta courts was to at least some extent based on a misreading of Ravndahl. …
22. Finally, with respect to the capacity in which this regulator acted, it is notable that the defendant here is an administrative tribunal, and potentially, there is a corresponding need to ensure the decision-making of such bodies remains independent and is not impeded by threats of damages claims, under the Charter or otherwise. The BCCLA will address the application of Mackin, Ward, and Henry in the administrative law context in particular, explaining why the Mackin rule provides sufficient protection for the work carried out by decision-makers such as the regulator in the present case, when acting as such. …
25. Although the BCCLA generally supports the position taken by Ms. Ernst, the content of the BCCLA’s analysis will strive to avoid duplication of the points made in the appellant’s factum, and to assist the Court by providing the BCCLA’s wider perspective on s. 24(1) of the Charter. …
29. Third, unlike Ms. Ernst, the BCCLA does not accept the lower courts’ premise that it is necessarily constitutionally legitimate to constrain Charter claims by way of limitation periods. The BCCLA’ s discussion of Ravndahl will be distinctive. [Emphasis added]
2015 09 11: Jessica Ernst’s Factum filed for Ernst vs AER at Supreme Court Canada
Appeal Record filed with Ernst’s Factum
Book of Authorities filed with Ernst’s Factum
The Attorney Generals must file their arguments for or against Ernst’s constitutional question until December 23, 2015. The question is:
Is s. 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10, constitutionally inapplicable or inoperable to the extent that it bars a claim against the regulator for a breach of s. 2( b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an application for a remedy under s. 24( 1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
2014 11: No Deference Without Independence, on Ernst losing in Alberta Courts against AER by: Jason MacLean, Assistant Professor, Lakehead University Faculty of Law
1 . Is s. 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10, constitutionally inapplicable or inoperable to the extent that it bars a claim against the regulator for a breach of s. 2( b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and an application for a remedy under s. 24( 1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? …
1. Any attorney general wishing to intervene pursuant to par. 61(4) of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada shall serve and file their factum and book of authorities on or before December 23, 2015.
2. Any interveners granted leave to intervene under Rule 59 of the Rules of the Supreme Court of Canada shall file and serve their factums and books of authorities on or before December 23, 2015.
June 12, 2015, Ernst filed with Supreme Court of Canada: Ernst Memorandum of Argument on Constitutional Questions, Response to Glenn Solomon, AER
June 5, 2015, AER filed with Supreme Court of Canada: Glenn Solomon, AER Response to Ernst Motion to State a Constitutional Question
May 29, 2015, Ernst filed with Supreme Court of Canada: MOTION TO THE CHIEF JUSTICE OR A JUDGE TO STATE A CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION, Jessica Ernst-Appellant
2015 04 30: GRANTED WITH COSTS / ACCORDÉES AVEC DÉPENS Press Release by Supreme Court of Canada
Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator (Alta.) (Civil) (By Leave) (36167)
The application for leave to appeal is granted with costs in the cause.
La demande d’autorisation d’appel est accueillie avec dépens selon l’issue de la cause.)
Coram: Abella / Karakatsanis / Côté
2015 01 11: Alberta courts stop publishing judgments to cut costs; Why not reduce the billions given to the oil and gas industry instead? [Some court links below may go nowhere. Time permitting, case judgements will be uploaded directly to the website.]
Que décidera la Cour Suprême? On saura après-demain si la Cour Suprême entendra l’appel de Jessica Ernst:
April 30, 2015, 9:45 AM (Ontario time), Ernst vs ERCB (now AER):
Press Release by Supreme Court of Canada / Cour suprême du Canada
(le français suit)
April 27, 2015
For immediate release
OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada announced today that judgment in the following applications for leave to appeal will be delivered at 9:45 a.m. EDT on Thursday, April 30, 2015. This list is subject to change.
PROCHAINS JUGEMENTS SUR DEMANDES D’AUTORISATION
Le 27 avril 2015
Pour diffusion immédiate
OTTAWA – La Cour suprême du Canada annonce que jugement sera rendu dans les demandes d’autorisation d’appel suivantes le jeudi 30 avril 2015, à 9 h 45 HAE. Cette liste est sujette à modifications.
7. Jessica Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator (Alta.) (Civil) (By Leave) (36167)
ROSEBUD, AB, March 31, 2015 /CNW/ – Plaintiff Jessica Ernst is raising serious concerns regarding blatant, widespread and systemic deficiencies in Encana’s disclosure of records, including Encana’s failure to disclose key records in a landmark lawsuit against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (now AER) regarding water contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing.
“To be frank, EnCana’s disclosure was embarrassingly pathetic – it was an incomplete, disorganized, error-laden, repetitive and insulting mess that wastes everyone’s time and money, including the Court’s,” said Jessica Ernst. “This is yet another example of the disrespect with which Encana treats regular Albertans, and a further indication of how difficult it is for individuals to stand up to large corporations in court.”
The blatantly deficient nature of the List of Records filed by EnCana will make it very difficult for the court to understand the case, and have the very real effect of causing considerable delay and increasing costs on all sides. According to the Foundational Rules of the Alberta Rules of Court, full disclosure of documents by parties named in a lawsuit “provide a means by which claims can be fairly and justly resolved in or by a court process in a timely and cost effective way.”
Most concerning are key documents that are missing from EnCana’s disclosure. In particular, Encana failed to disclose:
- records regarding hundreds of gas wells fractured in drinking water zones at Rosebud;
- the chemicals used by EnCana at hundreds of wells near Rosebud; and
- investigations into other contaminated water wells in the Rosebud Area.
Ms. Ernst’s lawyers have written to EnCana’s lawyers noting that in light of Encana’s “extraordinarily deficient disclosure,” the only reasonable solution is for EnCana to redo its disclosure of records. A copy of the letter outlining the severe and widespread deficiencies in detail can be found here.
For further information:
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:
Murray Klippenstein / Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288;
2015 03 27 Murray Klippenstein Letter to Maureen Killoran, Osler – Ernst v EnCana – Disclosure of Records:
2012 11 28: Power of Attorney Calgary managing partner for Osler Hoskin Harcourt, Maureen Killoran, lawyer representing Encana in the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit:
And, to be perfectly frank, when you do energy law, as I do, or corporate litigation, you’re not dealing with life and death situations and people whose lives have been turned upside down, plaintiffs who are weeping. It’s just about money. [Emphasis added]
Communiqué de presse
Rosebud, Alberta – Le 31 mars 2015 – La plaignante Jessica Ernst soulève des préoccupations sérieuses au sujet des déficiences flagrantes, généralisées et systémiques dans la divulgation des dossiers de la part d’Encana, dont la divulgation de documents clés dans le cas de jurisprudence contre Encana, Alberta Environment et le Energy Resources Conservation Board (maintenant AER) au sujet de la contamination de l’eau causée par la fracturation hydraulique.
