Canada's High Court Asserts Control Of Airports

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In two decisions handed down last week, Canada's Supreme Court confirmed that airports fall under federal jurisdiction exclusively, a decision heralded by aviation supporters. "This is a great day for Canadian aviation," said Kevin Psutka, president of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association. "This issue has been debated for decades." The two court decisions cited attempts by municipal and provincial governments to restrict aviation activities. Such conflicts have become "unrelenting" in recent years, Psutka said. In one case, Quebec landowners were operating a landing strip and hangar on protected agricultural land, and provincial authorities told them to remove the hangar and the runway. The other case involved a seaplane operation based at a floating dock, which municipal authorities said conflicted with regulations protecting the lake.

In its decision the court said that Canada's Federal Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Air Regulations are permissive and allow Canadians to construct private aerodromes without applying for prior permission. The court said there is no essential difference between smaller aerodromes and larger national or international airports. The court then concluded: "This view reflects the reality that Canada's airports and aerodromes constitute a network of landing places that together facilitate air transportation and ensure safety."