The Ministry of the Environment orders the Adam and Eve Naturist Club to stop destroying wetlands
After several interventions, the Ministry of the Environment decided that its patience had its limits and issued an order to force the Adam and Eve Naturist Club to stop its illegal work in wetlands and restore the affected environments.
Chantal Gilles, the owner of the nudist campsite located in Sainte-Brigitte-des-Saults in Centre-du-Québec, carried out “major excavation work” in several places in wetlands without having authorization while doing ignoring the many warnings from the ministry.
“[The company] laid out a 3.2 kilometer road in addition to digging drainage ditches, partially infilling a pond and adding camping in wetlands, without authorization, “said the ministry in a press release.
This is a significant damage to the vegetation, fauna and soils in this place. The destruction of wetlands is very regulated in Quebec. The owner of the company was also aware, explains the ministry.
The company and its owner have already received 3 sanctions and conviction in 2014 and 2015 for work and activities carried out without authorization.
Then, in July 2021, ministry inspectors received a complaint about the installation of artisanal septic tanks and the creation of a path in wetlands.
The inspectors then found that a new camping section of about twenty sites had been developed in the middle of the swamps.
“The areas of the future campgrounds have been grubbed and leveled. The ground is either bare or covered with grass”, can we read in the ordinance.
In August 2021, Mr. Gilles had thus received a notice of non-compliance informing him that he risked a $5,000 fine if he did not restore the place.
No vested rights
There followed an arm of iron between the two parties.
In October 2021, the lawyer for the Naturist Club sent a letter to the ministry in which the owner denied having carried out any work and claimed to have instead maintained an existing trail.
He also maintained that he had an acquired right to carry out work without having to obtain authorization since the company had existed since December 11, 1972, 10 days before the adoption of the Law on the environmental quality.
However, aerial photographs have confirmed that the path did not exist before the summer of 2020 and that a large portion of the route of the path was carried out in a swamp. Moreover, the ministry confirms that it had no vested right to destroy wetlands.
In the summer of 2022, the ministry noted that work was continuing. A first order was taken and then, following a criminal investigation, the company and the owner were ordered to pay a total of $80,000 in fines and legal costs last July. A second investigation is still in progress.
In all, 10,676 m2 of wetlands were destroyed according to the analysis of a biologist, specifies the ordinance.
But far to cease, additional work was carried out, noted the inspectors of the ministry, last November.
Given “the absence of collaboration of the company”, an order was issued.
The company was even informed on January 19 that the ministry was threatening to use an order to stop the work. She had 15 days to plead her case to hope to find an agreement. She did not send any comments.
We contacted the campsite to obtain the version of the facts from the owner Chantal Gilles. On the phone, when we contacted the owner of the campsite, we were transferred to a man who refused to identify himself.
“Firstly my name is not Gilles, I did not to say that, I don't have to answer the phone,” the man said when questioned about the ministry's order before referring us to the company's lawyer. This lawyer had not responded to our interview request at the time of publication.
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