“Pour être bien honnête, la divulgation d’Encana est franchement pathétique – elle est incomplète, désorganisée, pleines d’erreurs, répétitive et un gâchis insultant qui fait perdre le temps et de l’argent à tout le monde, incluant la Cour,” dit Jessica Ernst. “C’est un autre bel exemple du manque de respect qu’a Encana pour tous les Albertains ordinaires, et une autre signe qui illustre comment c’est difficile pour les individus de tenir tête à de larges corporations devant la cour.”
La nature déficiente si évidente de la List of Records déposée par Encana rendra les choses très difficiles pour la cour de comprendre le dossier, et a comme effet très réel de causer des délais considérables et augmenter les coûts pour tous les partis. Selon le Foundational Rules of the Alberta Rules of Court, une entière divulgation de documents par les partis nommés dans un procès “fournit les moyens pour qu’un cas soit résolu de manière équitable et juste en ou selon un procès de cour en temps opportun et selon un rapport coût/efficacité raisonnable.”
Les plus préoccupants sont des documents clés manquant dans la divulgation d’Encana. Notamment, Encana n’a pas dévoilé:
- les documents au sujet des centaines de puits de gaz fracturés dans des zones d’eau potable de Rosebud;
- les produits chimiques utilisés par Encana dans des centaines de puits près de Rosebud; et
- les enquêtes faites sur d’autres puits d’eau potable contaminés dans la région de Rosebud.
Les avocats de Mme Ernst ont écrit aux avocats d’Encana que vu la “divulgation extraordinairement déficiente” d’Encana, la seule solution serait qu’Encana refasse sa divulgation de dossiers. Une copie de la lettre exposant les déficiences sévères et généralisées en détails peut être consultée ici.
Comment un travail si évident d’insuffisance professionnelle et de si grande portée peut même être considéré comme étant acceptable pour nous le faire parvenir est incompréhensible. Peut-être qu’il s’agit de normes de qualité de travail si faibles de la part de quiconque aurait effectué ou supervisé cette tâche, ou le mépris envers une Albertaine ordinaire qui ose défier la puissante Encana, ou un placement semi-délibéré d’un obstacle aux tentatives de Mme Ernst d’emmener cette question devant la cour, ou une indifférence cavalière envers l’entente que vous avez faite ou les besoins de la cour, ou une certaine combinaison de tout cela. Ce n’est pas facile de trouver une quelconque justification raisonnable pour la livraison d’une version si manifestement déficiente d’une partie importante de cette poursuite. Dans tous les cas, vu la nature, le nombre et la sévérité de ces déficiences, la seule solution doit être qu’Encana refasse sa divulgation de ses documents de façon à ce qu’elle se conforme au Alberta Rules of Court et le Protocol Regarding Electronic Discovery comme il avait été convenu.
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:
Murray Klippenstein / Cory Wanless, (416) 598-0288;
Keywords Canadian charter (Non-criminal) – Constitutional law, Enforcement, Remedy, Freedom of expression (s. 2(b)).
Case summaries are prepared by the Office of the Registrar of the Supreme Court of Canada (Law Branch) for information purposes only.
Charter of Rights – Constitutional law – Enforcement – Remedy – Freedom of expression – Statutory immunity clause held to preclude adjudication of individual’s action in damages for alleged Charter breach by the regulator – Can a general “protection from action” clause contained within legislation bar a Charter claim for a personal remedy made pursuant to s. 24(1) of the Charter – Can legislation constrain what is considered to be a “just and appropriate” remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter – Vancouver (City) v. Ward, 2010 SCC 27,  2 S.C.R. 28.
The applicant owns land near Rosebud, Alberta. She brought an action against: i) EnCana Corporation for damage to her water well and the Rosebud aquifer allegedly caused by its construction, drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other activities in the area; ii) Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, claiming it owes her a duty to protect her water supply and had failed to address her complaints about EnCana; and iii) the respondent regulator, for “negligent administration of a regulatory regime” related to her claims against EnCana. She brought a further claim for damages against the regulator under s. 24(1) of the Charter for alleged breaches of her s. 2(b) Charter rights. She alleges that from November, 2005 to March 2007, the Board’s Compliance Branch refused to accept further communications from her through the usual channels for public communication until she agreed to raise her concerns only with the Board and not publicly through the media or through communications with other citizens. She submits the respondent infringed her s. 2(b) Charter rights both by restricting her communication with it and by using those restrictions to punish her for past public criticisms and prevent her making future public criticisms of the respondent.
The respondent brought an application to strike paragraphs from the Statement of Claim or grant summary judgment in its favour. The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta granted the application and struck out the applicant’s negligence and Charter claims. While the Court held that the Charter claims were not doomed to fail and did disclose a cause of action, it held that the courts were precluded from considering the claims by the statutory immunity provision in the Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. E-10. The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
36167 Jessica Ernst c. Alberta Energy Regulator
(Alb.) (Civile) (Sur autorisation)
Charte des droits – Droit constitutionnel – Exécution – Réparation – Liberté d’expression – Il a été jugé qu’une disposition législative accordant l’immunité empêchait de trancher une action en dommages-intérêts fondée sur une violation de la Charte censément commise par l’organisme de règlementation – Une disposition accordant une protection générale contre les actions prévue dans la loi rend-elle irrecevable une demande de réparation personnelle faite en application du par. 24(1) de la Charte ? – Une loi peut-elle restreindre ce qui est considéré comme une réparation « convenable et juste » au sens du par. 24(1) de la Charte ? – Vancouver (Ville) c. Ward, 2010 CSC 27,  2 R.C.S 28.
La demanderesse est propriétaire d’un bien-fonds à Rosebud (Alberta). Elle a intenté une action contre i) EnCana Corporation, pour des dommages à son puits d’eau et à l’aquifère de Rosebud, censément causés par les activités que l’entreprise exerce dans la région, notamment ses activités de construction, de forage et de fracturation hydraulique, ii) Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, alléguant que ce ministère avait envers elle une obligation de protéger son approvisionnement en eau et qu’il avait omis de donner suite à ses plaintes au sujet d’EnCana et iii) l’organisme de réglementation intimé, pour [traduction] « négligence dans l’administration d’un régime de réglementation » en lien avec ses réclamations contre EnCana. Elle a en outre présenté une demande en dommages-intérêts contre l’organisme de réglementation en application du par. 24(1) de la Charte pour de présumées atteintes aux droits que lui garantit l’al. 2b) de la Charte . Selon la demanderesse, de novembre 2005 à mars 2007, la Direction de la conformité de l’organisme intimé avait refusé d’accepter d’autres communications de sa part par les canaux habituels de communication publique jusqu’à ce qu’elle accepte de ne faire part de ses préoccupations qu’à l’organisme, et non publiquement par les médias ou par des communications avec d’autres citoyens. Elle prétend que l’intimé a porté atteinte aux droits que lui garantit l’al. 2b) de la Charte en restreignant ses communications avec l’organisme et en utilisant ces restrictions pour la punir de ses critiques antérieures et l’empêcher de formuler d’autres critiques publiques de l’intimé.
