The meaning of submission was the central question, though by no means the only one, in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Barer v Knight Brothers LLC, 2019 SCC 13 (available here). Knight sought enforcement of a Utah default judgment against Barer in Quebec. The issue was governed by Quebec’s law on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments, which is set out in various provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec (so much statutory interpretation analysis ensued). Aspects of the decision may be of interest to those in other countries that have similar provisions in their own codes.
The Court of Appeal for Ontario has upheld a decision of the Superior Court of Justice dismissing a $2 billion claim against Loblaws relating to the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh. In Das v George Weston Limited, 2018 ONCA 1053 (available here) the court concluded that the claims were governed by the law of Bangladesh (not Ontario). It went on to conclude that most of the claims were statute barred under the Bangladeshi limitation period and that it was “plain and obvious” that the remaining claims would fail under Bangladeshi tort law.
Roxana Banu of Western University has published Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on Private International Law, a new book in the Oxford University Press series on the history and theory of international law. Information from the publisher can be found here. From the website:
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.