Oil and Gas Company Tries to Stifle Debate: Sues Quebec Mining Coalition Spokesperson

(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada is deeply dismayed by legal actions taken by a Quebec oil and gas exploration company against Ugo Lapointe, a spokesperson for the Coalition Québec meilleure mine. MiningWatch is a founding member of the coalition and wishes to express its solidarity and support for Mr. Lapointe. It is MiningWatch’s belief that the case is a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) and an attempt to intimidate Mr. Lapointe and stifle critical dialogue about necessary reforms to Quebec’s mineral regime.

The lawsuit, filed by the company Petrolia, was announced on Wednesday, January 28th, and includes the Quebec newspaper Le Soleil.

Lapointe was quoted in Le Soleil giving a critical commentary on the Quebec petroleum industry and the laws that regulate it. Lapointe and his lawyers had previously responded to the company’s concerns in a letter dated January 5. Their letter points out that Lapointe has made no comments directly about Petrolia.

MiningWatch and other coalition members are asking what it would mean for Quebec’s democracy if citizens and organizations were no longer able to openly criticize the industries and the laws that govern the extraction of Quebec’s resources?

Resource royalties are the core issue

The article in question was printed on December 3, 2010 and quoted Lapointe criticizing Quebec’s current laws, which allow the sale of minerals, oil and gas during “exploration” - without paying any royalties. “It’s a loophole that opens the door to all sorts of abuses. These are non-renewable public resources. As soon as a company extracts and sells these resources, they should be paying royalties. That’s the position that Ugo Lapointe was stating, and that members of the coalition continue to take,” commented coalition spokesperson Christian Simard of Nature Québec.

The Le Soleil article reported that the companies Junex and Petrolia sold several hundred thousand dollars of oil while exploring, without paying any royalties.

“How much gas, oil or other minerals can the companies sell during “exploration” without paying royalties? For how many years can they keep this up? It makes no sense. We must fill in the gaps of our current laws. Otherwise, it’s like allowing the theft of a collective and non-renewable endowment. That’s what Ugo was denouncing and what we continue to denounce today,” added Henri Jacob of Action boréale, also a spokesperson for the coalition.

“In a way, this lawsuit speaks to the effectiveness of the Coalition meilleure mine! and our ability to go to the core of the issues – something which elements within the extraction industries clearly see as a threat. We must not, and will not let such a vexatious lawsuit stifle the important debates that are emerging in Quebec,” responded MiningWatch’s Ramsey Hart.


Coalition Meilleure Mine Press Release

December 3, 2010 Article in Le Soleil

Letter from Ugo Lapointe’s lawyers to Petrolia