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Public access to Batiscan beach

Public access to Batiscan beach

Together, let's demand recognition of the right of public access to Batiscan beach

What is happening in Batiscan?

Lack of knowledge of the law on coastal access in Batiscan

For 50 years, Batiscan beach on the banks of the St. Lawrence River was a popular vacation spot. For 10 years, public access to this exceptional 1.4 km beach has been compromised. Residents claim that all the land that extends between their house and the water of the St. Lawrence River is private property.

However, the coastline (from the river bed to the high water mark), belongs to the Quebec state. With a depth of approximately 15 m, the coastline is still a public place. This ignorance of article 919 of the Civil Code of Quebec has the effect of limiting public access to Batiscan beach, where citizens are unfairly ordered to leave the area by local residents and even by the police.

Cases of sales of backfilled plots which create confusion

The lot boundaries of Batiscan Beach changed in the 1950s, as it was filled in (covered with sand, thus enlarging the beach). Since then, the Ministry of the Environment (MELCCFP) has been selling backfilled plots in flood zones, which could formerly have been public, to “confer a clear title of ownership to its occupant”. However, the opposite is happening: local residents wrongly believe that they have purchased a property with private land right up to the water, whereas the latter stops at the high water mark. (See water erratum at the bottom of this page)

The MELCCFP's requests have the effect of privatizing land close to the coast, creating confusion and disagreement within a community which only wants to enjoy the magnificent Batiscan beach with respect for all.

Intervention policière à la plage de Batiscan - Crédit : Cindy Devost
Police intervention at Batiscan beach - Credit: Cindy Devost
Plan de la zone inondable de la plage de Batiscan
This survey plan carried out in 2013 illustrates the limit of the riparian lands, which ends at the high water mark. This line corresponds to the horizontal black line, just above the dotted black line (representing the river water). This plan shows a public space of approximately 15 meters between the water's edge and private land. Note that this line is dynamic and varies over time.

The municipality does not protect public access to the beach

Pancarte indiquant une propriété privée sur la plage de Batiscan - Crédit : Fondation Rivières
Private property sign on the public beach of Batiscan - Credit: Fondation Rivières

The municipality is doing everything to restrict access to the beach to citizens. Last April, she discouraged the organizers of the Desgagnés Kayak Challenge to stop on the beach for a picnic. She invoke wronglyarticle 920 of the Civil Code to decree that citizens do not have the right to sit, swim or dock on the beach.

In missive sent to a resident in 2021, she goes so far as to argue that her rules on loitering do not allow doing anything other than walking on the beach. This excessive and arbitrary interpretation would contravene the principles of fundamental justice and infringe on the right to liberty (section 7 of the Canadian Charter). Thus, it would certainly not pass the test of the courts, as the jurisprudence Quebec (City of) c. Pouliot.

And even, the municipality mentions that the water is not of good enough quality for swimming, whereas it should rather tackle the sources of water contamination in order to give this possibility back to all. all! In short, the municipality chooses to favor arguments in favor of the privatization of the banks to the detriment of the public good.

A hundred people demonstrate in Batiscan

Organized by the Citizen Association for the Accessibility of Batiscan Beach and the Fondation Rivières, a peaceful demonstration was held on August 18, 2023 to demand recognition of the right to freely benefit from the public strike, with respect for all and all.

Why is it important to have access to the banks in Batiscan?

Article 1 of the Law affirming the collective nature of water resources recalls that “the use of surface water and groundwater is common to all and cannot be the subject of appropriation”. The case of Batiscan is an illustration of a problem of perception of access to the banks in Quebec which is found more and more often elsewhere in Quebec and which must be rectified sooner rather than later.

It also demonstrates, to a certain extent, that the insidious sliding of public banks in private hands contributes to the loss of access to a collective resource, for which no one can invoke a property right. It is therefore from a perspective of social justice in a context of global warming that public access to Batiscan beach must be restored.

Plage de Batiscan 1995-1996 - Crédit photo : Line Langevin
Batiscan Beach 1995-1996 - Photo credit: Line Langevin
Plage de Batiscan à l'été 2011 - Crédit photo : Celine Lapointe
Batiscan beach in the summer of 2011 - Photo credit: Celine Lapointe

3 solutions to restore public access to Batiscan beach

Recognition of the public character of the beach by everyone, including the municipality, in particular by creating a riverside park.

A waterfront park project was already proposed by a previous administration. It would make it possible to regulate the use of the coastline, in particular with opening and closing hours for example, in order to ensure the tranquility of the place for local residents.

The cessation of sales of land filled by the State, as well as the maintenance of a moratorium on these sales until the revision of the regulatory framework for the water sector.

Clear municipal regulations to regulate public access while respecting local residents.

Once again, the riverside park project would make it possible to control the use of the site in order to avoid overflows, as has already happened.

Our articles on access to Batiscan beach

Erratum: In a previous version, we mentioned that two private lands extended beyond the high water mark following the purchase of backfilled parcels from the Quebec government. We made this observation on the basis of the aerial visual representation of the land in question via Infolot and the land register, which indicated the boundaries of old lots. However, these boundaries have changed since the 1950s since they have been backfilled, and the Quebec state does not sell backfilled parcels below the high water line. In short, there is no private land below this line, which is entirely in the public domain. 

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