Tag Archive for: conflict of laws

New Canadian Framework for Assumption of Jurisdiction

After 13 months the Supreme Court of Canada has finally released its decisions in four appeals on the issue of the taking and exercising of jurisdiction.  The main decision is in Club Resorts Ltd v Van Breda (available here) which deals with two of the appeals.  The other two decisions are Breeden v Black (here) and Editions Ecosociete Inc v Banro Corp (here).

The result is perhaps reasonably straightforward: in all four cases the court upholds the decisions of both the motions judges and the Court of Appeal for Ontario.  All courts throughout held that Ontario had jurisdiction in these cases and that Ontario was not a forum non conveniens.

The reasoning is more challenging, and it will take some time for academics, lawyers and lower courts to work out the full impact of these decisions.  The court’s reasoning differs in several respects from that of the courts below.

The court notes that a clear distinction needs to be drawn between the constitutional and private international law dimensions of the real and substantial connection test.  This is an interesting observation, particularly in light of the fact that the court’s own decision is not as clear on this distinction as it could be.  I expect that going forward there will be different interpretations of what the court is truly saying on this issue.

The court is reasonably clear that the real and substantial connection test should not be used as a conflicts rule in itself.  It is not a rule of direct application.  Rather, it is a principle that informs more specific private international law rules governing the taking of jurisdiction.  This is a change from the approach used by provincial appellate courts, especially the Court of Appeal for Ontario, which arguably had been using the real and substantial connection test as its rule, at least in part, for establishing jurisdiction in service ex juris cases.

The court states that it is establishing the framework for the analysis of jurisdiction.  Going forward, a real and substantial connection must be found through a “presumptive connecting factor” which is a factor that triggers a presumption of such a connection.  The presumption can be rebutted.  If the plaintiff cannot establish such a presumption, the court cannot take jurisdiction.  This last point is perhaps the largest change made to the law.  On the law as it stood, the plaintiff could establish jurisdiction through a variety of non-presumptive factual connections that collectively amounted to a real and substantial connection to the forum.  That approach is rejected by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The court does not purport to set out a complete list of presumptive connections.  It confines itself to identifying some such connections that could apply in tort cases, namely that (a) the defendant is domiciled or resident in the forum, (b) the defendant carries on business in the forum, (c) the tort was committed in the forum, and (d) a contract connected with the dispute was made in the forum.  It is quite open, on the language in the decisions, as to what other presumptive connections lower courts will need to be finding in other cases.  One possible solution is that lower courts will largely continue to follow the recent approach of the Court of Appeal for Ontario that the enumerated bases for service ex juris, subject to some exceptions, amount to such presumptive connections.

The decisions also address the test for the doctrine of forum non conveniens.   Three points can be made about that analysis.  First, the language suggests the burden is always on the defendant/moving party.  Second, emphasis is placed on “clearly” in “clearly more appropriate”, suggesting that it will be harder to displace the plaintiff’s choice of forum.  Third, the court cautions against giving too much weight to juridical advantage factors.  Judges should avoid invidious comparisons across forums and refrain from “leaning too instinctively” in favour of the judge’s own forum.

The decisions are not a radical break with the earlier cases but they do change the law on taking jurisdiction in several respects.  In addition, the court makes several points along the way, as asides, that will impact other aspects of the conflict of laws.  For example, the court confirms the propriety of taking jurisdiction based on the defendant’s presence in the forum.

Supreme Court of Canada Affirms Importance of Jurisdiction Agreements

In Momentous.ca Corp v Canadian American Assn of Professional Baseball Ltd, 2012 SCC 9 (available here) the court has affirmed its willingness to give effect to exclusive jurisdiction agreements in favour of a foreign forum. 

The decision is brief (12 paragraphs) and was released only just over a month after the case was argued.  It is a unanimous decision by the seven judges. 

Academic commentary about the decision has been quite mixed.  I am not aware that anyone thinks the decision is wrong.  There is much consensus that the court reached the correct result: the defendant should have been able to rely on the jurisdiction agreement in favour of North Carolina to resist proceedings in Ontario.  But there is much disagreement about the quality of the brief reasons.

