Disclosing documents to police does not necessarily entail a waiver of privilege, holds Quebec Appeal Court

A voluntary disclosure of a report protected by privilege to assist police in a criminal investigation does not quash the privileges attached to the document held the Quebec Court of Appeal in overturning a lower court decision, the latest indication that case law surrounding privilege continues to evolve, according to a legal expert.

In a decision that reviews and revisits Quebec case law surrounding privilege, the Quebec Appeal Court held that it would be contrary to public policy for the disclosure of privileged documents in criminal proceedings to “somehow” have the effect removing privileges attached to those documents. The waiver of lawyer-client privilege must be clear and unequivocal, added the Appeal Court in Centre universitaire de santé McGill c. Lemay, 2022 QCCA 1394.

Disclosure to a third party information protected by solicitor-client privilege in principle entails waiver of the privilege but the Quebec Court of Appeal emphasizes that context must be considered, which must take into account all the circumstances in the case, noted Montreal litigator with Lavery de Billy LLP, who recently published an article entitled “Professional secrecy and testimonial immunity” for the legal encyclopedia JurisClasseur Québec.

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Montreal law firm teams up with Quebec video games non-profit

Montreal law firm De Grandpré Chait, a firm specializing in real estate since the beginning of the 20th C, is now branching out to the thriving and world-leading Quebec video game hub after it announced a partnership with a Quebec non-profit organization.

In what has been described as an “imaginative way to do business” in the flourishing sector by a lawyer familiar with the Canadian legal business landscape, De Grandpré Chait will be offering legal services at a discount to more than 300 members and partners of the Quebec Video Game Guild. The Guild, the largest group of its kind in the world, brings together independent and international video game developers, creators, educational institutions and entrepreneurs established in Quebec.

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McGill law professors unionized

Almost a year to the day when McGill law professors formally launched proceedings to become recognized as an exclusive bargaining unit for faculty members, the longer than expected legal battle culminated with an unequivocal victory after the Quebec labour board issued granted certification, a first for professors in the university’s 200-year history.

The “slam dunk” decision by the Quebec Administrative Labour Tribunal sets the stage for changes to the labour landscape at McGill, with the new union intending to flex its muscles over a growing inclination towards centralization at the university, safeguard the collegial governance at the faculty level and negotiate a collective agreement that will provide better working conditions and security, according to leaders of the Association of McGill Law Professors (AMPL).

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Parents appeal decision to remove allowing hospital to remove child’s breathing tube

The parents of a five-year old child who has been in a coma for the past six months will appeal a Quebec Superior Court decision allowing a Montreal children’s hospital to permanently remove the breathing apparatus in a heart-breaking case that is in line with jurisprudence, according to health law experts.

The decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Bernard Jolin, commended for being sensitive, solicitous and thoughtful, reaffirms that the best interests of the child must prevail, underlines that courts do not “strip” parents of their parental authority when going against their wishes but rather “corrects their manifestly erroneous decision,” highlights that the courts will take into account suffering as an important consideration, and illustrates the strain that may arise between faith and medical evidence.

“It’s not a judgment that breaks new ground in law but I am pleasantly surprised by the tact with which the judge goes about it,” said Montreal lawyer François Dupin, Ad.E, formerly with the Public Curator of Quebec. “He tries to explain the ins and outs of his grave decision. That’s important because if he was just concerned about the legal thing, he could have asked for the provisional execution of the judgment. But he didn’t do that. He wanted to give the parents a chance to appeal.” In Quebec, litigants challenging forced medical care have five days to ask the Quebec Court of Appeal to review the decision.

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Landmark ruling curbs arbitrary police stops in racial profiling case

An “obsolete” common law rule framed by a 1990 Supreme Court of Canada ruling and codified by the Quebec Highway Safety Code that allowed police to randomly conduct motor vehicle stops without cause was set aside by a landmark Quebec Superior Court decision that held it was in violation of the Canadian Charter and a “vector, even a safe harbour” for racial profiling against the Black community.

In a decision hailed as historic as it recognizes that racial profiling is a reality that “weighs heavily” on Black communities, particularly Black drivers, Quebec Superior Court Justice Michel Yergeau held that the arbitrary power police have to carry out roadside stops without grounds is in breach of s. 7, 9 and notably 15.1 of the Charter, ostensibly the first time that s. 15 has been used to invalidate or declare inoperative a criminal provision, according to legal experts.

“We’re not there yet but potentially this decision will have an impact everywhere in Canada,” noted Karine Joizil, a Montreal litigator with McCarthy Tétrault who represented the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, intervenors in the case. “What struck me is the clarity of the decision, and what this judgment is not about. It’s not a judgement against roadblocks, against police work, or on the values of the police. It’s really a judgment about whether s. 636 (of the Quebec Highway Safety Code) is well drafted or has the effect of creating a prejudicial effect for a category of the population that is otherwise protected by rights guaranteed under the Charter. It’s a wise and timely decision.”

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Quebec Court reaffirms authority of Aboriginal communities in youth protection

First Nations that have implemented youth protection legislation under the auspices of the federal Bill C-92 have jurisdiction over youth welfare regardless of place of residence held a provincial court judge in a decision viewed by legal experts as a precedent.

The long-awaited decision, widely regarded by legal pundits as an important stepping stone towards the right to self-government for First Nations, reaffirms the generic right to self-determination, confirms the authority of Aboriginal communities to withdraw children from the care of Quebec youth protection authorities, and highlights the importance of negotiating in good faith.

