Supreme Court dismisses challenge of CDN-NDG bylaw restricting fast food restaurants
New fast food restaurants will remain restricted to a handful of streets in the Montreal borough of Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, after Canada’s top court dismissed a challenge to the borough’s bylaw, adopted in an effort to encourage healthier food choices.
The challenge, brought by industry group Restaurants Canada, and some major restaurant chains including McDonald’s, St-Hubert and A&W, aimed to invalidate the 2016 zoning bylaw, arguing that the borough did not have the right to limit where fast food restaurants could open.
But the Supreme Court of Canada announced yesterday that it would not hear the case.
“It’s really an important recognition that municipal governments have a role to play in promoting healthy lifestyles for the residents,” said Gracia Kasoki Katahwa, Projet Montréal borough mayor.
Former city councillor Marvin Rotrand proposed the bylaw, as part of a broader public health initiative. The regulation does not take into account what type of food is served, but defines a fast-food restaurant as one that offers only service at the counter and disposable plates and utensils.
Restaurant chains challenged the new rules at the time, but it was upheld by a Quebec Superior Court ruling in 2019.
Katahwa, who was elected borough mayor last November, is a trained nurse and said she remembered studying the bylaw in a health and law policies course. She said the bylaw can encourage healthier habits by, for example, “increasing the distance between schools and some fast food restaurants.”
Bylaw doesn’t limit ‘choice or freedom’, councillor says
The bylaw restricts new fast food restaurants to a few locations, including sections of Décarie Boulevard, Saint-Jacques Street and the Plaza Côte-des-Neiges shopping centre. It excludes other commercial areas such as Sherbrooke Street, Monkland Avenue and Queen Mary Road.
Sonny Moroz, Ensemble Montréal city councillor for the Snowdon district, does not believe restricting new fast food restaurants in these areas is having a negative effect on business development.
“If you’ve gone to these arteries, you’ve seen that there’s already a good mix of fast food chains there,” he said. “Hopefully this bylaw being institutionalized will just promote a better mix of offering for the citizens. So, I don’t think it limits choice or freedom.”
Katahwa said there are still new restaurants opening in these areas, and said the borough is working to support the vitality of its commercial arteries.
“The energy needs to be put into making sure that we help the entrepreneurs to come in and…choose the streets like Sherbrooke Street,” she said.
Katahwa acknowledged that often fast food may be a more affordable option for people who are struggling with rising food prices. But she said the borough is working to make sure healthier food options are available.
“We work closely with organizations that promote food safety and security in the borough, for example,” she said.
Restaurants Canada and St-Hubert declined to comment on the dismissal, while McDonald’s did not respond to a request for comment.