One problem I have with the reasons is that I think the court confuses a dismissal of proceedings based on a lack of jurisdiction with a stay of proceedings.  Despite the words used, my sense is that what the defendants were seeking was a stay, not a dismissal.  The court’s repeated references to discretion (paras 9 and 10) are because what the court is really considering is a stay.  There is no discretion in the assessment of jurisdiction: the court either has it or does not have it as a matter of law.  Yet the court repeatedly refers to the remedy as a dismissal rather than a stay.  This is a mixing of two fundamentally different concepts.  If we take the court at its word, there is now the discretion to hold a court lacks jurisdiction.

The court relies on Rule 21.01(3)(a) which deals with challenges based on the court’s lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  In my view, that is not the basis for motions seeking to enforce jurisdiction clauses.  Such clauses do not deprive a court of jurisdiction over subject matter.  Absent the clause the court clearly had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the dispute.  If no one had invoked the clause the litigation would have carried on in Ontario.  And is there any doubt that a jurisdiction clause in favour of Ontario, rather than a foreign forum, is a matter of territorial jurisdiction and not subject matter jurisdiction?  Parties cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction on a court by contract.  Yet in the wake of this decision, we now have to grapple with the notion that jurisdiction clauses are about subject matter jurisdiction, not territorial jurisdiction.

There are many other interesting issues left unresolved by the court, so the brevity of the decision is a disappointment.

Quebec Court Refuses Jurisdiction on Forum of Necessity Basis

There has not been much to report from Canada for the past few months.  The Supreme Court of Canada’s jurisdiction decision in the Van Breda quartet of cases is still eagerly awaited.  There was some thought these decisions would be released by the end of February but it now appears that will not happen.  These cases were argued in March 2011.

Fortunately, Professor Genevieve Saumier of McGill University has written the following analysis of a recent Quebec Court of Appeal decision which might be of interest in other parts of the world.  The case is ACCI v. Anvil Mining Ltd., 2012 QCCA 117 and it is available here (though only in French, so I appreciate my colleague’s summary).  I am grateful to Professor Saumier for allowing me to post her analysis.

In April 2011, a Quebec court concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear a civil liability claim against Anvil Mining Ltd. for faults committed and damages inflicted in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the defendant exploits a copper mine.

The facts behind the claim related to actions alleged to have been taken by the defendant mining company in the course of a violent uprising in Kilwa in the Democratic Republic of Congo in October 2004 that caused the deaths of several Congolese (the number is disputed). In essence, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant collaborated with the army by providing them with trucks and logistical assistance.

The defendant, Anvil Mining Ltd, is a Canadian company with its head office in Perth, Australia. Its principal if not its only activity is the extraction of copper and silver from a mine in Congo. Since 2005, the company has rented office space in Montreal for its VP (Corporate Affairs) and his secretary. It is on the basis of this connection to the province of Quebec that the plaintiff launched the suit there. The plaintiff is an NGO that was constituted for the very purpose of instituting a class action against the defendant, for the benefit of the victims of the 2004 insurgency in Congo.

The defendant contested both the Quebec court’s jurisdiction and, in the alternative, invoked forum non conveniens to avoid the exercise of jurisdiction. At first instance, the court held that it had jurisdiction over the defendant on the basis of its establishment in Quebec (the office in Montreal) and that the claim was related to the activities of the defendant in Montreal (the two conditions for jurisdiction under 3148(2) Civil Code of Quebec given the foreign domicile of the defendant). Interpreting this second conditions broadly, the court held that the VP’s frequent visits to Congo and his activities to attract investors in Quebec were linked to the defendant’s activities in Congo and therefore to the claims based on those activities.

