After seven years at the helm of Quebec Superior Court, the last two particularly challenging and exhausting, Justice Jacques Fournier has stepped aside and became a supernumerary judge, with the reins being handed to Marie-Anne Paquette, a puisne judge of the Superior Court of Quebec for the district of Montreal.
In a tenure he described as not “not being a calm river” or not without obstacles, former Chief Justice Fournier began his mandate in 2015 dealing with the introduction of a new Quebec Code of Civil Procedure, a major reform that “needed to be assimilated” as it granted judges broader case management powers and bestowed a greater role to the principle of proportionality, followed by the landmark Jordan ruling and a legal battle with the Court of Quebec over monetary thresholds that wound up before the nation’s highest court, culminating with coming to grips with the “very demanding” pandemic.
“The decision (to step down) was very difficult, extremely difficult,” the 71-year old Justice Fournier told me. “I am going to miss it. But after seven years, you also have to know when to leave. At some point, it takes its toll without realizing it. I loved it, but there’s more to life than that.”
COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on people’s lives.
But it’s heartwarming to see that the courts are taking into account hardship.
In a brief bankruptcy ruling in Syndic de Deutsch, 2022 QCCS 222, Quebec Superior Court held that:
 There is no doubt that the measures put in place by the federal and provincial governments are a “misfortune” (“un malheur”) and the Court must consider even sua sponte the application of Article 175 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act for bankruptcies filed after March 2020.
 In this particular case, the requirements of Article 175 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act are not met however I consider the economical context.
 Neither the Superintendent of Bankruptcy nor any creditors have opposed the discharge of the Bankrupt.
 The bankruptcy and Insolvency Act’s objective is the social and economical rehabilitation of an honest but unlucky debtor and I hereby grant Ms. Irit Deutsch an Absolute Discharge from her bankruptcy. (my emphasis).
Non-respect of public health measures during a pandemic may be considered to be “reprehensible, even harmful, conduct to the development of a child,” held Quebec Superior Court Justice Claude Villeneuve in a child custody case.
He added: “Even if freedom of expression is a recognized right, it does not go so far as to permit an adult to denigrate and discredit, in the presence of a minor, citizens who respect rules enacted by the public health authorities in a pandemic linked to COVID-19.” Justice Villeneuve added that the parent’s message to his child is that it’s not important to respect the law nor the health and security of others, “which leads the Court to put into question the parental capacities… and as a result, the custody of the child.” Here is the decision.
A province-wide four-week curfew instituted by the Quebec government to stem COVID-19 infection rates and to serve as an “electroshock therapy” to deter people who have been flouting public health measures was launched without providing any grounds based on evidence that justifies the breaches of the Canadian and Quebec Charter, according to legal experts.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many have been eagerly awaiting a safe and effective vaccine to allow us to return to normal. With the first doses arriving in Quebec, one question keeps arising: Can employers require employees to get vaccinated before returning to work?
Canadian judges have demonstrated very little awareness over the heightened risks of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that should prompt judges to attend comprehensive legal training over what the United Nations has described as the “shadow pandemic,” according to human rights and legal aid experts.
Exceptional circumstances demand exceptional responses. States around the world have taken extraordinary, wide-ranging emergency measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and address the severe economic and financial fallout triggered by the pandemic, and business is keeping a watchful eye. Investors hard hit by the public interest interventions may be looking to recoup their losses by turning to investor-state arbitration at a time when there is a growing chorus calling for the suspension of lawsuits over Covid-related government actions.
Months after the Covid-19 pandemic forced the near shutdown of courts across Canada and paved the way for virtual justice, a Quebec lawyer and researcher is hoping that judges and lawyers will be alert to the unintended consequences of conducting justice through the use of technology.
In one of the first Covid-19 related lawsuits to surface, a Quebec court held that a commercial landlord was not entitled to collect rent from its tenant because a Quebec government decree that suspended non-essential business activities for three months to stem the flow of the Covid-19 pandemic constitutes force majeure.
The closely watched case, the only one so far in Quebec that has been decided on the merits, is expected to have important ramifications for landlords and tenants, underlines the importance of carefully drafting force majeure clauses, and highlights the weight the courts will give to the notion of peaceable enjoyment, according to legal observers.
Some argue that the COVID-19 crisis should not have been such a sudden and significant shock, and that a global pandemic should have been on the list of foreseeable risks.1 Some governments already had relevant health measures and public policies in their tool kits, ready to deploy. This being the case, should business leaders have been better informed about the likelihood of a pandemic? Should this have been on their risk horizon? What role can directors play if they want to help the organization plan for future risks? Continue reading “Post-COVID-19: Directors face a new set of risks in the 21st century”