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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.

Tourism and Jurisdiction to take Centre Stage in Supreme Court of Canada

On March 21, 22 and 25, 2011 the Supreme Court of Canada will hear appeals in four private international law cases.  Each is a case in which the Ontario court has held that it has jurisdiction to hear the dispute and that the proceedings should not be stayed in favour of another forum. 

Two of the cases – Van Breda (information here) and Charron (information here) – involve Ontarians who were killed or severely injured while on holiday in Cuba.  They now seek to sue various foreign defendants in Ontario.  These cases involve tourists in the traditional sense of the word.  Two of the cases – Banro (information here) and Black (information here) – involve claims for defamation over the internet and damage to reputation in Ontario.  There is some allegation that these cases involve what has become known as “libel tourism”, especially in England and in the United States.

Several parties have already been granted leave to appear as intervenors and others are seeking such leave.  The decisions in these four cases could be very important for the Canadian law on jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court of Canada now posts PDFs of the written submissions of litigants as they are received, so those wanting more details about the cases should click on the “factums” button for each case.

Quebec Court Stays Palestinian Claim Against West Bank Builders

Things have certainly been quiet on the Canadian front over the past few months.  Ending the lull, in a decision filled with different conflict of laws issues, the Quebec Superior Court held, in Bil’In Village Council and Yassin v. Green Park International Inc. (available here), that Israel is the most appropriate forum for the dispute and therefore it stayed the proceedings in Quebec.

The plaintiffs, resident in the occupied West Bank, sued two corporations incorporated in Quebec for their involvement in building housing for Israelis in the West Bank.  The plaintiffs alleged violation of several international law principles.

Consultation Paper on Jurisdiction

The Law Commission of Ontario has released a consultation paper written by Professor Janet Walker (Osgoode Hall Law School, York University).  The paper (available here) proposes that Ontario’s current law on the taking and retaining of jurisdiction in civil matters is in need of reform.  It offers a proposed statute which would reform the law in this area.  The proposals have some common elements with the Uniform Law Conference of Canada’s model statute, the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act (available here), but also some important differences.

The Law Commission welcomes comments on the paper, and the process for commenting is explained in the paper.  Beyond this, those generally interested in how countries resolve issues of jurisdiction in civil matters should find the points raised in the paper of interest.

To date three Canadian provinces have moved away from the traditional approach, which is based on a combination of common law and rules of civil procedure, and have brought into force the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act (British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia).  Some other provinces have enacted the statute but not yet brought it into force, and some other provinces are considering adopting it.

Supreme Court of Canada Addresses Role of Parallel Proceedings in Stay Applications

Canada’s highest court has delivered its judgment in Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. v. Lloyd’s Underwriters (available here).  The decision is quite brief and upholds the decision of both courts below, leaving some to wonder why leave to appeal was granted.

Teck has mining and smelting operations in British Columbia.  In 2004 it was sued in Washington State for environmental property damage caused by the discharge of waste material into the Columbia River, which flows from Teck’s Canadian operations into the United States.  Teck notified its insurers, looking to them to defend the claim, but they refused.

Teck therefore sued the insurers in Washington State to establish its entitlement under the insurance policies.  The insurers sued Teck in British Columbia to establish their lack of responsibility under the same policies.  So the issue became where the coverage issue would be resolved.