In rejecting the alternative forum non conveniens defense to the exercise of jurisdiction, the court considered the other fora allegedly available to the plaintiffs, namely Congo and Australia. A claim had already been made before a Congolese military court but it had been rejected. The plaintiff claimed that the process before the Congolese court, competent to hear the claim, was in breach of fundamental justice for a number of reasons. As to the Australian court, the plaintiff claimed that an attempt to secure legal representation in that country had failed because of threats made by the Congolese regime against both the victims and the lawyers they were seeking to hire in Australia. The Quebec court accepted this evidence and held that the defendants had failed to show that another forum was more appropriate to hear the case, a requirement under art. 3135 C.C.Q. It appears that the plaintiffs had also presented an argument based on art. 3136 C.C.Q. (“forum of necessity”), but since jurisdiction was established under art. 3148 and forum non conveniens was denied, the court decided not to respond to the argument based on forum of necessity. Still, the court did state that “at this stage of the proceedings, it does appear that if the tribunal declined jurisdiction on the basis of art. 3135 C.C.Q., there would be no other forum available to the victims,” suggesting that Quebec may well be a “forum of necessity” in this case.

Leave to appeal was granted and the Quebec Court of Appeal reversed, in a judgment published on 24 January 2012. The Court of Appeal held that the conditions to establish jurisdiction under art. 3148(2) C.C.Q. had not been met. As a result of that conclusion, it did not need to deal with the forum non conveniens aspect of the first instance decision. This made it necessary to deal with the “forum of necessity” option, available under art. 3136 C.C.Q. The Court found that the plaintiff had failed to show that it was impossible to pursue the claim elsewhere and that there existed a sufficient connection to Quebec to meet the requirements of article 3136 C.C.Q. In other words, the plaintiff had the burden to prove that Quebec was a forum of necessity and was unable to meet that burden.

The reasons for denying the Quebec court’s jurisdiction under art. 3148(2) C.C.Q. are interesting from the perspective of judicial interpretation of that provision but are not particular to human rights litigation. Essentially the Court of Appeal found that the provision did not apply because the defendant’s Montreal office was open after the events forming the basis of the claim. This holding on the timing component was sufficient to deny jurisdiction under 3148(2) C.C.Q. The Court also held that even if the timing had been different, it did not accept that there was a sufficient connection between the activities of the vice president in Montreal and the actions underlying the claim to satisfy the requirements of the provision.

The reasoning on art. 3136 C.C.Q. and the forum of necessity, however, are directly relevant to human rights litigation in an international context. Indeed, one of the challenges of this type of litigation is precisely the difficulty of finding a forum willing to hear the claim and able to adjudicate it according to basic principles of fundamental justice.  In the Anvil case, the victims had initially sought to bring a claim in the country where the injuries were inflicted and suffered. While the first instance court had accepted evidence from a public source according to which that process was tainted, the Court of Appeal appeared to give preference to the defendant’s expert evidence (see para. 100).

The Court of Appeal does not quote from that expert’s evidence whereas the trial judge’s reasons contain a long extract of the affidavit. And while the extract does not include the statement referred to by the Court of Appeal, it does include a statement according to which an acquittal in a penal court is res judicata on the issue of fault in a civil proceeding based on the same facts.

The obvious alternative forum was in Perth, Australia, where the defendant company had its headquarters (and therefore its domicile under Quebec law). There too the victims had sought to bring a claim but were apparently unable to secure legal representation or pursue that avenue due to allegedly unlawful interference by the defendant and government parties in the Republic of Congo. While the first instance judge had accepted the plaintiff’s evidence that Australia was not an available forum, the Court of Appeal quickly dismissed this finding, without much discussion.

Finally, the Court of Appeal returned to its initial findings regarding the interpretation of art. 3148 C.C.Q. to conclude that there was, in any event, an insufficient connection between Anvil and Quebec to meet that condition for the exercise of the forum on necessity jurisdiction. The court did not consider that under art. 3136 C.C.Q. it is unlikely that the timing of the connection should be the same as under 3148(2) C.C.Q. given the exceptional nature of the former basis for jurisdiction and the likelihood that the connections to the forum of necessity could arise after the facts giving rise to the claim.

