CAMPBELLTON, NB—The trial of Gerard Comeau, a retired steelworker residing in Tracadie-Sheila, New Brunswick, will commence on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 and is expected to continue until Friday, August 28.
Comeau was stopped by the RCMP in 2012 while transporting 14 cases of beer, two bottles of whiskey and one bottle of liqueur across the border from Quebec into New Brunswick. The police seized his alcohol and fined him $292.50. The Liquor Control Act of New Brunswick forbids the importation of alcohol from outside the province except in very small amounts.
Seventeen unrelated individuals were charged in the RCMP enforcement operation, triggering widespread annoyance among local residents, many of whom were also in the habit of crossing the border to buy their beer.
Alcohol is cheaper in Quebec than in New Brunswick due to lower taxes.
With the assistance of lawyer Mikael Bernard, Comeau decided to challenge the constitutionality of the law. The case has been supported by the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), a registered charity dedicated to assisting individuals to claim their constitutional rights. The CCF has arranged for lawyer Arnold Schwisberg of Ontario to join the defence team.
The defence will argue that Canada’s constitution has contained a provision mandating free trade across provincial borders ever since the country was founded in 1867.
Said CCF litigation director Karen Selick: “One of the important reasons for uniting four separate British provinces into a single country was to gain the benefit of free trade across the entire territory. It’s time for the courts to make protectionist provinces such as New Brunswick respect the constitution.”