Quebec Quebec Superior Court

Jordan timelines apply to civil matters

The timelines set by the landmark Jordan decision applies to civil cases as well.

The Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan 2016 SCC 27 criticized the country’s legal system for its “culture of complacency” and set out new rules for an accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time frame. It laid down a ceiling of 30 months for matters before Superior Court cases to be completed. Provincial court trials should be completed within 18 months of charges being laid, but can be extended to 30 months if there is a preliminary inquiry.

Up until recently it was widely considered that the Jordan framework applied to only criminal cases.

Not so, according to two separate rulings by Quebec Superior Court.

In a case dealing with contempt of court proceedings, Justice Pierre Dallaire held that a party charged with contempt, whether civil or criminal, benefits from the protection granted by section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “There exists no logical justification for making a distinction between the two articles with respect to constitutional protection resulting from the general application of section 11 of the Charter, be it the right against self-incrimination or the right to a trial within a reasonable time,” said Justice Dallaire in St-Amour c. Major 2017 QCCS 2352.

Since the plaintiffs were not able to justify the delay of approximately 58 months — the delay between the summons to appear and the filing of the application to dismiss — Justice Dallaire ordered a stay of the contempt of court proceedings.

More recently, a restaurateur from the Gatineau region who was fined for allegedly operating equipment or restaurant successfully argued that there should be a stay in proceedings because of unreasonable delays.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Carole Therrien noted that 31 months elapsed between the time he received the fine and the scheduled trial date. That exceeds the Jordan timeline, said Justice Therrien in 3341003 Canada inc. c. Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales, 2017 QCCS 3277. And she put the blame on the Bureau des infractions et amendes, a provincial government agency that processes statements of offence and complaints regarding most Quebec penal laws and some federal laws.

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