The decision of the Court of Appeal in Quebec is disappointing in so far as its interpretation of the forum of necessity provision in the Civil Code of Quebec is quite narrow, particularly as regards the condition of a connection with Quebec; moreover, its application of the provision to the facts of the case deals rather summarily and dismissively with findings of fact made by the first instance judge without sufficient justification for its rejection of the evidence provided by the plaintiff and relied upon by the trial judge. Given the nature of the claims and of the jurisdictional basis invoked, it was incumbent on the Court of Appeal to provide better guidance for future plaintiffs as to what type of evidence will be required to support an article 3136 C.C.Q. jurisdictional claim and to what extent trial court findings in relation to such evidence will be deferred to in the absence of an error of law.

Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, Issue 2/2011

The second issue for 2011 of the Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, the Spanish journal published twice a year by the Área de Derecho Internacional Privado of Univ. Carlos III of Madrid under the editorship of Alfonso Luis Calvo-Caravaca (Univ. Carlos III) and Javier Carrascosa-González (Univ. of Murcia), has been recently published. It contains seventeen articles, shorter articles and casenotes, encompassing a wide range of topics in conflict of laws, conflict of jurisdictions and uniform law, all freely available for download. The journal’s website provides a very useful search function, by which contents can be browsed by issue of publication, author, title, keywords, abstract and fulltext.

Here’s the table of contents of issue 2/2011 (each contribution is accompanied by an abstract in English):


  • José Mª Alcántara, Frazer Hunt, Svante O. Johansson, Barry Oland, Kay Pysden, Milos Pohunek, Jan Ramberg, Douglas G. Schmitt, William Tetley, C.M.Q.C, Julio Vidal, A Blue Print for a Worldwide Multimodal Regime;
  • Nuno Andrade Pisarra, Breves considerações sobre a lei aplicável ao contrato de seguro;
  • María José Cervell Hortal, Pacientes en la Unión Europea: libertad restringida y vigilada;
  • Sara Lidia Feldstein de Cárdenas, Luciane Klein Vieira, La noción de consumidor en el Mercosur;
  • Pietro Franzina, The law applicable to divorce and legal separation under Regulation (EU) no. 1259/2010 of 20 December 2010;
  • Federico F. Garau Sobrino, Las fuentes españolas en materia de obligaciones alimenticias. ¿Hacia un Derecho Internacional Privado extravagante?;
  • Cesáreo Gutiérrez Espada, La adhesión española (2011) a la Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre las inmunidades jurisdiccionales de los Estados y de sus bienes (2005);
  • Francesco Seatzu, La proposta per la riforma del Regolamento «Bruxelles I» e i provvedimenti provvisori;
  • Sara Tonolo, L’Italia e il resto del mondo nel pensiero di Pasquale Stanislao Mancini.


  • Ana-Paloma Abarca Junco, Marina Vargas-Gómez Urrutia, Vecindad civil de la mujer casada: nuevas reflexiones en torno a la inconstitucionalidad sobrevenida del art. 14.4 C.c. y la retroactividad de la Constitución española en relación a los modos de adquisición de su vecindad civil;
  • Elisa Baroncini, La politica cinese sulle esportazioni dinanzi al sistema di risoluzione delle controversie dell’OMC: il report del Panel nel caso China – Raw Materials;
  • Pilar Juárez Pérez, La inevitable extensión de la ciudadanía de la Unión: a propósito de la STJUE de 8 de marzo de 2011 (asunto Ruiz Zambrano);
  • Carlos Llorente Gómez de Segura, “Forum non conveniens” revisited: el caso Spanair;
  • Pilar Maestre Casas, El pasajero aéreo desprotegido: obstáculos a la tutela judicial en litigios transfronterizos por incumplimientos de las compañías aéreas (A propósito de la STJUE de 9 julio 2009, Rehder, As. C-204/08);
  • María Dolores Ortiz Vidal, Ilonka Fürstin von Sayn-Wittgenstein: una princesa en el Derecho internacional privado;
  • Esther Portela Vázquez, La Convención de la UNESCO sobre la Protección del Patrimonio Subacuático. Principios Generales;
  • Alessandra Zanobetti, Employment contracts and the Rome Convention: the Koelzsch ruling of the European Court of Justice.

