Hydro-Québec v. Louise Matta, et al.

(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)


Property - Interjurisdictional immunity, Servitudes - Expropriation - Real rights - Servitudes - Conventional servitudes - Legal servitudes - Extinction of servitude - Indemnity - High-voltage line - Whether scope of conventional servitude acquired after expropriation process was begun is limited by content of order in council that preceded deed of servitude negotiated with owner of servient land and published in land register - Whether interpretation of order in council 3360-72 and deeds of servitude adopted by Court of Appeal is erroneous and whether it compromises principle of stability of real rights that underlies network of Hydro-Québec - Whether Court of Appeal exceeded its jurisdiction by conducting de novo analysis of evidence and whether it undermined fairness of proceeding by doing its own research without giving parties opportunity to make representations.


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In 1972, the Quebec government authorized Hydro-Québec to build an electric power transmission and distribution line between the Jacques-Cartier and Duvernay transformer stations. Hydro-Québec acquired the perpetual real rights of servitude it needed by expropriation and signed, with the owners of the immovables concerned, an agreement setting out, among other things, the purpose of the servitude and the indemnity being paid. In 1982, Hydro-Québec made changes that resulted in the power in various lines being redirected; from that time on, the transmission line on the land expropriated in 1972 was used for electricity coming from James Bay. The owners were not informed of those changes. In 2015, the Quebec government authorized Hydro-Québec’s project to build the Chamouchouane-Bout-de-l’Île transmission line. The route of that new line was to be partly on the site of the servitudes acquired in 1972, parallel to the line already built. The respondents, the current owners, opposed Hydro-Québec’s project and refused to provide access to their immovables. On November 23, 2015, Hydro-Québec applied for an injunction. The respondents argued that the servitudes on their immovables did not permit the construction of new transmission lines between transformer stations apart from the ones contemplated in 1972. In their cross application, they claimed damages for unauthorized use of the servitudes since 1982, for the increase in the power going through the lines and for the inconvenience associated with neighbourhood disturbances.

On May 31, 2017, the Superior Court allowed Hydro-Québec’s application for a permanent injunction and ordered the respondents to cease any obstruction and to provide unrestricted access to the immovables so that Hydro-Québec could perform all the work required to carry out the project. On May 25, 2018, the Court of Appeal allowed the respondents’ appeal against Hydro-Québec, set aside the trial judge’s decision, declared that Hydro-Québec had no real right that allowed it to use the respondents’ properties to set up the Chamouchouane-Bout-de-l’Île line, declared that the servitudes established by the parties had not been extinguished, and remitted the matter to the Superior Court to hear the cross application.