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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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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New trial ordered by Quebec Appeal Court for man convicted of sexual interference on a child

A new trial for a man convicted of sexual interference on a child was ordered by the Quebec Court of Appeal after it held that the trial judge’s refusal to allow the re-opening of the complainant’s cross-examination infringed his right to make full answer and defence.

In a decision brimming with guidance over the scope of sections 10 and 11 of the Canada Evidence Act to dispel “some confusion” around cross-examinations on prior inconsistent statements, the Quebec Appeal Court held that despite the impact of a new trial on the complainant, an autistic child, who will have to testify again, “no other outcome can be considered” when the right to a full answer and defence and the right to a fair trial have been infringed.

“My first reaction is to deplore a reflex on the part of some judges to bow to public pressure in matters of sexual assault, especially when the complainant is a young person,” remarked Jean-Claude Hébert, a prominent Montreal criminal lawyer. “The Court of Appeal, firmly based on the current state of the law, correctly criticizes the trial judge for having erred in the exercise of her discretion regarding the right to a fair trial, in which case an accused person must be allowed to make a full answer and defence.”

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Some provisions of federal patented drug pricing regime unconstitutional

The federal government will have to overhaul its regulatory approach and guidelines over patented drug pricing after the Quebec Court of Appeal found a couple of provisions to be unconstitutional and outside the scope of federal jurisdiction over patents, according to a legal expert.

The Appeal Court ruling, expected to have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry in Canada, upheld the constitutionality of the legislative framework of the Patented Medicines Prices Review Board (PMPRB) and it current regulations. In a unanimous decision, the Appeal found that controlling abusive pricing of medicines resulting from a monopoly conferred by a patent has a logical, real and direct connection with federal jurisdiction over patents and does not constitutionally encroach on provincial jurisdiction.

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Quebec appeals landmark ruling that affirms self-governance for Indigenous peoples

The Quebec government will appeal an Appeal Court decision that marked the first time the courts have clearly recognized a self-government right as a right of all Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The Quebec Appeal Court held that Indigenous people possess an existing right of self-government that is protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, according to legal experts.

“It is a question of jurisdiction between the Quebec and Canadian governments, and we are pursuing the relationship with the Aboriginal communities,” said Quebec Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette, explaining why the provincial government is seeking leave to appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.

“It is possible to have a partnership with the Aboriginal communities in order to take charge of youth protection, but this must be done within the division of powers that exists in the Constitution,” added Jolin-Barrette.

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Canadian Constitution architecture dramatically altered following Quebec Appeal Court decision, according to experts

The architecture of the Canadian Constitution has been dramatically altered, with the emergence of a third level of government, after the Quebec Court of Appeal ruled that Indigenous people possess an existing right of self-government that is protected by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, according to legal experts.

The “bold” decision, a reference case brought by the Attorney General of Québec after it challenged the constitutionality of the federal government’s Indigenous child welfare law, marks the first time a self-government right has been clearly recognized by the courts as a right of all Indigenous peoples in Canada, added aboriginal and constitutional legal experts.

“The Court recognized that Indigenous peoples in Canada have a right to self-government over child and family services recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982,” said Claire Truesdale, a Vancouver lawyer with JFK Law Corporation who practices Aboriginal, environmental and constitutional law. “This is remarkable.”

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New labour relations legal landscape on the horizon following Appeal Court decision

A new legal landscape governing labour relations may be in the horizon in Quebec following a Court of Appeal decision that found that the provincial Labour Code breached the Canadian and Quebec Charters by prohibiting first-level managers from unionizing.

“It’s a very important decision because it kind of creates a crack in the legislative scheme that we have in Quebec with regards to labour relations,” said Shwan Shaker, a labour and employer senior associate with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. “It’s kind of opening a breach to allow low level managers to unionize. But it’s important to keep in mind that this is really case-by-case.”

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Religious corporation loses battle over perpetual contracts

In 1945 a religious corporation acquired from the City of Sherbrooke a piece of land, adjoined to a property it already owned, to provide a resting place for weary nuns, or “religieuses fatiguées.”

It paid $200. But the contract includes a clause by which the City obtains the privilege to repurchase the land at the price sold in the event that the religious outfit decides to resell it.

Les Filles de la Charité du Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus launched an action to have the right of pre-emption be declared null and void or, in the alternative, that a time limit be set for its lapse.

The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Heeding guidance by the Supreme Court in Uniprix inc. v. Gestion Gosselin et Bérubé inc., 2017 SCC 43, the Appeal Court reaffirmed that the only perpetual contracts that are invalid as contrary to public policy are those where perpetuity “undermines” fundamental values of society.

“It is true that the appellant cannot freely dispose of this land, since it must allow the respondent to buy it if it decides to sell it, but this is not shocking,” said the Appeal Court in Filles de la Charité du Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus c. Ville de Sherbrooke, 2022 QCCA 112.

“The appellant has, to date, used the land in the manner it intended at the time of purchase and can continue to do so since it is only if it decides to sell it that it will have to allow the respondent to buy it back. It is true that this limits one of the components of her right of ownership, in this case abusus, but this limit does not undermine a fundamental value of society, especially since many other dismemberments of the right of ownership are authorized in Quebec law.”

Insurer loses battle against Quebec tax authorities

Insurers are required to collect tax on insurance premiums, and remit it to the provincial government, within a certain allotted time.

When clients sent a cheque or made an electronic payment to pay their premiums before it was due on the effective date of the policy,  one insurer accepted the sums as soon they were received but did not yet remit to the tax authorities because the policy was not yet in force.

The Quebec Court of Appeal nixed that practice.

The insurer, as per s. 527 of the Act respecting the Québec sales tax (Act), must in its capacity as agent account for the tax collected in the preceding calendar month at the end of the month, held the Appeal Court in Agence du revenu du Québec c. Assurances générales Desjardins inc., 2022 QCCA 57. Whether or not the premium is due does not change the fact that the insurer has collected the amount of tax on insurance premium paid by the insured and must therefore remit it to the Minister, added the Appeal Court.

“There is no doubt that, where the premium is paid on the day the contract comes into force, the tax on insurance premiums collected must be remitted to the Minister in accordance with the terms of section 527 of the Act.

“The issue at stake here is that the customer voluntarily fulfills his obligation, the payment of the amount corresponding to the premium, which includes the tax on insurance premiums, before the arrival of the suspensive term agreed between the parties and that the (insurer) collect this amount although they are technically not yet entitled to it.”

On top of that, under article 2398 Civil Code, this contract is formed as soon as the application is accepted by the insurer, even if it takes effect at a later date, added the Appeal Court. The enforceability of the reciprocal obligations of the parties is then simply suspended until the date fixed, concluded the Appeal Court.