A decision that could have changed the course of Canada’s economic history

Chronology of events


Gérard Comeau, a resident of New Brunswick, was stopped by the RCMP upon his return from Quebec with several cases of beer, two bottles of whisky, and one bottle of spirits in his possession. He was fined $292.50 for violating the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act, which limits the number of bottles that one can import into the province. Gérard Comeau decided to contest his fine.


The Provincial Court of New Brunswick ruled that Section 134 (b) of the Liquor Control Act violates Section 121 of the British North America Act. The fine was therefore cancelled.

121. All articles of the growth, produce or manufacture of any of the provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other provinces.


After the province’s appeals court refused to hear the Comeau case, New Brunswick turned to the Supreme Court of Canada, which accepted in May to hear the case. Eleven provinces and territories formed a united front in this case against Gerard Comeau. All requested intervenor status, which they were automatically granted given that the case raised an argument of a constitutional nature.

December 6, 2017

Hearings began. The Supreme Court looked at the interpretation of Section 121 and the constitutionality of the New Brunswick law.

April 19, 2018

The Supreme Court handed down its decision and rejected the arguments of Gerard Comeau, missing a historic opportunity to free the Canadian economy from its numerous trade barriers.