L’intimé a présenté une demande pour obtenir la radiation de certains paragraphes de la déclaration ou un jugement sommaire en sa faveur. La Cour du Banc de la Reine de l’Alberta a accueilli la demande et a radié les réclamations pour négligence et les réclamations fondées sur la Charte présentées par la demanderesse. Même si la Cour a statué que les réclamations fondées sur la Charte n’étaient pas vouées à l’échec et qu’elles révélaient effectivement une cause d’action, elle a statué que les tribunaux ne pouvaient connaître des réclamations en raison de la disposition législative accordant l’immunité, prévue dans l’Energy Resources Conservation Act, R.S.A. 2000, ch. E-10. La Cour d’appel de l’Alberta a rejeté l’appel.
19 septembre 2013: Cour du Banc de la Reine de l’Alberta (Juge Wittmann) 2013 ABQB 537
Décision accueillant la demande de l’intimé en radiation des réclamations en négligence portées contre lui; radiation ou rejet des réclamations de la demanderesse afin d’obtenir une réparation personnelle pour violation de la Charte
15 septembre 2014: Cour d’appel de l’Alberta (Calgary) (Juges Côté, Watson et Slatter)
2014 ABCA 285; 1301-0346-AC
Rejet de l’appel
13 novembre 2014: Cour suprême du Canada
Dépôt de la demande d’autorisation d’appel
February 9, 2015: Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, Justice Andromache Karakatsanis and Justice Suzanne Côté to review Ernst’s application for leave (to decide if the court will hear her case).
In Montréal, Suzanne Côté is trumpeted by several peers as being “very strong” in her commercial, insolvency, and securities practice. Côté is defending Université de Montréal, Vivendi Canada, and École Polytechnique de Montréal, and Hydro-Québec in a class action challenging pension plan and retiree benefit program amendments and calculations. … The firm is also recognized for its blossoming Calgary office, where a “noticeably younger” team of litigators attends to matters concerning Alberta’s flourishing oil and gas markets as well as technology providers, insurers and corporate officers. … In the energy litigation capacity, Maureen Killoran is also thought of by peers as “bright, strong, and capable.” Killoran’s clients include EnCana, which Killoran represents in several matters, including a public prosecution by the Federal Government for an alleged breach of the Canada Wildlife Act, as well as an action brought against the client by a landowner for alleged damages caused by fracking. [Emphasis added]
2014 11 27: Suzanne Côté is a partner and head of the Montréal litigation practice at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP – firm representing Encana in the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit.
2014 05 09: Ernst Argues Alberta’s Energy Regulator (AER) Not Immune to Charter [Encana’s Ex VP Gerard Protti is Chair of the AER]
… Ernst’s lawyer Murray Klippenstein argued yesterday that no government or province can legislate themselves out of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights, on which Ernst’s claim is based. He called the Charter “the supreme law of the land.”
He argued that Ernst’s right to freedom of expression was breached in 2005 when the regulator sent her a letter accusing her of making “criminal threats.” It informed her that regulator staff had been told “to avoid any further contact” with Ernst.
A letter by Ernst seeking clarification on that decision and what basis it was made was refused by the board and returned unopened. …
In a taped conversation in June 2006 with ERCB lawyer Rick McKee, McKee said that “criminal threats” were never an issue, but that the board was upset with the landowner for airing her grievances in public and therefore embarrassing the regulator.*
“What you are doing is, hey, I don’t want to make it sound like people are a bunch of sensitive, you know, but at the end of the day, you are, you seem to be, attempting to humiliate the organization. And if that is your intention good on you, but don’t expect us to help you,” McKee told Ernst.
(The Tyee has heard the recording, read the transcripts and checked with actual witnesses. The incident is detailed in the original statement of claim.)
“Jessica is fighting for the welfare of the public in general,” said Shawn Campbell, a semi-retired 65-year-old rancher from Ponoka, Alberta. “To me, the issue is government transparency, and we have none of it. They’re in the deepest closet they can find.”
January 30, 2015: the Alberta Government filed their Statement of Defence:
34. Further, and in the alternative, if the Plaintiff did incur any loss or damages as
alleged in the statement of claim, or at all, which the Province does not admit but rather denies, then any such loss or damages were caused solely or substantially contributed to by the negligence of EnCana, for which the Province is not liable.
January 15, 2015, the Alberta Government suddenly announced it had other unexpected issues arise and was unable to file its Statement of Defence by mid-January, as promised in 2014.
“Triple costs” the court ordered the Alberta government to pay (works out to much less than what Ernst had to pay to fight Environment’s third and “improper” attack on the case):
Fees: $ 7,500.00
Disbursements: $ 230.10
Other Charges: $ 366.00
GST: $ 408.81
TOTAL: $ 8,500.91
(On January 20, 2015, the government, with banks full of cash they do not need to account for – according to AER’s lawyer Mr Glenn Solomon, finally paid Ernst these costs. The ruling was dated November 7, 2014)
COMPARE: So far, the court ordered (even though the case is clearly in the public interest) Ernst to pay industry, aka the ERCB (AER, 100% funded by industry, headed by Ex-Encana VP Gerard Protti) $21,840.79 for Mr. Solomon’s costs. Ernst paid as ordered to.
ROSEBUD, AB, Nov 10, 2014 /CNW/ – The Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta has ruled that Alberta Environment can be sued for failing to properly investigate and remediate water contamination allegedly caused by Encana’s hydraulic fracturing activities near Rosebud, Alberta.
“This is a big victory for water and for all Albertans. The decision means that landowners can stand up and hold governments and regulators to account if they fail in their duty to properly investigate environmental contamination” said Rosebud resident and plaintiff Jessica Ernst.
Alberta Environment argued in court it didn’t owe a “private duty of care” to individual landowners when investigating causes of groundwater contamination that left wells so polluted with methane and other contaminants that the water could (and still can) be lit on fire. In other words, the regulator argued that individual landowners couldn’t try to hold government legally responsible for negligent investigations of environmental contamination, no matter how faulty. The Court disagreed. Chief Justice Wittmann ruled that “[w]hile this is a novel claim, I find there is a reasonable prospect Ernst will succeed in establishing that Alberta owed her a prima facie duty of care.”
In addition to ruling in favour of Ms. Ernst on all key points, Chief Justice Wittmann took the rare step of ordering the government to pay triple Ms. Ernst’s legal costs for the improper manner in which her claim was attacked.
