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Quebec court orders Chassidim to pay $2.6-million water bill

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The Tasher community of Boisbriand owns several communal buildings. [kiryastash.ca photo]

MONTREAL — The Boisbriand Jewish community must pay an accumulated $2.6 million in water taxes, the Quebec Court of Appeal has ruled after hearing the group’s contestation of the overdue municipal bill.

The community consists of about 3,000 Tasher Chassidim who have not paid water taxes since 2005.

The Jan. 31 decision by the province’s highest court upholds a December 2012 Quebec Court judgment that the town has the right to collect the debt from the community, a ruling consistent with three lower court decisions handed down in 2010 and 2011.

The $2.6 million owed includes $1.3 million in tax and $1.3 million in interest at a rate of 18 per cent, the town said.

The Court of Appeal also ordered the community to pay the town’s legal costs. The Tasher Congregation and nine other affiliated legal entities are named in the decision.

Lawyer Raphael Schachter, who was part of the Tasher’s legal team from the Montreal law firm Lavery De Billy, said, “The judgment is not what we hoped for. We are now reviewing our options, which include asking leave to appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.”

The Tash community has its own private aqueduct serving part of its enclave. The dispute is over the potable water it receives from the public system.

The community claims Boisbriand is not honouring a 1990 agreement that water meters would be installed on each of the residential and communal buildings in its enclave.

Instead, they say, a single meter was installed for all buildings at the enclave’s entrance, and consumption is not being calculated accurately.

The Tasher Chassidim have been living in Boisbriand, which is about 25 km north of Montreal, since 1963, and their numbers have grown dramatically over that time. Their section of Boisbriand, which has a total population of about 26,000, includes homes, synagogues, schools, an old age home and other communal buildings, as well as a small shopping centre.

The Court of Appeal found that the community’s request for leave to appeal was a “stalling tactic and abusive.”

The tribunal said the community had acted in “bad faith, resulting in an unreasonable, indeed disproportionate, use of the legal process.”

The community’s lawyers claimed Quebec Court was not competent to judge the case in 2012, and that it should have been heard by Superior Court.

“We are very satisfied with this judgment in which the Court of Appeal acknowledged the approach of the town which never chose to carry out justice itself, for example, by cutting the water supply unilaterally,” Boisbriand Mayor Marlene Cordato said in a statement.

“We wish that the Jewish community abides by this judgment and we hope that it will finally close this legal saga that has lasted too long already.”

She said the town will seek repayment of “the considerable costs” it has incurred from the community as the decision allows for. At the end of 2012, its legal bill had reportedly reached more than a half-million dollars.

Lower courts have said that the law requires those contesting tax bills to pay the amount owing when demanded by the municipality, and not wait until the case has made its way through the judicial system.

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