Doctrine of estoppel cannot be relied on as defence to regulatory offence

Supreme court | Defences

GENERAL

Doctrine of estoppel cannot be relied on as defence to regulatory offence

Statement of offence issued by municipality against accused company for operating commercial parking lot contrary to zoning by-law. Accused admitted non-conforming use but raised doctrine of estoppel. Accused’s conviction ultimately upheld by Court of Appeal. Accused’s further appeal dismissed. While municipal authorities have broad discretion in exercising power to adopt by-laws, when it comes to enforcement, any discretion must give way to principle of equality before law. Authorization by municipal employee or elected official of non-conforming use cannot create rights or oust applicable standards set out in by-law. Doctrine of estoppel cannot be relied on as defence in case of regulatory offence.
Immeubles Jacques Robitaille inc. c. Quebec (Ville) (May. 2, 2014, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., LeBel J., Abella J., Rothstein J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., and Wagner J., File No. 35295) Decision at 108 W.C.B. (2d) 491 was affirmed.  112 W.C.B. (2d) 475.

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