“Ernst was wholly successful in responding to this Application. … These arguments could have been raised as part of Alberta’s first application, but were not. Ernst was put to the time and expense of two applications, not one. … As a result of these considerations Ernst shall have her costs against Alberta fixed at triple [the regular rate]”
For further information:
Communiqué de presse
La cour statue qu’Alberta Environment peut se faire poursuivre pour n’avoir pas correctement enquêté une contamination de l’eau à Rosebud, en Alberta, et ne pas avoir pris des mesures d’assainissement.
Rosebud, Alberta (10 novembre 2014) – Le juge en chef de la Cour du Banc de la Reine en Alberta a statué qu’Environment Alberta peut se faire poursuivre pour ne pas avoir correctement fait enquête d’une contamination de l’eau, et ne pas avoir pris des mesures d’assainissement suite à une contamination présumément causée par des activités de fracturation hydraulique faites par Encana près de Rosebud, en Alberta.
“Ceci est une grande victoire pour l’eau et pour tous les Albertains. La décision veut dire que les propriétaires terriens peuvent forcer les gouvernements et les régulateurs à prendre leurs responsabilités s’ils manquent à leurs obligations d’enquêter adéquatement les contaminations environnementales” dit la résidente de Rosebud et plaignante Jessica Ernst.
Environment Alberta soutenait en cour qu’il ne devait pas de “devoir privé de protection” envers les propriétaires terriens individuels lors d’enquêtes sur les causes de contaminations d’eau souterraine qui rendaient l’eau de puits si pollués avec du méthane et d’autres contaminants que l’on pouvait (et l’on peut encore) faire brûler l’eau. En d’autres mots, le régulateur soutenait que les propriétaires terriens individuels ne pouvaient pas essayer de rendre le gouvernement légalement responsable pour des enquêtes négligentes sur des contaminations environnementales, peut importe la gravité. La Cour n’est pas d’accord. Le juge en chef Wittmann a statué que “bien que ce soit une nouvelle réclamation, je crois qu’il y a une perspective raisonnable que Ernst réussira à établir que l’Alberta lui devait à première vue un devoir de protection.”
En plus de statuer en faveur de Mme Ernst sur tous les points-clés, fait rare, le juge en chef Wittmann a ordonné au gouvernement de payer les coûts légaux de Mme Ernst en triple pour la façon incorrecte qu’on a attaqué sa réclamation.
“Ernst a réussi complètement à répondre à cette Application…. Ces arguments auraient pu être soulevés lors de la première application, mais cela n’a pas été fait. On a obligé Ernst de prendre le temps et rencontrer les coûts de deux applications, pas seulement une….Suite à ces considérations, Ernst verra ses coûts contre l’Alberta triplés (du tarif régulier).”
Happy Thanks Giving, View from Ernst property October 10, 2014
Last Stop for High Profile Fracking Suit: Supreme Court, In striking Ernst appeal, Alberta court wraps blanket of immunity around regulator by Andrew Nikiforuk, September 16, 2014, TheTyee.ca
The Alberta Court of Appeal has effectively ruled that one of the nation’s most powerful regulators can violate the nation’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms by banishing citizens and falsely branding them as a security threats.
ROSEBUD, ALBERTA–(September 15, 2014) The Alberta Court of Appeal ruled today [Ruling later removed from Alberta Courts. Click here for the ruling] that Alberta’s key energy regulator cannot be sued by citizens – even if it breaches constitutional rights. In a judgment released today in a landmark lawsuit by Jessica Ernst against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB, now AER) regarding water contamination caused by fracing, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled that the Alberta government had granted complete and total legal immunity to Alberta’s key regulator, the ERCB, against all legal claims, including for violations of constitutional rights.
The Court also ruled that the ERCB does not owe any legally enforceable duties to protect individual landowners from the harmful effects of fracing, after the ERCB argued in court that it had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” and therefore Albertans simply could not sue the ERCB, no matter how badly they were harmed by the ERCB’s acts or failures to act.
Ms. Ernst will seek leave to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“I think Albertans will be disturbed to learn that their energy regulator has total and blanket legal immunity, even in cases where the regulator has breached the fundamental and constitutional free speech rights of a landowner,” said Murray Klippenstein, lead legal counsel for Ms. Ernst.
“I’ll be seeking leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court. These are critical issues that affect all Canadians,” said Jessica Ernst. “I will continue to fight for what’s right.”
The lawsuit against Alberta Environment and Encana continues.
Australian Petroleum Association: Coal seam damage to water inevitable by The Sydney Morning Herald, August 3, 2011.
The coal seam gas industry has conceded that extraction will inevitably contaminate aquifers. “Drilling will, to varying degrees, impact on adjoining aquifers,” said the spokesman, Ross Dunn. “The intent of saying that is to make it clear that we have never shied away from the fact that there will be impacts on aquifers,” Mr Dunn said.
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers: Coal bed methane operations contaminate water resources by The Calgary Herald, August 28, 2014
Yet CAPP’s Alex Ferguson says many worries about water quality are based on past operations involving coal-bed methane — shallow deposits in closer proximity to groundwater. These did occasionally contaminate water resources, he says. In some of the more infamous instances, affected landowners could light their well water on fire.
Alex Ferguson was appointed Commissioner and CEO of the BC Oil and Gas Commission from 2007-2011
“That’s actually fairly common.”
EnCana VP, Mr. Gerard Protti (appointed Chair of the AER by the government in 2013) in a 2006 interview about Ernst’s water.
A Partial Time Tracker:
Four months and 2 week (18 weeks) since Court of Appeal of Alberta heard arguments on May 8, 2014 regarding the Court of Queen’s Bench granting the ERCB complete legal immunity, even for violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
2012 Justice Barbara Veldhuis states – too much information; 2014 Court of Appeal of Alberta Justices state – not enough information:
April 2012: Justice Veldhuis requests a shorter Statement of Claim;
Klippenstein states in court that in his experience, courts will inevitably ask for more information. Ernst cooperates and fulfills the request for a shortened Claim.
May 2014: the Court of Appeal of Alberta Justices complain there wasn’t more information in the shortened Statement of Claim, and inquire about the ERCB’s Statement of Defence (to date, the ERCB has not filed one).
Seven months and one week (29 weeks) since Court of Queen’s Bench heard arguments in Drumheller on April 16, 2014 on Alberta Environment’s Motion to Strike (after 3 years of process already and their failed application to strike the word contamination and mention of other contaminated water wells at Rosebud), and the regulator’s secret editing of Dr. Alec (Alexander) Blyth’s “independent” report dismissing the contamination of Ernst’s well water.
Document exchange dates ordered: On April 16, 2014, Justice Wittmann requested document exchange between Ernst and Encana, saying there is no need to wait until the matters of the other defendants are ruled on. For months, Encana wouldn’t even agree to schedule a case management phone call. On July 14, 2014, Justice Wittmann ordered Ernst to give Encana her documents by October 31, 2014 and Encana to give Ernst its documents by December 19, 2014. Encana argued that it should not have to give any documents until the matters of the Alberta government and ERCB are resolved. August 2014, Encana finally agrees to cooperate with the document exchange protocol, accepting searchable, manageable, usable PDFs.
