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Case Law is a sample selection from the weekly summaries of notable unreported civil and criminal court decisions published in Law Times newspaper.

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Appeal

Grounds

Trial judge’s errors in assessment of credibility deprived accused of fair trial

Accused were charged with importing cocaine and possessing cocaine for purpose of trafficking. Accused A and R were truck drivers who brought load of ice cream from California over border. Customs officials found large amount of cocaine hidden in load. Both accused testified and denied knowledge of cocaine. R testified that he left A overnight at one point in California. Trial judge rejected evidence of both accused and referred to R’s defence as alibi. Appeal from convictions dismissed. Majority of Court of Appeal held that trial judge mischaracterized R’s defence as alibi but this error did not affect his finding of guilt. Dissenting judge held that trial judge made numerous errors in assessing R’s credibility, depriving him of fair trial. R appealing to Supreme Court of Canada. For reasons given by dissenting judge, appeal allowed and new trial ordered.
R. v. Riar (Nov. 10, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Brown J., 36449) Decision at 121 W.C.B. (2d) 555 was reversed. 128 W.C.B. (2d) 107.

Employment

General

Members of school board’s executive committee could be examined

Following his dismissal, union’s teacher filed grievance before an arbitrator and sought request to examine executive committee’s commissioners of executive who had decided in camera to dismiss him. School board objected to the examination on basis of principle of deliberative secrecy. Arbitrator dismissed Board’s objections and allowed examination of executive committee’s members regarding their deliberations and their decision to dismiss teacher. On motion for judicial review, Superior Court quashed arbitrator’s decision and barred any testimony by members of the executive committee. Majority of Court of Appeal restored arbitrator’s decision and allowed examination of executive committee’s members. School board appealed. Appeal dismissed. Principle that motives of legislative body are “unknowable” and deliberative secrecy do not apply to a public employer, Board in this case, that decides to take disciplinary action against employee, even if an in camera meeting is ordered. Here, it was reasonable for arbitrator to rule that he needed to know what had taken place in camera in order to determine whether executive committee’s deliberations had been thorough. Hence, three members of Board’s executive committee could be examined. Further, it was wrong to say that discussions held by members of executive committee in camera were shielded by deliberative secrecy. Furthermore, arbitrator had exclusive jurisdiction to determine whether any questions that might be asked were relevant. Reasons for arbitrator’s decision were transparent and intelligible, and justification given for it was sufficient. Arbitrator’s decision fell within a range of possible acceptable outcomes which were defensible in respect of facts and law. Therefore, there was no justification for Court to intervene.
Commission scolaire de Laval c. Syndicat de l’enseignement de la région de Laval (Mar. 18, 2016, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., and Brown J., 35898) Decision at 242 A.C.W.S. (3d) 103 was affirmed. 263 A.C.W.S. (3d) 396.


Charter of Rights

Fundamental justice

Impugned provisions of National Defence Act not overbroad

Accused members of armed forces charged under National Defence Act with committing criminal offences. Accused argued that National Defence Act was overbroad in permitting military prosecutions for criminal offences with no connection to accused’s military service. Court Martial Appeal Court upheld impugned provisions in National Defence Act. Appeal dismissed. Impugned provisions were not overbroad. Purpose of provisions was to maintain discipline, efficiency and morale in armed forces. Prosecuting criminal actions committed by members of military was rationally connected to this purpose.
R. v. Moriarity (Nov. 19, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Abella J., Rothstein J., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Côté J., 35755, 35873, 35946) Decisions at 112 W.C.B. (2d) 774, 112 W.C.B. (2d) 562 and 117 W.C.B. (2d) 611 were affirmed. 128 W.C.B. (2d) 26.


Constitutional Law

Remedies

Extension of declaration of invalidity granted

Court declared ss. 241(b) and 14 of Criminal Code (Can.) of no force and effect to extent that they prohibited physician-assisted death in certain circumstances. Court granted 12-month suspension of declaration of invalidity. Attorney-General of Canada applied for four-month extension of declaration of invalidity. Extension granted for four months. Interruption of legislative work due to federal election justified extension. Exemptions to extension granted to Quebec at its request and individuals who apply to superior court for relief.
Carter v. Canada (Attorney General) (Jan. 15, 2016, S.C.C., Abella J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., Côté J., McLachlin C.J., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., and Brown J., 35591) 263 A.C.W.S. (3d) 83.


Motor Vehicles

PROVINCIAL REGULATION

Evidence in addition to approved screening device result not required to support driving prohibition

W registered “warn” result on approved screening device. Police imposed three-day driving prohibition under s. 215.41(3.1) of provincial Motor Vehicles Act. Prohibition was upheld by delegate of Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. On judicial review, prohibition quashed on basis that more evidence was needed that W’s ability to drive was affected by alcohol. Court of Appeal restored prohibition. Appeal dismissed. Superintendent was correct not to require evidence in addition to ASD result.
Wilson v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) (Oct. 16, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Côté J., File No. 35959) Decision at 115 W.C.B. (2d) 57 was affirmed. 126 W.C.B. (2d) 567.


Charter of Rights

LIMITATION OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Automatic Roadside Prohibition regime violates s. 8 of Charter and not saved by s. 1

Petitioners challenged validity of provincial legislation providing for licence suspensions and monetary penalties for drivers who register “fail” or “warn” on roadside approved screening device (ASD) test. Automatic Roadside Prohibition (ARP) regime provided for 90-day suspension for drivers registering “fail” (over .08 blood-alcohol) and lesser penalties for “warn” (.05 to .08) result. Petitioners argued that ARP regime resulted in detention of drivers subject to ASD demands without access to counsel and authorized unreasonable searches. Petitioners also argued that ARP regime created offence while permitting no procedural protections and infringing presumption of innocence. Chambers judge found that ARP regime did not infringe s. 11(d) of Charter, but that ARP regime infringed s. 8 of Charter and violation was not saved by s. 1. Chambers judge also found that provisions were valid provincial legislation. Court of Appeal upheld ruling of Chambers judge. Appeal dismissed. Legislation did not create “offence” within meaning of s. 11(d). No true penal consequences can be imposed under regime. ARP regime was by its nature traffic safety regulation and not criminal law. Consequences of “fail” result to drivers were too severe in light of legislation’s lack of any mechanism by which drivers could challenge ASD results.
Goodwin v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) (Oct. 16, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Côté J., File No. 35864) Decision at 112 W.C.B. (2d) 337 was affirmed.  126 W.C.B. (2d) 540.


Motor Vehicles

PROVINCIAL REGULATION

Evidence in addition to approved screening device result not required to support driving prohibition

W registered “warn” result on approved screening device. Police imposed three-day driving prohibition under s. 215.41(3.1) of provincial Motor Vehicles Act. Prohibition was upheld by delegate of Superintendent of Motor Vehicles. On judicial review, prohibition quashed on basis that more evidence was needed that W’s ability to drive was affected by alcohol. Court of Appeal restored prohibition. Appeal dismissed. Superintendent was correct not to require evidence in addition to ASD result.
Wilson v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) (Oct. 16, 2015, S.C.C., McLachlin C.J.C., Cromwell J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Wagner J., Gascon J., and Côté J., File No. 35959) Decision at 115 W.C.B. (2d) 57 was affirmed.  126 W.C.B. (2d) 567.


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An estate trustee who took an ‘egregious' position in litigation has been ordered to personally pay more than $140,000 in costs. Will this ruling serve as an appropriate caution to executors on how they conduct themselves in litigation?
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