Workplace Safety Is Paramount: Dionne v Commission scolaire des Patriotes

A pregnant woman should not have to choose between her health (or the health of her fetus) and work, the Supreme Court declared in Dionne v Commission scolaire des Patriotes, 2014 SCC 33. In the unanimous ruling from five judges, the court also sent the message that provincial tribunals must take care that their decisions do not undermine the purpose of the legislation they are making rulings for.

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[filed: Administrative Law Labour and Employment]

State Surveillance Powers Made Available to Plaintiffs in a Class Action: Imperial Oil v Jacques

In a decision released on October 17, 2014, Imperial Oil v Jacques, 2014 SCC 66, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld a Quebec motion court’s ruling that allowed plaintiffs in a class action to access relevant government surveillance materials during civil discovery proceedings. The class action arose after an investigation of gasoline price-fixing in Quebec led to criminal charges against numerous companies and individuals. Following the investigation, a group of plaintiffs represented by Simon Jacques launched a class action to recover the undue profits from Alimentation Couche-Tard and from Imperial Oil, operator of Esso gas stations.

To help make their case at the preliminary stages, the plaintiffs requested access to relevant wiretap evidence collected by the Competition Bureau of Canada (“Competition Bureau”) during its investigation of price fixing. The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed the motion court’s order requiring the requested disclosure to be made. This decision is certain to embolden future plaintiffs but also to leave both defendants and investigators uncertain about the scope of required disclosure.

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[filed: Access to Information Class proceedings Commercial Law Evidence Law]

A Lesson in Surety Cooperation: Can-Win (Toronto) Limited v Moncayo

The recent Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) split decision in Can-Win Leasing (Toronto) Limited v Moncayo, 2014 ONCA 689, barred Can-Win Leasing’s claim for equitable contribution against Mr. Moncayo. In doing so, the ONCA clarified when a surety, after voluntarily repaying a guarantee they shared with other parties, can demand contribution from a co-surety. Together, this case sends a message to sureties that share guarantees: work together.

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[filed: Commercial Law Restitution and Unjust Enrichment]

Threats of Violence, Serious Personal Injury Offences, and Dangerous Offender Applications in R v Steele

In R v Steele, 2014 SCC 61 [Steele SCC], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) grappled with the issue of whether the mere threat of violence is enough to satisfy the legal criteria of a Serious Personal Injury Offence (“SPIO”), which is a pre-condition for the Crown to pursue a dangerous offender application.

One of the most serious criminal consequences one can face in Canada is being entered into the dangerous and long-term offender system. Those that are deemed to pose an ongoing threat to the public can face indeterminate detention and long-term supervision.

Entry into the system requires that two conditions be satisfied. First, the offender must have been convicted of an SPIO as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46 (the “Code”). Second, there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be found to be a dangerous offender under section 753 of the Code or a long-term offender pursuant to section 753.1. The SPIO requirement, therefore, plays an important gatekeeper role. Read the rest of this entry »

[filed: Criminal Law]

Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining Rights Face Legislative Challenge: British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v British Columbia

The government of British Columbia (BC) recently filed an appeal challenging the decision by the Supreme Court of British Columbia (“BCSC”) in British Columbia Teachers’ Federation v British Columbia, 2014 BCSC 121 (“BCTF”) which found in favour of the provincial teachers’ union. The leader of the governing BC Liberal Party, Christy Clarke, has signalled the province’s readiness to fight the teachers up to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”), so this appeal will likely not resolve the legal and political issues in question between the teachers and the government anytime soon. BC governments have historically had a conflictual relationship with BC teachers, resulting in several instances of failed legislation, court cases, and teacher strikes—sometimes, at the same time. In addition, the neoliberal economic context has presented the opportunity for governments to pass legislation challenging the collective bargaining regime in regions across Canada.

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[filed: Charter Constitutional Law Labour and Employment]

Carter v Canada: Highlights from the Supreme Court of Canada Hearing

Early on a rainy morning, I arrived to the Supreme Court of Canada and was lucky enough to be able to watch the Carter v Canada (Attorney General) [Carter] appeal. In this case, several plaintiffs challenged the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting physician assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia under sections 7 and 15 of the Charter. This case is notable, as in Rodriguez v British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 SCR 519 [Rodriguez], a case with almost the same circumstances as this one, the Court upheld the impugned legislative provisions in a split decision. Justice Sopinka, writing for five members of the Court, held that the laws infringed Ms. Rodriguez’s right to security of the person, but that the infringements did not contravene the principles of fundamental justice.

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[filed: Charter Criminal Law]

Minority Language Education for Majority Students: CS Francophone du Yukon v Yukon Territory

On  26 June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) agreed to hear an appeal of Commission Scolaire Francophone du Yukon v Attorney General of the Yukon Territory, 2014 YKCA 4 [CS Francophone]. The case concerns a dispute over the control and management of the Territory’s French language education system and is the first time in over a decade that the SCC will render a decision on the scope of minority language education rights in English Canada.

The issue in the appeal is whether sections 2, 5, and 9 of the French Language Instruction Regulation, YOIC 1996/099, infringes section 23 of the Charter by limiting admission to minority language school boards to students whose parents are members of the linguistic minority community.

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[filed: Constitutional Law]

Torture and the Limits of Sovereign Immunity: Kazemi Estate v Islamic Republic of Iran

In Kazemi Estate v Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014 SCC 62, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) looks at whether Canadians have the right to sue foreign governments for damages resulting from acts of torture. The SCC ultimately denied the victims’ claim for a civil action, finding that acts of torture are not exceptions to the general rule of sovereign immunity, as codified in the State Immunity Act, RSC 1985, c S-18 [SIA]. The SCC also entertained — but ultimately set aside — arguments challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of the SIA, clearly stating that efforts to restrict sovereign immunity should be decided on by Parliament, not the courts.

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[filed: Charter Constitutional Law International Law]

Martin v Alberta, Federal Employees, and Workplace Injuries: Just Like the Rest of Us

In Martin v Alberta (Workers’ Compensation Board), 2014 SCC 25, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) resolved a statutory overlap that had been treated inconsistently by appellate courts across Canada. The SCC held that workplace compensation claims of federal employees, who are subject to the Government Employees Compensation Act, RSC 1985, c G-5 [GECA], are generally governed by the compensation regime of the province wherein they usually work.

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[filed: Labour and Employment]

Banks Forced to Repay Added Charges Plus Punitive Damages: Bank of Montreal v Marcotte

On September 19, 2014, the Supreme Court released its decision in Bank of Montreal v Marcotte, 2014 SCC 55 [BMO v Marcotte], and its two companion cases, Amex Bank of Canada v Adams, 2014 SCC 56, and Marcotte v Fédération des caisses Desjardins du Québec, 2014 SCC 57. The case in BMO v Marcotte was based on major banks charging undisclosed fees for credit card transactions made in foreign currency. The Supreme Court found a group of major banks liable for repayment of those undisclosed charges, plus punitive damages.

In rendering its decision, the Supreme Court addressed many fundamental features of consumer protection laws that apply to Federally regulated businesses in Canada. In particular, BMO v Marcotte (1) establishes new standards for the authorization of class actions in Quebec; (2) emphasizes co-operative federalism as the dominant approach to issues arising from overlapping Federal and Provincial jurisdiction; and (3) affirms the significance of business transparency and accountability to the determination of punitive damages. On the whole, BMO v Marcotte may constitute a game-changer for how Federal firms assess risk and the costs of doing business in Canada.

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[filed: Class proceedings Constitutional Law Consumer Protection]