• Vincent Maranda

It’s raining laws…

SHUTTERSTOCK PHOTO Copyright pinkomelet

Q. The municipality uses natural waterways to drain rain water… no ditches … water has caused damage to my property… brought before council since the early 90s... hiring a lawyer is expensive, can I make a small claim case… file is full of correspondence(since) 1988.

A. The first commandment of water law is in the Civil Code - s.477:

Lower land is subject to receiving water flowing onto it naturally from higher land. The owner of lower land has no right to erect works to prevent the natural flow…

This poetic section often quoted in neighbor quarrels may or may not apply here. Sorry for the non-answer but water law is Jackson Pollock art on steroids.

There are numerous water laws that overlap like beaver wood. Municipal laws are split up by a master provincial law. MRCs (regional governments) legislate on water issues such as flow and obstacles. Look for them in new buildings that come in over budget. Municipalities make local laws notably on trenches and drinking water, tunneling below rock bottom expectations. The province has laws on the environment and wildlife that may trump all others laws. The feds makes guest appearances with laws on fisheries and navigation. Add to the mix private contracts.

Phone Town Hall first, the front line and popular water bashing arena. Eventually, while waiting on the phone, you will understand they close early. You may be told assertively it’s a private civil matter when a neighbour deviates water onto your land or it’s not under their jurisdiction. Try the MRC to be rescued. Insist for the expert who can explain multiple water laws to the point of overtime pay.

You can also meet these experts at Sheratons for training seminars on valuable water knowledge. This wellspring of unfiltered money for lawyers and municipal staff in attendance comes mostly from 1195 municipalities in Quebec dealing with constant complicated water questions.

A wide-ranging water problem may win you a referral to provincial government black belts in water combat. They are revered by lower rungs of government. They have firemen’s hoses full of legislation and case law if you come too close to the sources they protect – legislators.

There may be a further explanation on why your case has been filling boxes since 1988.

Municipalities may meticulously study water letters until about halfway. They pause reflecting on the understandable complexity. Receiving a response letter as in, ‘We will look at this complex matter and get back to you. Forever yours.’ breaks no promises during a 28-year wait.

Avoid launching a water file attack against a municipality by asking them if your water problem is their fault. There is too much murky legislation. Go to the trenches with your iPhone, film the scene, and show them your evidence along with an expensive expert report. Repeatedly quote or read aloud the right law from another expert. Kindly ask for help on your draft letter to a local newspaper thus inspiring stealth fighter respect.

It’s sad that your problem leads to high costs for answers to complex laws depriving citizens from meeting lawyers with red bow ties affirming, ‘we can probably argue this or that ….’

But seriously, work on proving the exact cause of your water problem and identify the applicable law being offended.
The jurisdiction of the court will depend on many factors but towns will correct a problem if you prove it's their fault. It will cost you more to go to court. Consulting briefly with an expert would be helpful. Just read the Rubik-Cube type case law and you will see why.

Please send your questions to editor@yourlocaljournal.ca

website: vmaranda.com

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