Border booze case goes before New Brunswick Court of Appeal
Province is appealing acquittal of man on charge of importing too much alcohol on constitutional grounds
New Brunswick's highest court has reserved decision on whether it should hear the border booze case instead of the Court of Queen's Bench.
Court of Appeal Justice Margaret Larlee did not indicate when she would deliver her ruling, but did say it can be expected shortly.
Lawyers representing Gerard Comeau and the attorney general's office both argued before Larlee Thursday that the Court of Appeal is the appropriate court to hear the matter because it's of national importance.
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Comeau was charged with bringing too much alcohol and wine into New Brunswick from Quebec in October 2012.
With help from the Canadian Constitutional Foundation, the retired NB Power lineman from Tracadie mounted a constitutional defence, arguing the section of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act that limits how much alcohol can be brought into the province by an individual is unconstitutional.
Ian Blue, who represents Comeau, also argued Thursday that potentially putting the case through two appeal courts would be a waste of money and judicial resources.
'He feels what he did was right'
Blue added his client would fight to uphold the provincial court's decision all the way to the Supreme Court.
"[Comeau] feels that what he did was right. He feels what he did is what many other people do regularly," said Blue.
"And I wouldn't be surprised if Judge LeBlanc himself went across the border to buy beer."
In a provincial court decision on April 29, Judge Ronald LeBlanc acquitted Comeau, concluding the Fathers of Confederation intended interprovincial free trade.
Comeau had brought 14 cases of beer and three bottles of alcohol into the province. New Brunswick's personal importation limit under the Liquor Control Act regulations is 12 pints of beer or one bottle of alcohol or wine.
The appeal: What you need to know
The provincial government appealed the case to the New Brunswick Court of Appeal on May 27.
The attorney general's office argues LeBlanc made legal errors pertaining to Section 121 of the Constitution Act and Section 134 of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act.
Section 121 of the Constitution Act states: "All articles of the growth, produce or manufacture of any of the provinces shall, and from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other provinces."
The province alleges LeBlanc erred in law with his legal interpretation of Section 121 of the Constitution Act in the following ways:
- By interpreting the section to have a meaning contrary to that determined by prior decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada, which are binding on him.
- By concluding without evidence that previous decisions of the Supreme Court were rendered without the benefit of evidence before him.
- By finding that placing Section 121 in the category of Revenues, Debts, Assets and Taxation in the Constitution Act is of no legal consequence to the determination of its meaning.
- By giving Section 121 a meaning that is internally inconsistent and conflicts with Sections 91, 92, and 94 of the Constitution Act.
- By finding Section 121 was drafted as an absolute free trade provision that constitutionally must be rigorously interpreted as such today.
Before Comeau's provincial court trial began in August 2015, the Canadian Constitution Foundation stated it expected the case to eventually end up before the Supreme Court of Canada.
The appeal hearing is expected to proceed once it's determined whether the Court of Appeal will hear the case.