Plage de Batiscan: Tensions Persist Over Ownership Disputes

In a recent incident at Batiscan beach in late May, tensions flared as a local homeowner shouted, “You’re not in law, you’re on my property!” to a journalist and photographer from La Presse, who were walking in the area considered public. The “discovery” part of the beach, located between the high water mark and the “water of the day,” is confirmed to belong to the Quebec government by the Ministry of Environment, Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife, and Parks (MELCCFP).

This ongoing conflict at the beach has been long-standing, with disputes between residents and visitors escalating over the years. Most recently, in July 2023, Ani Müller, a resident of Batiscan, was approached by Quebec Provincial Police (SQ) agents after a complaint from a local homeowner while she was enjoying the water with her children and a friend.

The incident, which gained attention on social media and in the press, led to the formation of the Association for Citizen Accessibility to Batiscan Beach, a nonprofit organization advocating for public access. Ani Müller, the spokesperson for the association, emphasized the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully for the community’s benefit.

The Foundation Rivers, an organization promoting water access, became involved in the issue after discovering potential illegal constructions and developments in flood zones. They filed a complaint with the Ministry of Environment, raising concerns about unauthorized activities on the shoreline.

The history of Batiscan beach dates back to the 1950s when the federal government deposited sand from dredging the waterway along the municipal pier. This action transformed the riverbed into a vast expanse of sand owned by the Quebec government. Over the years, the state has regulated the use of these filled lands, balancing private ownership with public access rights.

While some landowners have claimed ownership extending into the river, the Ministry of Environment maintains that the government retains control over the riverbed up to the high water mark. This dynamic boundary, subject to natural erosion and deposition, complicates the delineation of public versus private land on the shore.

Despite conflicting claims and signage asserting private property status on the beach, some residents like Alexandre Gervais have opted to keep the area open to the public. Gervais, a member of the Association for Citizen Accessibility, believes in welcoming everyone to enjoy the beach without restrictions.

As the debate over ownership and access rights at Batiscan beach continues, local stakeholders are working towards a resolution that respects both public interests and property rights. The community remains divided on the issue, highlighting the need for clear guidelines and collaborative solutions to preserve this valuable natural resource.