Dissident Quebec maple syrup producers won't have appeals heard in Supreme Court

A Quebec maple syrup producer fighting $300,000 in fines for breaking the rules regulating production will not have her case heard by the country's highest court.

3-year court battle for Quebec producer Angèle Grenier, facing $300K in fines, comes to end

Angèle Grenier was slapped with more than $300,000 in fines for selling her maple syrup without going through Quebec's maple syrup producers federation. She appealed the fines all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which announced today it would not hear her case. (Marika Wheeler/CBC)

A Quebec maple syrup producer fighting $300,000 in fines for breaking the rules regulating production will not have her case heard by the country's highest court.

The Supreme Court of Canada announced Thursday it will not hear appeals in two cases related to the sale of Quebec maple syrup, meaning the province's heavily regulated industry will be allowed to keep operating unchanged.

"That was mine and my husband's retirement [fund]," Angèle Grenier, one of the applicants, told Radio-Canada, her voice quivering as she spoke about the profits made off her business.

"This morning, it was taken away."

A producer from Sainte-Clotilde-de-Beauce, Que., about 100 kilometres south of Quebec City, Grenier's troubles began in 2002 when she started selling syrup in bulk to a buyer in New Brunswick.

That's against the rules of Quebec's maple syrup industry, which is subject to a supply management system and to a federation that dictates market volume. Producers are required to sell to authorized buyers and pay an administrative fee on their output.

Angèle Grenier believes she should be able to sell her maple syrup without having to go through the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. (Angèle Grenier)
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers took her to court, resulting in an injunction forcing her to hand over her product and fining her about $300,000.

Grenier first challenged the federation's jurisdiction in the Quebec Court of Appeal in 2014, and when she lost, she sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. She has said that she's paid more than $150,000 in legal fees.

She's now hoping the federation will consider lowering the fines, she said.

Appeal request for similar case also denied

The second case involved maple syrup producer Érablière la Grande Coulée, which had also tried to sell its maple syrup without going through the federation.

Other Quebec producers were watching the cases with interest, because if they had been successful, it may have given all producers the ability to sell to whomever they wanted.
Bottles of Quebec maple syrup sits for sale at the Old Port market in Quebec City. Quebec produces most of the world's supply of maple syrup, which has been called liquid gold. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

In a statement, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers said it was "very pleased" with the court's decision. 

The federation comprises 7,300 businesses that produce about 70 per cent of the world's maple syrup, but in recent years Quebec's grip on the market has been loosening.

Some say that's because the province's competitors, who are not faced with the same tight restrictions, have been tapping trees at a rapid pace.

Quebec increases maple syrup production amid internal revolt, foreign competition

With files from Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval and The Canadian Press