It took nearly 9 months (35 weeks) for Court of Queen’s Bench to rule on the January 18, 2013 hearing: ERCB motion to strike and Alberta Environment motion to remove the word contamination and mention of other contaminated water wells in Rosebud.
It took a year to set the first hearing on April 26, 2012, where Justice Veldhuis requested a shorter statement of claim. It took 7 months to set the January 18, 2013 hearing. It took another 7 months from Justice Wittmann’s September 19, 2013 ruling to get to the third hearing, on April 16, 2014.
It took 2 years and 4 months for Encana to file statement of defence.
The ERCB and Alberta Government did not file statements of defence.
It took 4 years to get the data from the Alberta Research Council (now Alberta Innovates) on the water contamination cases under Freedom of Information legislation, ordered released by OIP Commissioner’s Office after a year and half in inquiry. The public baseline water well testing data remains withheld even though it was ordered released to Ernst.
The ERCB (now AER) chose not to file a Notice of Cross Appeal but argues an additional and novel issue in direct opposition to the finding of Justice Wittmann, that Ernst’s Charter claim is not valid because, it is argued, the ERCB did not limit the Appellant’s right to free expression. This issue was not raised in the Notice of Appeal, the Appellant’s Factum or any Notice of Cross Appeal.
April 16, 2014: Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General intervenes against Ernst in appeal of ERCB Charter violation
Court sketch, Ernst v. Alberta Government.
An Alberta government lawyer argued in court this week that Jessica Ernst’s lawsuit on hydraulic fracturing and groundwater contamination should be struck down on the grounds that it would open a floodgate of litigation against the province.
“There could be millions or billions of dollars worth of damages,” argued Crown counsel Neil Boyle.
Seven years ago, oil patch consultant Ernst sued Alberta Environment, the Energy Resources Conservation Board and Encana, one of Canada’s largest shale gas drillers, over the contamination of her well water and the failure of government authorities to properly investigate the contamination.
The $33-million lawsuit alleges that Encana was negligent in the fracking of shallow coal seams; that the ERCB breached Ernst’s freedoms under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that Alberta Environment performed a problem-plagued investigation in bad faith.
The case, which effectively puts the performance of the province’s oil and gas regulators on trial, has drawn international attention.
The Alberta government made the application to strike the entire claim after Chief Justice Neil Wittmann ruled last fall that that lawsuit against Encana and Alberta Environment could proceed, but that the ERCB (now Alberta Energy Regulator) was exempt from civil action due to an immunity clause.
In Jan. 2013, Alberta Environment tried unsuccessfully to delete the word “contamination” as well as several clauses from the lawsuit that specifically mentioned other polluted water wells in central Alberta.
Justice Wittmann had trouble following the coherence of the government argument to strike the claim in the crowded Drumheller courtroom.
He noted that Boyle’s line of reasoning, which argued that the Crown owed no private duty of care to landowners, suggested that Alberta Environment would have to be negligent all the time before it could ever be found liable.
Boyle also argued that immunity clauses in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act and the Water Act shielded the province from any civil action. But questions from Wittman made it clear that these immunity clauses were not strong and only included actions taken “in good faith.”
Justice Wittmann also questioned Ernst’s lawyer Murray Klippenstein about the government’s filing of a report by the Alberta Research Council that dismissed Ernst’s water well case as insignificant. The government claimed the report was an independent review that proved there was no merit in the Ernst case.
Klippenstein argued that such a filing of evidence was inappropriate at this time. He also submitted a collection of Alberta Environment emails obtained through freedom of information legislation that he argued show the Alberta Research Council report was edited by Alberta Environment and not an independent review.
Justice Wittmann allowed the submissions in the event of an appeal.
ALBERTA REGULATOR’S SECRET EDITING EMAILS, PROVING THE ALBERTA RESEARCH COUNCIL REPORTS FRAUDULENT:
April 16, 2014: Drumheller Court of Queen’s Bench Hearing on the Alberta Government’s Application to strike out the Ernst case against them.
Duty of Care Chart presented by Klippensteins in the hearing:
2014 04 02: Reply Brief by Alberta government (Alberta Environment) to Jessica Ernst’s Brief of Argument in response to the government’s Application to Strike
17. … Similar to a criminal investigation, the province is obliged to provide information to the party being investigated (EnCana), so that this party may respond, but the complainant (similar to a victim in a crime), does not necessarily participate actively in the investigation or have any rights in this regard.
2014 01 18: Hearing Transcripts arguments on Applications to Strike by the Alberta Government (Alberta Environment) and ERCB (now AER) heard by Justice Barbara Veldhuis (promoted off the case by the Harper government on February 8, 2013; Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Neil Wittmann volunteered to take over).
The approach taken by Alberta Environment is an abuse of process; the present Application should be dismissed, and further, Alberta Environment should be sanctioned with an award of substantial indemnity costs. There is ample case law holding that, barring special circumstances, a party should be allowed only one chance to attack an opponent’s pleadings.
February 18, 2014: Alberta Government Brief filed for Application to Strike the Ernst case against the Crown, claiming no private duty of care, no proximity, and immunity. The Crown waited nearly three years to argue such and Justice Wittmann allowed it (case management phone call, January 13, 2014). The hearing is set for April 16, 2014 in Drumheller Court of Queen’s Bench.
February 3, 2014: Ernst’s Appeal Factum (Appeal Number 1301-0346AC) filed in the Alberta Court of Appeal in Calgary. Hearing set for May 8, 2014.
January 30, 2014: Alberta government files Application to strike out the Ernst case against the Crown.
January 13, 2014 Case management call: Justice Wittmann returned the case to where by law it belongs – in Drumheller Court.
December 19, 2013: Alberta Court of Appeal approved our proposed schedule with minor changes. The approved schedule is as follows:
January 17, 2014 – Appellant to file and serve Appeal Record
February 5, 2014 – Appellant to file and serve Appellant’s materials
March 24, 2014 – ERCB (name changed to AER) to file and serve the ERCB’s materials
May 8, 2014 – Hearing (Calgary)
December 10, 2013: Notice of Appeal to the Court of Appeal filed and served on the defendants.
(French translation of advisory below)
The practice of hydraulic fracturing – injecting fluids (gases or liquids, sand and toxic chemicals) under high pressure to shatter deep and shallow rock to stimulate hydrocarbons to flow – has raised serious economic, political, legal, health and environmental issues around the world.
In a judgment recently released by the Alberta Court of Queen’s bench, Chief Justice Neil Wittmann ruled on the first skirmishes in a landmark multi-million dollar claim by Jessica Ernst against EnCana, Alberta Environment and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) regarding water contamination caused by fraccing.