(Many thanks to Federico Garau, Conflictus Legum blog, for the tip-off)

Article on Global Class Actions in Canada

Associate Professor Tanya Monestier of the Roger Williams University School of Law has written an article on the willingness of Canadian courts to hear class actions involving a global plaintiff class. It is entitled “Is Canada the New ‘Shangri-La’ of Global Securities Class Actions?” and is forthcoming in 2012 in the Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business. The article is available here from SSRN.

The abstract reads:

There has been significant academic buzz about Silver v. Imax, an Ontario case certifying a global class of shareholders alleging statutory and common law misrepresentation in connection with a secondary market distribution of shares. Although global class actions on a more limited scale have been certified in Canada prior to Imax, it can now be said that global classes have “officially” arrived in Canada. Many predict that the Imax decision means that Ontario will become the new center for the resolution of global securities disputes. This is particularly so after the United States largely relinquished this role last year in Morrison v. National Australia Bank.

Whether Imax proves to be a meaningful precedent or simply an aberration will largely depend on whether the court dealt appropriately with the conflict of laws issues at the heart of the case. No author has yet addressed the conflict of laws complications posed by the certification of global class actions in Canada; this Article seeks to fill that void. In particular, I use the Imax case as a lens through which to canvass the conflict of laws issues raised by the certification of global classes. I look at the difficult questions of jurisdiction simpliciter, recognition of judgments, choice of law, parallel proceedings, and notice/procedural rights that need to be addressed now that global classes have come to Canada.

Jurisdiction Based on a Domain Name

In Tucows.Com Co. v. Lojas Renner S.A., 2011 ONCA 548 (available here) the Court of Appeal for Ontario considered whether to take jurisdiction in a dispute over the ownership of an internet domain name. 

Tucows is a Nova Scotia corporation with its principal office in Ontario.  Renner is a Brazilian corporation operating a series of retail department stores.  Tucows bought 30,000 domain names from another corporation, and one of the names was renner.com.  Tucows is the registrant of that domain name with the internationally-recognized non-profit organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).  Renner complained to WIPO and in response Tucows sued in Ontario, seeking a declaration that it was the owner of the domain name.  Renner objected to Ontario’s jurisdiction over the dispute.

The core issue was whether this dispute concerned “personal property in Ontario”.  An earlier decision of the Ontario Superior Court, Easthaven Ltd. v. Nutrisystem.com Inc. (2001), 55 O.R. (3d) 334 (S.C.J.), had concluded that because a domain name lacks a physical existence it was not “property in Ontario” and the mere fact the domain name was registered through a corporation that happened to carry on business in Ontario (the domain name Registrar) did not give it a physical presence here.

The court reviewed several scholarly articles on the issue from around the world and also considered jurisprudence from several other countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.  It concluded that the emerging consensus appears to be that domain names are a form of property.  After a further analysis of the nature of personal property, the court concluded that a domain name is personal property.  Further, the connecting factors favouring location of the domain name in Ontario were held to be the location of the registrant of the domain name and the location of the registrar and the servers as intermediaries.  On this basis the court found the domain name in issue to be personal property in Ontario, and thus took jurisdiction under the approach in Van Breda (discussed in an earlier post).

The case discusses several other issues, including (i) the relationship between the dispute settlement mechanism provided by WIPO and civil litigation and (ii) the propriety of a claim to obtain a declaration as a remedy.

