CN, Alberta district disagree on weed control

Peace River region municipality wants to clarify if CN-owned land is exempt from Alberta’s Weed Act

EDMONTON — A tussle has broken out in Alberta over what is and isn’t a weed.

Alberta Agriculture says Canadian National Railway land is covered under the provincial Weed Act, but CN argues it falls under federal jurisdiction.

The Municipal District of Smoky River in Alberta’s Peace River region want the government and the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties to help it find out who is right.

“Not a particularly comfortable position for municipalities to be in,” Robert Brochu, Smoky River reeve and chair of the Agricultural Service Board, wrote to Alberta deputy agriculture minister Jason Krips.

The trouble began in 2013 when the municipality received an email from CN staff that weeds on railway land weren’t the municipality’s business.

“CN Rail is federally regulated and the Weed Control Act of Alberta does not have jurisdiction on CN property,” wrote Mario Page, chief of staff in the executive vice-president’s office.

The email said any attempts to control the weeds on railway land without proper permission was considered trespassing. CN said it carried out its own extensive weed control program.

Krips rejected an attempt by the municipality to have Alberta Agriculture share the provincial justice department’s opinion on who was right.

“Information requested by ARD, from Alberta Justice, is subject to solicitor-client privilege,” wrote Krips, a lawyer.

“I would encourage municipal authorities seeking clarity on issues relating to the Alberta Weed Control Act and how it is interpreted in specific case to also seek legal advice.”

Brochu said almost 350 municipalities are designated to control weeds in the province, and it was foolish to have each one seek a legal ruling on controlling weeds on CN land.

“Having each affected municipality request their own legal opinion in such a matter would be a criminal waste of money, in addition to potentially creating more issues if some legal opinion was positive and others were negative,” Brochu wrote to Krips.

The motion to ask the rural municipalities association to obtain a legal opinion on the jurisdiction of the weed control act on behalf of the municipalities was approved at the association’s recent convention, but was changed to include all railways, not just CN.

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