Key parts of the judgment include:
The court rejected the Government of Alberta’s attempt to attack portions of the lawsuit, thereby paving the way for the claim against the Government of Alberta to proceed.
Justice Wittmann agreed there were valid claims asserted against the ERCB for breaching Ms. Ernst’s fundamental and constitutional right to freedom of expression. The court also found “the ERCB cannot rely on its argument on the Weibo eco-terrorism claim, in the total absence of evidence. There is none.” However, the court found that the Alberta government had granted complete immunity to the ERCB for all legal claims, including for breaches of constitutional rights.
Chief Justice Wittmann ruled the ERCB does not owe any legally enforceable duties to protect individual landowners from the harmful effects of fraccing, after the ERCB argued in court it had total immunity for “not only negligence, but gross negligence, bad faith and even deliberate acts,” and therefore Albertans simply could not sue the ERCB, no matter how badly they were harmed by the ERCB’s acts. Ms. Ernst was ordered to pay the ERCB’s costs.
Ms. Ernst has instructed her legal counsel to appeal the decision to dismiss the lawsuit against the ERCB.
“I think Albertans will be disturbed to learn that their energy regulator has total and blanket immunity, even in cases where the regulator has breached the fundamental and constitutional free speech rights of a landowner,” said Murray Klippenstein, lead legal counsel for Ms. Ernst.
“It is very worrying that citizens are unable to hold the energy regulator accountable for failing to protect citizens from the harmful impacts of fraccing,” said Cory Wanless, co-counsel for Ms. Ernst. “If the energy regulator won’t protect citizens, who will?”
For more information, including Encana’s Statement of Defence, refer below:
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:
(416) 598-0288 or (416) 937-8634
(416) 598-0288 or (647) 886-1914
Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074
COMMUNIQUÉ DE PRESSE
Le juge en chef rejette l’attaque du gouvernement de l’Alberta dans le dossier de contamination de l’eau de Rosebud, mais écarte l’action contre le ERCB, le régulateur énergétique principal de l’Alberta.
La pratique de la fracturation hydraulique, qui consiste à injecter des fluides ( des gaz ou des liquides, du sable et des produits chimiques toxiques) sous haute pression afin de fissurer le roc profond et en surface afin de stimuler les hydrocarbures pour qu’ils se libèrent, a soulevé de sérieux questionnements économiques, politiques, légaux, environnementaux et sanitaires partout sur la planète.
Dans une décision judiciaire rendue dernièrement par la cour du banc de la Reine en Alberta, le juge en chef Neil Wittmann a statué sur les premiers accrochages dans une réclamation clé de plusieurs millions de dollars enclanchée par Jessica Ernst contre EnCana, Alberta Environment et l’agence Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), au sujet d’une contamination de l’eau causée par le fracking.
Les éléments principaux du procès sont:
La cour a rejeté la tentative du Gouvernement de l’Alberta d’attaquer des parties du procès, ainsi ouvrant la porte à la réclamation contre le Gouvernement de l’Alberta pour qu’elle se poursuive.
Le Juge Wittmann convient qu’il y a des réclamations valides contre le ERCB pour avoir enfreint aux droits fondamentaux et constitutionnels de liberté d’expression de Mme Ernst. La cour a aussi conclu que “le ERCB ne peut pas se fier sur son argumentaire dans sa réclamation d’écoterrorisme à la Weibo, à cause de l’absence totale de preuves. Il n’y en a pas.” Toutefois, la cour a constaté que le gouvernement de l’Alberta a accordé une immunité complète à l’agence ERCB de toute réclamation légale, incluant des violations aux droits constitutionnels.
Le juge en chef Wittmann a statué que le ERCB n’a pas de devoirs légalement imposables pour protéger les propriétaires terriens individuels des impacts nuisibles du fracking, après que le ERCB ait argumenté à la cour qu’il bénéficiait d’une immunité totale pour “non seulement de la négligence, mais de la négligence grave, de la mauvaise foi et même des actes délibérés,” et donc les Albertains ne peuvent simplement pas poursuivre le ERCB, peu importe l’importance des dommages encourus à cause des gestes du ERCB. Mme Ernst a reçu les ordres de payer les coûts du ERCB.
Mme Ernst a demandé à ses avocats d’aller en appel de la décision de rejeter le procès contre le ERCB.
“Je crois que les Albertains seront troublés d’apprendre que leur régulateur énergétique jouit d’une immunité totale et générale, même dans des cas où le régulateur a enfreint aux droits fondamentaux et constitutionnels d’un propriétaire terrien,” dit Murray Klippenstein, le conseiller juridique principal de Mme Ernst.
“C’est très préoccupant de constater que les citoyens sont incapables de forcer le régulateur énergétique de rendre des comptes pour avoir manqué à la protection des citoyens contre les impacts nocifs du fracking,” dit Cory Wanless, coconseil de Mme Ernst. “Si le régulateur énergétique ne veut pas protéger les citoyens, qui le fera?”
Pour plus d’information, dont la requête de défense d’Encana: http://www.ernstversusencana.ca/the-lawsuit
Klippensteins Barristers & Solicitors:
(416) 598-0288 ou (416) 937-8634
(416) 598-0288 ou (647) 886-1914
Jessica Ernst: 1-403-677-2074
September 16, 2013 Ernst files reply to Encana’s Statement of Defence
August 19, 2013: Encana files Statement of Defence
Encana did not file their Statement of Defence by June 15, 2013 as promised because “a few of their key people are on vacation.”
Mid-May, 2013, Encana promised to file their statement of defence no later than June 15, 2013.
On an April 15, 2013 case management call, Chief Justice Wittmann introduced himself to the parties, advised that he will rule on the January 18, 2013 hearing (heard by Judge Veldhuis) by reading the filed briefs and transcripts, may request a hearing if he has questions, and asked EnCana if there was any reason why the company couldn’t file their statement of defence. Encana failed to come up with a good reason, so they agreed to file it right away.
On a February 20, 2013 case management call, it was decided that Chief Justice Wittmann will choose whether to read the transcripts of the arguments heard by Justice Veldhuis on January 18 and rule, or require a re-hearing which will add significant delay and costs.
On February 8, 2013, the Harper Government promoted Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis to the Court of Appeal of Alberta; she will not rule on the defendants’ applications she heard in Court of Queen’s Bench on January 18, 2013. Court of Queen’s Bench Chief Justice Neil Wittmann volunteered to take over case management.
Ernst Statement to the Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench, read by Murray Klippenstein, January 18, 2013, heard by Justice Barbara L. Veldhuis:
I wanted to attend today’s hearing, but I decided not to attend because I feel strongly that my lawsuit should be heard in the judicial district of Drumheller as it is the courthouse with the closest connection to my dispute. This is where I live; this is where my water is; this is where coalbed methane wells were drilled; and this is where my water is contaminated. It seems to me that it is important to rural Albertans that disputes and harms that occur in our communities are also judged in our communities. Today’s application is not a minor or merely procedural step – it will determine the core issue of whether a landowner can sue the Energy Regulator for failing to protect rural Albertans from the harmful effects of the oil and gas industry.
