Friday, December 9, 2016

Rectification in the Supreme Court of Canada

Canada (Attorney General) v. Fairmont Hotels Inc., 2016 SCC 56:


Rectification is an equitable remedy designed to correct errors in the recording of terms in written legal instruments. It is limited to cases where a written instrument has incorrectly recorded the parties' antecedent agreement. In other words, rectification is not available where the basis for seeking it is that one or both of the parties wish to amend not the instrument recording their agreement, but the agreement itself.


Where the error is said to result from a mistake common to both or all parties to the agreement, rectification of the instrument is available upon the court being satisfied that there was a prior agreement whose terms are definite and ascertainable; that the agreement was still in effect at the time the instrument was executed; that the instrument fails to accurately record the agreement; and that the instrument, if rectified, would carry out the parties' prior agreement.


 It falls to a party seeking rectification to show not only the putative error in the instrument, but also the way in which the instrument should be rectified in order to correctly record what the parties intended to do. The applicable standard of proof to be applied to evidence adduced in support of a grant of rectification is the balance of probabilities. A court will typically require evidence exhibiting a high degree of clarity, persuasiveness and cogency before substituting the terms of a written instrument with those said to form the parties' true intended course of action. On rectification, both equity and the civil law are ad idem, despite each legal system arriving at it by different paths — the former being concerned with correcting the document, and the latter focusing on its interpretation. This convergence is undoubtedly desirable.





Thursday, December 8, 2016

Justice of the Peace

Many people think a Justice of the Peace is someone who performs marriages and that performing marriages is the main work of a justice of the peace.  This is an understandable belief because in the United States many Justices of the Peace are, in effect, secular clergy whose main job is to conduct marriages;  since much of our television and movies come from America the image of a Justice of the Peace being focussed on marriages has become ingrained in Canadian thinking.

In fact, while a Justice of the Peace in Canada can perform a marriage that is quite unusual and performing marriages is certainly not the major role of a justice of the peace.

The history of justices of the peace is ancient.  In 1195, King Richard the Lionheart appointed some of his knights to preserve the peace in unruly areas. They were responsible to the King for ensuring that the law was upheld and were known as "keepers of the peace".  By the 1300s the idea of a protector of the peace evolved beyond someone who could keep the peace with a sword and became a more judicial office.  So an English law of 1327 had referred to "good and lawful men" to be appointed in every county in the land to "guard the peace"; justice of the peace as a term comes a little later, from 1361, and, amazingly, their role has been more or less the same since then, almost 700 years later.  A modern justice of the peace in Rankin Inlet would being doing most of the same things a justice of the peace would be doing in Stratford, England, in say 1400!

Justices of the Peace are major participants in the justice system and act as judicial officers, in effect judges, on many matters of very great importance.  For example, a justice of the peace is likely to be the person deciding, if you get arrested and the RCMPolice do not release you right away, whether you will be released on bail or whether you will have to spend your time in jail until your trial.  Justices of the Peace decide on whether a search warrant is to issue to search your home or business.  Justices of the Peace act as the judge in many of the less serious criminal and regulatory cases and they have some jurisdiction in family law matters.  As you can see, a justice of the peace is a very important person.

Justices of the Peace are usually lay people, working and living in the community where they sit; they often carry out these duties on a part-time basis.  As lay people living in the community a Justice of the Peace has a good sense of what is going on locally and can make informed decisions about the best way to ensure justice is done in the community.  

Although they are similar to judges, justices of the peace are not judges and so they are called by a slightly different name in Court.  A judge is called "Your Honour" while a justice of the peace is called "Your Worship".  Regardless, both deserve respect in court! 

Of the Law Societies of Upper Canada and Nunavut 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Resist Arrest

No one likes to be arrested.  Sometimes people use strong language in response to being arrested.  Some people are very rude on being arrested.  While imprudent (you should always be polite when dealing with the police) such conduct is not criminal in itself.  Remember, even if you are really upset at being arrested the police are just doing their job and they deserve respect and not insults!  But again, being rude is not criminal.

What is criminal is resisting arrest.  The Criminal Code provides:

129. Every one who

(a) resists or wilfully obstructs a public officer or peace officer in the execution of his duty or any person lawfully acting in aid of such an officer,

… is guilty of

(d) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or

(e) an offence punishable on summary conviction.


Put in a nutshell, "resistance" involves applying force to a police officer, or doing something which requires force or energy which prevents or interferes with the officer's arrest.  Mere non-cooperation does not amount to the offence.  

For example, in a case from the 1970s a man was arrested but refused to accompany the police. As a result, the police lifted the accused up under each arm and carried him to the police truck. The accused did not exert any direct physical force on the police; despite that he was charged with resist arrest.  The trial judge stated:

[T]he word resist is more properly descriptive of acts of opposition to the efforts of the officer demonstrated by direct activity of a physical sort on the part of the accused. He must be shown to have employed some degree of force. In other words, the conduct of the accused must amount to more than what has in the past been referred to as passive resistance, that is, resistance without some degree of force or violence, regardless of how minimal, before it can be said that the accused has committed the offence of resisting. His conduct, without such positive resistance, may very well amount to obstruction of the officer, but it does not, in my opinion, amount to resistance under the section.

The offence of resisting a peace officer requires more than being uncooperative: it requires active physical resistance. 

Does this mean that on being arrested it makes sense to go limp and force the police to carry you to jail? 


Even if non-cooperation does not amount to a criminal act it makes sense to cooperate with the police regardless of whether you are, or are not, guilty.  If you are innocent, then cooperation is proper and appropriate and if you are guilty being difficult just makes things worse.  Note, however, that cooperation does not mean you should answer questions from the police until you have spoken to a lawyer and received some advice over what you should or more likely should not say.  

