Coulson Litigation will speak for small B.C. wineries in R. v. Comeau. Submitted photo

Canada’s Supreme Court to hear from small B.C. wineries

Okanagan wineries granted intervener status in monumental case

Five small B.C. wineries seeking change to the law governing interprovincial shipping of wine and liquor across Canada will be interveners on a monumental Supreme Court of Canada appeal.

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 per cent B.C. grown grapes. These five producers head a coalition of more than 100 small wineries from British Columbia and were granted intervener status. This allows a nonparty into the litigation because of a right or interest in the lawsuit.

Related: Hurdles shipping wine to Ontario, never mind U.S.

The interprovincial barriers, the coalition states, pose an existential threat to wineries, who 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.

“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,” said Shea Coulson, counsel for the five winery owners.

R. v. Comeau is the first court case in which any winery in Canada has had an opportunity to address the legal barriers to inter-provincial shipping of Canadian wine. The Supreme Court will hear the case in Dec. 6 and 7.

Coulson said his 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. As well, they intend to show that the shipping of Canadian liquor is inconsistent across Canada.

“Everyone will have an opportunity to submit a written argument to the court setting out their position. After the hearing, the court could take up to a year to make its decision,” said Coulson in a press release.