I have a lot of respect for the court, and because of this respect, I feel it is important to make my position known. I will continue to request that all major applications be heard in Drumheller with the closest connection to my dispute.
Jessica at Drumheller Court, 10 AM, January 18, 2013. Jessica spent the day there, with a witness. Video of the hearing in Calgary Court was not available, requested or the heart of the matter.
On January 18, 2013, in Calgary Court of Queen’s Bench, Judge B. L. Veldhuis heard the defendants’ applications.
Read the original full Statement of Claim filed in Drumheller Court April 21, 2011.
In the summer of 2011, Encana suggests that the case be moved to Calgary. Klippensteins respond by explaining to all defendants why it is best to proceed in the Drumheller judicial centre, which is where the harm took place.
On April 26, 2012, the first hearing took place in Drumheller Court. Rather than hear the defendants’ arguments to strike out the case, Judge Veldhuis requests a shortened statement of claim.
Read the Fresh Statement of Claim filed in Drumheller Court on June 25, 2012.
On October 1, 2012, during a case management call heard by Justice B.L. Veldhuis, Encana, the ERCB and Alberta Environment (HMQ) request the case be moved to Calgary for the convenience of the defendants’ lawyers despite the fact that Drumheller is clearly the court with the closest connections to the lawsuit.
Alberta Environment (HMQ): “It clearly tips in favour of the defendants’ position, that it ought to be in Calgary and not in Drumheller”
Encana’s Drumheller Office
Subsequently, the request to move this particular hearing to Calgary is granted by Judge Veldhuis and Alberta’s Chief Justice. The Plaintiff respectfully requests that all major applications be heard in Drumheller as it is the judicial district where the harm took place.
Read the ERCB’s Brief of Argument to strike the case against them, filed in Drumheller Court December 5, 2012.
Read Alberta Environment’s (HMQ’s) Brief of Argument on the Special Application to strike paragraphs referring to the other contaminated water wells in the Rosebud community and the word contamination, filed in Drumheller Court on December 5, 2012.
Encana did not file application to strike the case against them or any paragraphs, and argued nothing in court.
Read the Plaintiff’s Brief in Response to the ERCB, filed in Drumheller Court on December 21, 2012.
Read the Plaintiff’s Brief in Response to Alberta Environment (HMQ), filed in Drumheller Court on December 21, 2012.
December 15, 2012 – Encana frac’ing above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud, Alberta
Landmark Alberta Fracking Lawsuit Resumes in Calgary Court
Alberta’s Key Regulator Argues It Has No Duty of Care to Landowners and Groundwater
Friday Jan. 18 at Court of Queen’s Bench
Suite 705-N, 601 – 5th St SW, Calgary T2P 5P7
10 AM to 4 PM
Jessica Ernst, a 55-year-old oil and gas industry consultant and scientist from Rosebud, Alberta, returns to court this Friday to continue her multi-million dollar lawsuit against EnCana, one of the continent’s largest unconventional gas producers, for negligence causing water contamination.
Her landmark lawsuit also alleges that the Alberta Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), the province’s energy regulator, breached her Charter Rights and failed to “exercise a reasonable standard of care, skill and diligence in taking reasonable and adequate steps to protect her well water from foreseeable contamination caused by drilling for shallow methane gas.”
Recent Court of Appeal decisions show the ERCB has a history of not upholding its own laws and even the Royal Society of Canada chided the agency for a 2007 incident in which the regulator spied on landowners and damaged “its credibility as an independent quasi-judicial board.”
In a court document filed on December 5/2012, the ERCB argues that it is exempt from liability for its actions in the Ernst case and that it owes no “duty of care” to landowners impacted by oil and gas development.
“I suspect that most Albertans will be shocked to learn that the province’s oil and gas regulator is arguing that it is totally immune from legal accountability even if there is gross negligence and incompetence,” says Murray Klippenstein, lawyer for Jessica Ernst.
Last December, an ERCB investigation found a company guilty of “accidentally” perforating above the Base of Groundwater Protection and contaminating groundwater near Grand Prairie but issued no fine saying the incident “posed an insignificant risk to drinking water resources” in a sandstone aquifer. One third of Alberta’s population is dependent on groundwater for drinking purposes.
During the last decade, EnCana intentionally perforated and fractured hundreds of gas wells above the Base of Groundwater Protection at Rosebud. The regulators continue to allow EnCana to do this.
In December 2012, only after about 171,000 energy wells were already fractured in Alberta, did the ERCB release draft regulations. Public input closes the day of this hearing on January 18, 2013.
The $33-million lawsuit effectively puts on trial the practice and regulation of hydraulic fracturing: the controversial blasting of both shallow and deep coal, tight sands, oil and shale formations with toxic chemicals, sand and water.
The poorly studied technology, which can cause earthquakes and methane leaks, has sparked moratoriums, bans, debates and regulatory investigations from New Brunswick to South Africa due to growing concerns about groundwater contamination, property devaluation, air pollution, health impacts and climate change.
Neither EnCana nor the Alberta regulators have yet filed statements of defense on incidents that took place nine years ago that resulted in scores of groundwater complaints.
EnCana, whose CEO abruptly resigned last week, has been the subject of many recent public controversies. It remains the subject of a major US government groundwater study in Pavillion, Wyoming linking hydraulic fracturing to aquifer contamination as well as an ongoing antitrust investigation in Michigan for allegedly colluding with Chesapeake Energy to keep land prices low. A grassroots organization of mothers has also challenged the company’s aggressive fracing operations in Colorado.
Murray Klippenstein: 1-416-937-8634
A 2008 scientific review panel report for Alberta Environment warned that “preliminary data from the Rosebud, Alberta area suggest groundwater gas concentrations are being underestimated by a factor of three.”
A 2008 presentation to the International Wellbore Intergrity Network in Paris, France, co-authored by the ERCB, admitted “high pressure fracturing” increased the potential to create pathways to groundwater, and “the likelihood that gas, due to migration through shallow zones, can accumulate in buildings.”
A 2009 paper also co-authored by the ERCB on gas migration being a chronic problem reports that “high buildup pressures may potentially force gas into underground water aquifers” and that the factors affecting gas leakage and migration “can be generalized and applied to other basins and/or jurisdictions.”
