Quebec justice system in crisis

The Quebec justice system, buckling under the weight of years of chronic underfinancing, is stricken by such a serious manpower shortage that hardly a day goes by without a trial, a preliminary inquiry or a sentence being delayed or postponed, an untenable situation that could lead to “significant harm” to the public and undermine faith towards judicial institutions, warn top legal officials.

The “catastrophic” situation is exacerbated by tense labour relations with a host of different legal actors and the Quebec government, with legal aid lawyers recently launching half-day strikes, private sector lawyers who take on legal aid mandates now refusing to accept cases dealing with sexual and intimate partner violence, and court clerks launching walkouts that may metamorphose into a strike.

“The situation is at a minimum very troubling,” remarked Catherine Claveau, head of the Quebec Bar. “The system has reached its limits. At the moment, there are very real risks of breakdowns or disruptions of services that could cause significant harm to citizens and generate a great deal of insecurity towards judicial institutions.”

Former Quebec Superior Court Chief Justice Jacques Fournier is just as concerned by the turn of events, asserting that parts of the justice system is in the midst of cracking, a state of affairs that will unlikely improve with an ageing workforce progressively retiring – unless more monies are poured into the justice system.

“It’s very, very worrisome, very worrisome, because it’s not going to get better,” said Justice Fournier, who along with the chief justices of the Court of Quebec and the Quebec Court of Appeal wrote a letter to the Quebec government last year entreating it to boost the salaries of their judicial assistants. “To be satisfied with justice that is delivered in twelve, fifteen or eighteen months is not ideal. In my opinion, justice should be rendered almost in real time. It will take major investments to modernize, but modernizing in terms of access and in terms of speed of execution.”

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Montreal car dealer ordered to pay damages for selling fake vintage

The 1969 ZL1 Camaro is a legendary muscle car. It is a beast of a car, raw, powerful and quick, and was actually designed for drag racing, capable of exceeding 500 horsepower. Only 69 were made, and it’s worth a fortune, with collectors paying as much as US$1 million.

Brad Kyle thought he got his hand on one of these rare vintage automobiles, number 48 of 69. In February 2014 the head of Town & Country Chrysler Ltd., a new and used car dealer that occasionally sells exotic sports cars, purchased the car for $395,000 (plus tax) from Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limité, a Montreal car dealership specializing in the sale of exotic and luxury cars.

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Quebec justice minister, judiciary locked in ‘power struggle’ over bilingualism requirements for judges

Barely a week after Quebec Superior Court ruled that the provincial justice minister does not have a say on how the judiciary determines its professional and linguistic requirements, the Quebec National Assembly passed a non-binding motion declaring that unilingual French-speaking applicants should not be barred from applying to become provincial judges.

In the wake of a decision that plainly states that the Quebec justice minister cannot bar bilingualism prerequisites for judicial candidates, the National Assembly adopted without debate and with the support of the four opposition parties a motion that “reiterates the importance of the principle of the State’s exemplary role in protecting the French language” and that “justice is no exception to this important principle.”

Quebec Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette is also considering amending legislation to prohibit the Court of Quebec from requiring judges to be bilingual in certain judicial districts, stating that “all options are on the table,” including appealing the 71-page decision in Conseil de la magistrature c. Ministre de la Justice du Québec, 2022 QCCS 266.

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Quebec man “returned” from his “legal” death

Sometimes a person who has been legally declared dead is not dead.

In a remarkably rare turnabout, a Canadian insurer successfully convinced Quebec Superior Court to annul a judicial declaration of death of a Montreal man who disappeared in 2008 after reliable signs of life were uncovered, freeing it of its obligation to pay $500,000 in life insurance.

“There is not much that has been written about such cases because they are exceptional,” noted Josianne Gelfusa, a Montreal notary with D & G Notaries, who co-wrote a chapter on absence and death for the book Droit des personnes physiques (Law of natural persons). “So there is not much case law to assist judges.” Continue reading “Quebec man “returned” from his “legal” death”

Mandatory retirement clauses breach Quebec Charter, rules court

Professional services firms that have mandatory retirement policies and provisions that require partners to divest their ownership shares solely on the basis of age are discriminatory and in breach of the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms held Quebec Superior Court in a ruling that has the legal community buzzing over its implications.

In a case that pitted a Montreal municipal and labour and employment law firm against its founder, the decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Stéphane Lacoste is expected to have wider repercussions than the thorny issue of mandatory retirement, according to legal observers. Following the decision in DHC Avocats inc. c. Dufresne, 2022 QCCS 58, typical arrangements made by professional services firms in succession planning such as “unpartnering” or changing the status of their senior partners while still allowing them to work in the firm may be called into question, added legal experts. Continue reading “Mandatory retirement clauses breach Quebec Charter, rules court”

Court deems COVID-19 measures a “misfortune”

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:

[14] 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.

[15] In this particular case, the requirements of Article 175 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act are not met however I consider the economical context.

[16] Neither the Superintendent of Bankruptcy nor any creditors have opposed the discharge of the Bankrupt.

[14] 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).

Anti-vaxxer mom loses bid to prevent her kids from being vaccinated

An anti-vaxxer mother who believes that the COVID-19 vaccine may contain electronic chips, heavy metals and aborted fetal cells lost her bid to prevent her two children from being vaccinated.

In the latest of a growing number of COVID-related cases dealt by the courts, Quebec Superior Court Justice Steve Reimnitz withdrew the woman’s parental authority in health matters of her nine and fourteen-year old kids. Continue reading “Anti-vaxxer mom loses bid to prevent her kids from being vaccinated”

Damages awarded to victims of conjugal violence

A man who subjected his ex-wife to nine years of domestic violence was ordered by Quebec Superior Court to pay her nearly $47,000 in damages, the second time in less than a month that a Quebec court ordered an abusive spouse to pay damages for the violence they inflicted.

In a decision welcomed by family law experts and advocates against family violence who believe it is the harbinger of an emerging trend, Quebec Superior Court Justice Gregory Moore held that recent amendments to the federal Divorce Act (Act) “underline the sensibility that the the courts and parties must demonstrate faced with this challenge” to society. Justice Moore awarded more than $1,900 in damages, $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages and $15,000 in punitive damages.

“This is a developing trend because society in general rejects family violence, because there is heightened awareness by the courts over the issue of family violence, and because domestic violence is no longer viewed by the courts as being only a ground for granting divorce but as a possible cause of physical and psychological harm that must be compensated,” said Michel Tétrault, a family law expert who has written Droit de la famille.”

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Landmark ruling for trans rights

Quebec, once on the forefront of trans rights, is now joining the ranks of most Canadian jurisdictions after Quebec Superior Court declared unconstitutional several articles of the Civil Code of Quebec that discriminated against trans and non-binary people.

In a long-awaited ruling by trans, non-binary and intersex people, the “critically important” decision affirms that having your identity acknowledged and recognized by the State is a core aspect of the right to equality and the right to dignity, assert legal experts. The judgment, lauded as the most sweeping in its scope in Canada involving the constitutional rights of trans people, found that six provisions of the Civil Code violated rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

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