Canadian Conflict of Laws Articles

Here are some recent articles from Canadian publications:

Janet Walker, “Are National Class Actions Constitutional?  A Reply to Hogg and McKee” (2010) 48 Osgoode Hall LJ 95

Jeffrey Haylock, “The National Class as Extraterritorial Legislation” (2009) 32 Dal LJ 253

Gerald Robertson, “The Law of Domicile: Re Foote Estate” (2010) 48 Alta L Rev 189

Joost Blom, “The Challenge of Jurisdiction: Van Breda v. Village Resorts and Black v. Breeden” (2010) 49 Can Bus LJ 400

Vaughan Black, Joost Blom and Janet Walker, “Current Jurisdictional and Recognitional Issues in the Conflict of Laws” (2011) 50 Can Bus LJ 499

The debate about the scope of Canadian class actions continues, and important questions about the analysis of a real and substantial connection for taking jurisdiction over foreign defendants await some answers from the Supreme Court of Canada in the four cases currently on reserve.

Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, Issue 1/2011

The first issue for 2011 of the Cuadernos de Derecho Transnacional, the Spanish journal published twice a year by the Área de Derecho Internacional Privado of Univ. Carlos III of Madrid under the editorship of Alfonso Luis Calvo-Caravaca (Univ. Carlos III) and Javier Carrascosa-González (Univ. of Murcia), has been recently published. It contains twenty articles, shorter articles and casenotes, encompassing a wide range of topics in conflict of laws, conflict of jurisdictions and uniform law, all freely available for download from the journal’s website.

Here’s the table of contents (each contribution is accompanied by an abstract in English):


  • Dário Moura Vicente, Principios sobre conflictos de leyes en materia de Propiedad Intelectual;
  • Hilda Aguilar Grieder, El impacto del Reglamento «Roma I» en el contrato internacional de agencia;
  • Celia Caamiña Domínguez, El secuestro internacional de menores: soluciones entre España y Marruecos;
  • Celia Caamiña Domínguez, La «supresión» del exequátur en el R 2201/2003;
  • Sergio Cámara Lapuente, El concepto legal de «consumidor» en el Derecho privado europeo y en el Derecho español: aspectos controvertidos o no resueltos;
  • Maria Ersilia Corrao, Il diritto internazionale privato e processuale europeo in materia di obbligazioni alimentari;
  • Pietro Franzina, La garanzia dell’ osservanza delle norme sulla competenza giurisdizionale nella proposta di revisione del Regolamento «Bruxelles I»;
  • Miguel Gómez Jene, Inmunidad y transacciones mercantiles internacionales;
  • Aurora Hernández Rodríguez, El contrato de transporte aéreo de pasajeros: algunas consideraciones sobre competencia judicial internacional y Derecho aplicable;
  • Mónica Herranz Ballesteros, Prohibiciones y limitaciones del artículo 4 de la Ley 54/2007: entre los objetivos de la norma y la realidad en su aplicación;
  • Stefan Leible, La importancia de la autonomía conflictual para el futuro del Derecho de los contratos internacionales;
  • Clelia Pesce, Sottrazione internazionale di minori nell’Unione Europea: il coordinamento tra il Regolamento (CE) n. 2201/2003 e la Convenzione dell’Aja del 1980.


  • Alfonso-Luis Calvo Caravaca, Javier Carrascosa González, Notas críticas en torno a la Instrucción de la Dirección General de los Registros y del Notariado de 5 octubre 2010 sobre régimen registral de la filiación de los nacidos mediante gestación por sustitución;
  • María Pilar Canedo Arrillaga, Notas breves sobre la sentencia del TJUE (Sala Cuarta) de 25 febrero 2010 (Car Trim: asunto C-381/08): los contratos de compraventa y los contratos de prestación de servicios en el Reglamento 44/2001;
  • Federico F. Garau Sobrino, La literalidad interpretada desde la coherencia del sistema. Las relaciones entre el Reglamento Bruselas I y los convenios sobre materias particulares según el TJUE;
  • Federico F. Garau Sobrino, Notas sobre la colisión de fuentes de Derecho internacional privado español sobre responsabilidad parental y protección del niño;
  • Natividad Goñi Urriza, La concreción del lugar donde se ha producido el hecho dañoso en el art. 5.3 del Reglamento 44/2001: nota a la STJCE de 16 de julio de 2009;
  • Carlos Andrés Hécker Padilla, Denial of justice to foreign investors;
  • Aurora Hernández Rodríguez, El Derecho aplicable al contrato en ausencia de elección por las partes: el asunto Intercontainer Interfrigo y su repercusión en el Reglamento Roma I;
  • Julia Suderow, Nota sobre la sentencia del TJCE Akzo Nobel y otros de 14 de septiembre de 2010: límites al privilegio legal de las comunicaciones entre abogados y sus clientes.