November 14, 2012 – EnCana spraying drilling waste at Rosebud
Procès marquant reprend à la cour de Calgary, en Alberta
Un régulateur clé de l’Alberta prétend qu’il n’a pas le devoir de protection envers les propriétaires terriens et l’eau souterraine
Vendredi le 18 janvier à la Cour du Banc de la Reine
Suite 705–N, 601 – 5e Rue SO, Calgary T2P 5P7
10:00 heures à 16:00 heures
Jessica Ernst, une consultante pour l’industrie pétrolière et gazière et scientifique de Rosebud en Alberta, âgée de 55 ans, revient devant le tribunal ce vendredi pour continuer son procès de plusieurs millions de dollars contre EnCana, l’un des plus important producteurs de gaz non conventionnel du continent, à cause de négligence qui aurait causé de la contamination de l’eau.
Son procès important prétend aussi que la commission Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) de l’Alberta, le régulateur de l’énergie de la province, aurait violé sa Charte de Droits et aurait manqué à son devoir “d’exercer une norme raisonnable de protection, compétences et diligence en prenant des mesures raisonnables et adéquates pour protéger son eau de puits de la contamination prévisible causée en forant à la recherche de gaz de méthane peu profond.”
Des décisions récentes de la cour d’appel démontrent que la ERCB a une historique de ne pas faire respecter ses propres lois et même la Société royale du Canada a réprimandé l’agence pour un incident de 2007 durant lequel le régulateur a espionné sur des propriétaires terriens et nuit à “sa crédibilité en tant qu’une commission indépendante quasi judiciaire.”
Dans un document de la cour déposé le 5 décembre 2012, la ERCB soutient qu’elle est exemptée de toute responsabilité de ses actions dans la cause Ernst et n’a pas “le devoir de protection” envers les propriétaires terriens impactés par le développement pétrolier et gazier.
“Je pense que la plupart des Albertains seraient choqués d’apprendre que le régulateur de la province argumente qu’il est complètement exonéré de toute responsabilité légale même s’il y a eu extrême négligence et incompétence,” dit Murray Klippenstein, l’avocat de Jessica Ernst.
En décembre dernier, une enquête de la ERCB a déclaré une compagnie coupable d’avoir “accidentellement” perforé au-dessus de la base de protection de l’eau souterraine et avait contaminé l’eau souterraine près de Grand Prairie mais n’a émis aucune amende, disant que l’incident “ne posait pas de risque important à la ressource d’eau potable” dans un aquifère de formation de grès. Un tiers de la population de l’Alberta dépend de l’eau souterraine pour son eau potable.
Pendant la dernière décennie, EnCana a intentionnellement perforé et fracturé des centaines de puits de gaz bien au-dessus de la bas de protection de l’eau souterraine à Rosebud. Les régulateurs continuent de permettre Encana de le faire.
En décembre 2012, une fois qu’environ 171,000 puits énergétiques avaient déjà été fracturés en Alberta, et seulement à ce moment-là, la ERCB a émit son ébauche de règlements. La période pour recevoir les commentaires du public termine en cette journée de séance le 18 janvier 2013.
En réalité, le procès de $33 millions met en cause la pratique et les règlements encadrant la fracturation hydraulique: le dynamitage controversé des formations de charbon, qu’elles soient à faible profondeur ou très creuses, des réservoirs étanches dans le sable ou le schiste, des formations contenant du pétrole ou du gaz, avec des produits chimiques toxiques, du sable et de l’eau.
La technologie, si peu étudiée, qui peut provoquer des séismes et des fuites de méthane, a déclenché des moratoires, des interdictions, des débats et des enquêtes régulatrices du Nouveau-Brunswick jusqu’en Afrique du Sud à cause des préoccupations grandissantes pour les contaminations de l’eau souterraine, les dévaluations des propriétés, la pollution de l’air, les impacts sur la santé et les changements climatiques.
Ni EnCana, ni les régulateurs de l’Alberta n’ont encore déposé des requêtes pour la défense à propos des incidents qui ont eu lieu il y a de cela 9 ans maintenant et qui sont la source de plusieurs plaintes de problèmes d’eau souterraine.
EnCana, dont le PDG a brusquement démissionné la semaine dernière, a été au coeur de plusieurs controverses publiques récemment. La compagnie est toujours impliquée dans une étude gouvernementale sur l’eau souterraine aux États-Unis à Pavillion, au Wyoming, qui fait des liens entre la fracturation hydraulique aux contaminations de l’aquifère ainsi qu’avec une enquête antitrust toujours en cour au Michigan pour une présumée collusion avec Chesapeake Energy afin de garder les valeurs des terres à la baisse. Un groupe populaire de mères a aussi mis au défi les opérations agressives de la compagnie au Colorado.
Murray Klippenstein: 1-416-937-8634
Mise en contexte
Un rapport de 2008 d’un comité de révision scientifique pour Environnement Alberta prévenait que les “données préliminaires venant de Rosebud, en Alberta, laissait penser que les concentrations de gaz dans l’eau souterraine sont sous-estimées par un facteur de trois.”
Une présentation au groupe International Wellbore Intergrity Network en 2008 à Paris, France, dont la ERCB était un coauteur, admettait que la “fracturation à haute pression” augmentait le potentiel de créer des passages vers l’eau souterraine, et “la probabilité que le gaz, à cause de la migration à travers les zones peu profondes, peut s’accumuler dans les bâtiments.”
Un papier dont ERCB est aussi un co-auteur datant de 2009 sur la migration du gaz étant un problème chronique rapporte que “l’accumulation importante de la pression peut potentiellement forcer le gaz à pénétrer dans les aquifères d’eau souterraine” et que les facteurs affectant les fuites de gaz et la migration “peuvent être généralisés et s’appliquer à d’autres basins et/ou d’autres juridictions.”
November 2012 – EnCana’s drilling waste dumped on food land at Rosebud
January 17, 2013, Bob Curran, Public Affairs Section Leader, ERCB, on GlobalTV:
“We evolve the regulations on an ongoing basis to ensure that they’re protective of groundwater and public safety and that waste is disposed of properly as well.”
April 19, 2011, Darin Barter, ERCB spokesman, to the Peace River Record Gazette:
The ERCB does not test drilling waste before it is deposited on fields, said Barter, nor will it inspect deposits unless contacted by the landowner, as staff is limited, and the practice is common. “It is the company’s responsibility to follow the rules. We can’t be there in every location throughout the province every time something is done”
2007, Darin Barter, ERCB spokesman:
“If they are not following our regulations, we should be involved in it.”
The report also found that a variety of products — including hazardous materials and lubricants — had been discarded or abandoned “with no apparent concern for the environment.”
“A lack of responsibility and supervision are evident at other sites, wherein examples of poor industry practices and lackadaisical housekeeping abound”
“Drilling fluids are transported, stored and handled in tanks. Typically, drilling fluid waste will be transported off-site for re-use and treatment/disposal…. Some additives may be caustic, toxic, or acidic.”
2003: Alberta Landspraying While Drilling (LWD) Review by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, released three years later, only after FOIP and public pressure.