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Staying Proceedings under the Civil Code of Quebec

Written by Professor Stephen G.A. Pitel, Western University

The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R.S. v P.R., 2019 SCC 49 (available here) could be of interest to those who work with codified provisions on staying proceedings. It involves interpreting the language of several such provisions in the Civil Code of Quebec. Art. 3135 is the general provision for a stay of proceedings, but on its wording and as interpreted by the courts it is “exceptional” and so the hurdle for a stay is high. In contrast, Art. 3137 is a specific provision for a stay of proceedings based on lis pendens (proceedings underway elsewhere) and if it applies it does not have the same exceptional nature. This decision concerns Art. 3137 and how it should be interpreted. Read more

Double Counting the Place of the Tort?

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.

The Most Appropriate Forum: Assessing the Applicable Law

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.

So if the defendant can show that the forum would apply not its own law but rather the law of another jurisdiction, that points to a stay of proceedings in favour of that other jurisdiction.  In contrast, if the plaintiff can show that the forum would apply its own law, that points against a stay of proceedings.  In Haaretz.com the plaintiff was able to show that the Ontario court would apply Ontario law, not Israeli law.  So the applicable law factor favoured Ontario.

The Role of Foreign Enforcement Proceedings in Forum Non Conveniens

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.

In the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) Justice Abella noted that “enforcement concerns would favour a trial in Israel, in large part because Haaretz’s lack of assets in Ontario would mean that any order made against it would have to be enforced by Israeli courts, thereby raising concerns about a multiplicity of proceedings” (para 142).  Similarly, Justice Cote concluded (paras 82-83) that the fact that an Ontario order would have to be enforced in Israel was a factor that “slightly” favoured trial in Israel.

Staying Proceedings, Undertakings and “Buying” a Forum

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.

Supreme Court of Canada: Israel, not Ontario, is Forum Conveniens for Libel Proceedings

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.

Law on Jurisdiction Clauses Changes in Canada

In 2011 Facebook, Inc. used the name and picture of certain Facebook.com members as part of an advertising product.  In response, a class action was started in British Columbia on behalf of roughly 1.8 million British Columbia residents whose name and picture had been used.  The claim was based on section 3(2) of the province’s Privacy Act.  In response, Facebook, Inc. sought a stay of proceedings based on an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of California contained in the contracts of use for all Facebook.com members.

Conflicts Conference in Toronto

The following information is provided by the conference organizers.  Given how rare conflict of laws conferences are in Canada, I am delighted to pass this along.

The CJPTA: A Decade of Progress

In 2016, the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act marks its tenth year in force.  Adopted in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, the CJPTA has clarified and advanced the law of judicial jurisdiction. This symposium will assess the progress made by the CJPTA across the range of issues addressed and critically evaluate the capacity of the CJPTA: to provide leadership for the law in other parts of Canada; to enable further development in the law; and to meet the needs of Canadians in the years ahead in a world of increasing cross-border dealings.

New Book on Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act

Thomson Reuters Carswell has just published Statutory Jurisdiction: An Analysis of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act by Vaughan Black, Stephen G.A. Pitel and Michael Sobkin.  More information is available here.
 
The Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act puts the important topic of the jurisdiction of Canadian provincial courts in civil and commercial cases on a clearer statutory footing.  It is in force in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.  The approach to jurisdiction adopted under the CJPTA is different in several respects from the common law approach, and so provinces that have adopted it are undergoing a period of transition.  One of the key issues for courts in applying the CJPTA is interpreting its provisions and explaining how they operate.  Statutory Jurisdiction: An Analysis of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act examines the growing body of cases and provides a comprehensive account of how the CJPTA is being interpreted and applied by the courts. 
 
The Supreme Court of Canada has, in its April 2012 decisions on jurisdiction, indicated a willingness to develop the common law in a way that is highly mindful of the approach taken under the CJPTA.  As a result, the analysis of the CJPTA will also be of use to those in Canadian common law provinces and territories that have not enacted the CJPTA. 
 
The book may also appeal as a comparative law resource on conflict of laws, especially to those interested in how traditional rules can be affected, directly and indirectly, by statutory reform.

 

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.