The multi-billion dollar action by the Crees of Quebec against 27 forestry companies and the federal and Quebec governments has taken an unusual turn. With a date still not set for the hearing of the Crees’ interlocutory injunction proceedings, Mr. Justice Jean-Jacques Croteau of the Quebec Superior Court issued a safeguard order upholding some of the key conclusions of the Crees’ case on the merits of the action itself. Mr. Justice Croteau found that Quebec had failed to comply with the terms of the James Bay Agreement which the federal and provincial governments had signed with the Crees in 1975. The safeguard order declared part of the existing legislative framework for forestry activities in Northern Quebec inoperative, and called upon Quebec to amend its legislation to bring it into line with the 1975 Agreement.
The Quebec Court of Appeal has stayed the decision and will hear the matter on April 17, 2000. Meanwhile, Chief Justice Lyse Lemieux of the Quebec Superior Court has granted the forestry companies’ motion to have Mr. Justice Croteau removed from the case on the basis of an appearance of bias. The forestry companies argued that he had prejudged the case before they had had a chance to present opposing arguments.
The two companies accounting for more than half of the forestry operations targeted by the Crees, Domtar Inc. and Donohue Inc., are represented by Ogilvy Renault’s Montreal office, with Louis-Paul Cullen and William Hesler in the lead. Other firms involved included: Bernard, Roy & Associés; D’Aury, Aubry & Associés; Spiegel Sohmer; Lavery, de Billy; Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP; Gauthier Bédard; Ayoutte, Martineau, McGuire, Boyer; Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP; and Desjardins Ducharme Stein Monast.