In common law Canada there is a clear separation between the question of a court having jurisdiction (jurisdiction simpliciter) and the question of a court choosing whether to exercise or stay its jurisdiction. One issue discussed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) is the extent of that separation. Does this separation mean that a particular fact cannot be used in both the analysis of jurisdiction and of forum non conveniens? On its face that seems wrong. A fact could play a role in two separate analyses, being relevant to each in different ways.
Another issue in the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) involves the applicable law as a factor in the forum non conveniens analysis. It is clear that one of the factors in determining the most appropriate forum is the applicable law. This is because it is quite easy for the forum to apply its own law and rather more difficult for it to apply the law of another jurisdiction.
The doctrine of forum non conveniens, in looking to identify the most appropriate forum for the litigation, considers many factors. Two of these are (i) a desire to avoid, if possible, a multiplicity of proceedings and (ii) any potential difficulties in enforcing the decision that results from the litigation. However, it is important to keep these factors analytically separate.
One of the points of interest in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) concerns the appropriateness of the plaintiff’s undertaking to pay the travel and accommodation costs of the defendant’s witnesses, located in Israel, to come to the trial in Ontario. The defendant had raised the issue of the residence of its witnesses as a factor pointing to Israel being the more appropriate forum. The plaintiff, one presumes, made a strategic decision to counter this factor by giving the undertaking.
The decision to stay proceedings under the doctrine of forum non conveniens is discretionary, which in part means that appeal courts should be reluctant to reverse the decisions of motions judges on the issue. It comes as some surprise, therefore, that the Supreme Court of Canada has disagreed with not only the motions judge but also the Court of Appeal for Ontario and overturned two earlier decisions denying a stay. In Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) the court held (in a 6-3 decision) that the plaintiff’s libel proceedings in Ontario should be stayed because Israel is the clearly more appropriate forum.
The most recent issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal (available here) is a special issue, guest edited by Janet Walker, Gerard Kennedy and Sagi Peari, considering the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act. This statute governs the taking of jurisdiction and both staying and transferring proceedings in civil and commercial matters in three Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan.
The Supreme Court of Canada, in Office of the Children’s Lawyer v Balev (available here), has evolved the law in Canada on the meaning of a child’s habitual residence under Article 3 of the Hague Convention. The Convention deals with the return of children wrongfully removed from the jurisdiction of their habitual residence.
Shortly before Christmas the UKSC released its decision on jurisdiction in Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Incorporated (available here). Almost all the legal analysis is obiter dicta because, on the facts, it emerges that no claim against the British Columbia-based holding corporation could succeed (para 15) and the appeal is allowed on that basis. I suppose there is a back story as to why it took a trip to the UKSC and an extraordinary step by that court (para 14) for the defendant to make those facts clear, but I don’t know what it is. On the facts there are other potential defendants to the plaintiffs’ claim and time will tell whether jurisdictional issues arise for them.
In Beaver v Hill, 2017 ONSC 7245 (available here) the applicant sought custody, spousal support and child support. All relevant facts happened in Ontario.