Acquittal of cross-border beer shopper still stands

If the New Brunswick government wants to appeal the acquittal of Gerard Comeau for bringing liquor into New Brunswick from Quebec, it's going to have to head to the Supreme Court.

N.B. Court of Appeal won't hear province's appeal, Supreme Court may be next

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has decided not to hear the New Brunswick government's appeal of the acquittal of Gerard Comeau, but did not give any reasons for the decision. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

New Brunswick's cross-border beer bust case could be headed for the Supreme Court of Canada.

The New Brunswick Court of Appeal has ruled it will not hear the province's appeal of the acquittal of Gerard Comeau of Tracadie.

Comeau was charged with exceeding the limit on beer and liquor that can be brought into New Brunswick from another province when he imported 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor from Quebec.

But the provincial court judge in the case acquitted Comeau, ruling the restrictions were unconstitutional.

Section 121 of the 1867 Constitution says products from any province "shall ... be admitted free into each of the other provinces."

Lawyers for the attorney general's office argued the judge made legal mistakes in his interpretation of that section by ignoring other Supreme Court of Canada rulings that interpreted it differently.

The appeal court's decision to not hear the case, by Justice Margaret Larlee, did not give any reasons.

Gerard Comeau was charged with violating the N.B. Liquor Control Act by bringing too much alcohol into New Brunswick from Quebec. (Michele Brideau/Radio-Canada)
The decision means that if the province wants Comeau's acquittal overturned, it will now have to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Comeau's defence was funded by the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a private libertarian group that wants interprovincial trade barriers eliminated.

The foundation has said its goal is to force the case to the Supreme Court for a precedent-setting ruling.

Other provinces have been watching the Comeau case for its possible impact on their own liquor import regulations.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.