Friday, November 25, 2016

Litigation Privilege - the SCC speaks

Lizotte v. Aviva Insurance Company of Canada, 2016 SCC 52:

Litigation privilege is a common law rule that gives rise to an immunity from disclosure for documents and communications whose dominant purpose is preparation for litigation. This privilege has sometimes been confused with solicitor‑client privilege, both at common law and in Quebec law. However, since Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice), 2006 SCC 39, [2006] 2 S.C.R. 319, it has been settled law that solicitor‑client privilege and litigation privilege are distinct: the purpose of solicitor‑client privilege is to protect a relationship, while that of litigation privilege is to ensure the efficacy of the adversarial process; solicitor‑client privilege is permanent, whereas litigation privilege is temporary and lapses when the litigation ends; and, finally, litigation privilege applies to unrepresented parties and to non-confidential documents, and is not directed at communications between solicitors and clients as such. 

                    Although litigation privilege is distinguishable from solicitor‑client privilege, it is nevertheless a class privilege and gives rise to a presumption of inadmissibility for a class of communications, namely those whose dominant purpose is preparation for litigation. Thus, any document that meets the conditions for the application of litigation privilege will be protected by an immunity from disclosure unless the case is one to which one of the exceptions to that privilege applies. 

                    Litigation privilege is subject to clearly defined exceptions, not to a case‑by‑case balancing test. In the context of privileges, the exercise of balancing competing interests is associated with case‑by‑case privileges, not class privileges. The exceptions that apply to solicitor‑client privilege are all applicable to litigation privilege. These include the exceptions relating to public safety, to the innocence of the accused and to criminal communications. They also include the exception recognized in Blank for evidence of the claimant party's abuse of process or similar blameworthy conduct. Other exceptions may be identified in the future, but they will always be based on narrow classes that apply in specific circumstances. 

                    Finally, litigation privilege can be asserted against third parties, including third party investigators who have a duty of confidentiality. It would not be appropriate to exclude third parties from the application of this privilege or to expose the privilege to the uncertainties of disciplinary and legal proceedings that could result in the disclosure of documents that would otherwise be protected. Any uncertainty in this regard could have a chilling effect on parties preparing for litigation, who may fear that documents otherwise covered by litigation privilege could be made public. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Sentence Appeals

It's the end of a criminal trial and you have been convicted.  The judge gave a sentence and you don't think it's fair.  Can you appeal and get a different sentence? 


If you want a lower sentence you must convince the appeal court that the sentence is "unfit" or unreasonable.

Judges have a wide discretion in sentencing; It is not good enough for you to believe that the judge made just any kind of a mistake.  An appeal will succeed only if a judge made legal error, or did not apply sentencing principles correctly or if the sentence was beyond the appropriate range of sentence for the type of act that you committed.  As you can see there are not a lot of reasons why an appeal on sentence should be allowed.
The grounds that could support an appeal are:
the sentence is excessive, given your background and the circumstances of the offence;
the sentence is illegal; or
there is an error in a principle of sentencing resulted in an unreasonable sentence.
Your appeal won't succeed unless you can show that one of these grounds apply.

If you're arguing that your sentence is excessive, you have to show that other decisions of the Court in similar circumstances gave much lower sentences.  It's not enough to show that other cases gave a lower sentence – your sentence has to be quite out of the range.  Judges know the law of sentencing and what is the normal sentence and so appeals on the basis of excessive sentence seldom succeed.

The Criminal Code is very complex and sets out the punishments that can be imposed; only punishments authorized by the Criminal Code can be imposed. Any sentence that isn't authorized by the Criminal Code is illegal.

Arguing a sentence is illegal is unusual because judges do know what is and is not a lawful punishment – I saw a judge correct a lawyer on a sentencing just last week (the lawyer suggested a two year sentence and the judge pointed out it had to be two years less a day to be legal).  That said, judges are human and sometimes make mistakes.  So, for example, if a judge makes a probation order for four years that is illegal.  Under section 732.2(2)(b) of the Criminal Code a stand-alone probation order cannot be longer than three years.
The most common sentence appeals are based on the argument that the judge made an error in principle and did not impose a proper sentence.  Again, judges seldom make mistakes here but it does happen from time to time.
The principles of sentencing that every judge must consider when imposing a sentence are:
To show the community's disapproval of the unlawful conduct,
To teach a lesson to the offender and to others who might commit a similar crime,
To protect the public,
To rehabilitation of the offender, and
To make amends for harm done to victims or to the community while promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders.

If a judge ignores or puts too much emphasis on one of these principles, the appeal court may consider changing the sentence. Additionally, when dealing with someone of aboriginal background, especially for less serious crimes, a further principle is that the court must consider not sending someone to jail, "with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders".   So, if you have an aboriginal background and the court ignored that fact you may have a ground to appeal you sentence. 

However, the fact that the judge has made an error in applying one of the principles of sentencing doesn't guarantee that the appeal court will change the sentence. You must also convince the court that the sentence is unfit.  It is possible to get the right answer for the wrong reasons!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Failure to comply with CBCA not, standing alone, oppressive conduct

Mennillo v. Intramodal inc, 2016 SCC 51:

There are two elements of an oppression claim. The claimant must first identify the expectations that he or she claims have been violated and establish that the expectations were reasonably held. Then the claimant must show that those reasonable expectations were violated by conduct falling within the statutory terms, that is, conduct that was oppressive, unfairly prejudicial to or unfairly disregarding of the interests of any security holder.

The fact that a corporation fails to comply with the requirements of the CBCA does not, on its own, constitute oppression. What may trigger the remedy is conduct that frustrates reasonable expectations, not simply conduct that is contrary to the CBCA