“This is the first judgment in such a matter, and we hope it will create a precedent,” said Frédéric Boily, a lawyer with Simard Boivin Lemieux in Dobeau-Mistassini in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean region who represented the the Conseil des Atikamekw d’Opitciwan, an intervener in the case. “So another Aboriginal community that wanted to follow in our client’s footsteps would indeed have good moorings on which to build.”

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New guidance provided Quebec Appeal Court over forced hospitalizations

An elderly single woman spearheaded a significant advancement for the rights of people who are ordered to be hospitalized after the Quebec Court of Appeal considerably broadened the obligations of the courts and healthcare institutions to appoint in most cases an ex officio lawyer to safeguard their rights and interests.

The decision, hailed by mental health legal experts as a step in the right direction, all but compels trial judges to appoint ex officio lawyers to represent the interests of individuals deemed to be “incapable” by the court, underlines that hospitals must ensure that such individuals have the opportunity to obtain counsel, and emphasizes that incapable people too have rights that must be respected, according to mental health legal experts.

“The Court of Appeal calls on the courts of first instance to take these matters seriously and to give due weight to judicial debates, as it should, with the contribution of lawyers in most cases,” noted Emmanuelle Bernheim, University of Ottawa law professor and Canada Research Chair in Mental Health and Access to Justice. “The Appeal Court also stresses that the rights (of incapable individuals) are important and they must be debated, and the role of the court is not just to endorse measures taken by others who are doctors. It doesn’t matter how unfit people are. Unfitness does not mean that you can intervene and infringe on someone’s right to integrity and freedom, and that deserves a judicial debate.”

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Chief Justices call for modernization of court system

The chief justices of four courts, addressing hundreds of judges and lawyers in person at the Montreal courthouse for the first time since the onset of the pandemic, broadly outlined their priorities and concerns at the Quebec’s opening of the courts ceremony, from the promise and pitfalls of technology to modernize the justice system to the debilitating impact of chronic underfinancing to the erosion of decorum in the courtroom and the pernicious effects of disparaging social media comments.

The chief justices, faced with no choice but to implement technological innovations at breakneck speed after COVID-19 struck in March 2020 in order to arrest the temporary paralysis of the justice system, now warn that while technological modernization of courts is inevitable and necessary, it is not the panacea that will resolve the host of challenges confronting the justice system.

“The digitization of the courts will not solve all the problems we face, and it may even raise new ones, but it is a step in the right direction,” remarked Quebec Court of Appeal Chief Justice Manon Savard who underlined that the appellate court is working “intensely” with the provincial Ministry of Justice to to establish a digital Court of Appeal within the next two years.

“This movement is irreversible. Society as a whole is increasingly turning to digital processes, in all sectors of activity. Courts must keep pace. In order to maintain or even improve the efficiency of courts in a post-pandemic context, the implementation of a reform focused on the use of technology will certainly be part of the solution,” said Chief Justice Savard in the summit entitled “Building the Future.”

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Quebec Appeal Court increases sentence for sexually assaulting a child

A 21-year old school janitor who sexually assaulted a 13-year old child had his sentence increased to 15 months imprisonment from 90 days by a divided Quebec Court of Appeal after the majority held that the trial judge failed to prioritize denunciation and deterrence as overriding factors.

The majority decision crystallizes the growing trend to mete out tougher punishments for sexual crimes against children following a seminal Supreme Court of Canada decision, and it appears to send a strong message to trial judges following a recent controversial decision that caused an uproar in the province, according to criminal legal experts.

“The message is clear,” said Université de Montréal criminal law professor and author Hugues Parent. “When there is no demonstration of rehabilitation on the part of the accused, when it is not convincing, the objectives of denunciation and dissuasion must be predominant, as a priority in child sex cases. So, from that point on, it is certain that the sentence will be very severe.”

According to Julien Grégoire, a Quebec City criminal lawyer, the Appeal Court judgment illustrates, despite the dissent, that the key principles of the landmark SCC decision in R. v. Friesen, 2020 SCC 9 involving the abuse and exploitation of children, “are now inescapable and it is not enough (for the courts) to state them but to apply them in practice.”

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Provincial elections spur labour agreements with lawyers

There’s nothing like an election to concentrate the mind.

In recent weeks, the Quebec government settled acrimonious labour disputes that threatened to spill over during the election. The provincial government, faced with the prospect of large swaths of legal actors interrupting electoral efforts with unsightly placards during the campaign,  quietly reached an agreement with private sector lawyers who take on legal aid mandates, and more recently with government lawyers and notaries.

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Pragmatic measures must be implemented to address problems plaguing Nunavik’s justice system: report

A series of wide-ranging concrete administrative and structural reforms, coupled with a new regional or municipal court, legal aid for all Inuit, and greater inclusion for traditional Inuit dispute resolution methods, should be implemented by the Quebec government and legal authorities to provide greater access to justice and tackle the alarming and increasing caseload in Nunavik, according to a recently published report.

“It is of primary importance to recognize that the system, as it currently exists, has failed in many respects,” said the report, which was mandated by the Quebec Ministry of Justice and the Makivik Corporation, the Inuit’s legal representative under the terms of the 1978 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement. “Reoffending rates have not declined, the Inuit have not been included, and bridges with traditional dispute resolution methods have not been used.”

The report, the latest in a long series of reports that has examined the justice system in the northern reaches of Quebec, issued 60 sweeping recommendations to tackle systemic delays occurring at the circuit court, “optimize” pre-trial hearings, and foster and promote active community involvement in dispute resolution.

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