See also our previous posts on past issues of the CDT (1/2009, 2/2009 and 2/2010). The journal’s website provides a very useful search function, by which contents can be browsed by issue of publication, author, title, keywords, abstract and fulltext.

(Many thanks to Federico Garau, Conflictus Legum blog, for the tip-off)

Kuwait Airways Corporation v. Iraq in the Supreme Court of Canada

In yet another, but not the final, step in the very long-running litigation between KAC, IAC and the Republic of Iraq, the Supreme Court of Canada has held that the enforcement in Quebec of a 2008 judgment of the English Commercial Court ordering Iraq to pay CAD$84 million to KAC is not barred by soveriegn immunity (decision here).

Many on this list will be familar with the facts.  After the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, KAC sued IAC in England for conversion of several airplanes.  As part of that litigation, KAC was able to claim against Iraq for the costs of the actions that had been brought.  This claim flowed from Iraq’s having controlled and funded IAC’s defence, and it was not barred by sovereign immunity in England because it fell within the commercial activity exception.  Iraq did not defend this claim and default judgment was granted.

KAC discovered immovable property owned by Iraq in Quebec and also some undelivered airplanes Iraq was buying from Bombardier Aerospace.  It thus brought proceedings in Quebec to enforce the English judgment.  Two lower courts held the claim was barred by sovereign immunity but the Supreme Court of Canada found that it fell within the commercial activity exception.

The court applied the State Immunity Act, RSC 1985, c S-18 and held that it applied to proceedings to enforce a foreign judgment (paras. 19-20).  The English decision, which addressed the issue of sovereign immunity, was not binding in Canada and was not res judicata (since to be so it would first have to be recognized in Canada, which was the very issue before the court) (para. 22).  The application of the commercial activity exception to the facts is somewhat brief (para. 35), though there is some useful discussion of the scope of the exception in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada (paras. 25-33).

Two other points of interest: 1. the court does not wade into the issue of whether there are any exceptions to sovereign immunity beyond those set out in the statute (para. 24), and 2. the court accepts the factual findings of the English decision as part of its analysis, prior to concluding that the decision is enforceable in Canada (para. 34).  This latter point seems somewhat hard to explain, and the court does not offer much explanation.

The Supreme Court of Canada did not determine if the English judgment is enforceable in Quebec – it only dealt with the sovereign immunity issue.  The case was therefore remanded to the court of first instance to hear the claim for enforcement.  Iraq likely has some further arguments to advance, such as that the Quebec court lacks jurisdiction over it and that the English default judgment is not entitled to recognition and enforcement (for example, due to the lack of a real and substantial connection between England and the claim advanced against Iraq).

Looking Back and Looking Forward at Canadian Private International Law

At the recent 40th Annual Workshop on Commercial and Consumer Law at the University of Toronto, three leading Canadian conflict of laws scholars – Vaughan Black of the Schulich School of Law, Joost Blom of the University of British Columbia and Janet Walker of Osgoode Hall Law School – presented a paper looking back at the last forty years in private international law and offering thoughts on what lies ahead.  Each author picked out a particular theme: a judicial trend toward uniformity between provincial conflicts rules, the impact of Morguard on the structure of conflicts rules, and how the profile of the field has changed over time.  The paper is not currently available on the web but will be published in an upcoming issue of the Canadian Business Law Journal.

The paper was supplemented at the Workshop by Genevieve Saumier of McGill University’s oral comments on trends in Quebec’s private international law.  The session was chaired by Elizabeth Edinger of the University of British Columbia.