Five small B.C. wineries have been granted permission to bring their concerns to the Supreme Court of Canada in the interprovincial shipping of liquor case R. v. Comeau. The Supreme Court will hear the case in early December 2017.
R. v. Comeau is the first court case in which any winery in Canada has had an opportunity to address the legal barriers to interprovincial shipping of wine made from Canadian grown grapes.
Curtis Krouzel (50th Parallel Estate), Ian MacDonald (Liquidity Wines), Jim D’Andrea (Noble Ridge Vineyard and Winery), Christine Coletta (Okanagan Crush Pad Winery), and John Skinner (Painted Rock Estate Winery) each own and operate vineyards and wineries that produce wine exclusively using 100% B.C. grown grapes.
These five producers head a coalition of more than 100 small wineries from British Columbia who seek to change the law governing interprovincial shipping of wine and liquor across Canada.
These barriers pose an existential threat to wineries, which need national distribution direct to consumers to build a sufficient business for long-term survival. As such, the Supreme Court of Canada decision in R. v. Comeau will determine the fate of the B.C. wine industry for decades to come.
Shea Coulson, counsel for the five winery owners, explains: “The Supreme Court of Canada will hear from the two parties to the appeal (the New Brunswick Crown and Mr. Comeau, in photo above) as well as a couple dozen other “interveners” at the hearing on Dec. 6 and 7, 2017. After the hearing, the Court could take up to a year to make its decision.”
Coulson’s aim is to inform the Court about the significant negative impact on small B.C. wineries created by interprovincial barriers that prohibit shipment of wine to Canadians across the country.
He notes: “The Court has to balance many complex interests, but my clients will argue that it is possible to incrementally change the law to permit interprovincial shipments of Canadian wine, and why it is of fundamental importance to the future survival of the industry to remove these barriers.”
Whichever way the Court decides, R. v. Comeau will have a monumental effect on the Canadian liquor industry and addresses questions at the heart of Canada’s federalist constitution.
Read a backgrounder on the case so far here.