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COURTS - Superior Court - Jurisdiction by reason of subject matter

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 @ 3:36 PM  

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Appeal by the Attorney General of Quebec and others from a reference decision of the Court of Appeal of Quebec that concluded article 35 of Quebec’s Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) was unconstitutional. Appeal by the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec and others from the Court of Appeal’s conclusion that the application of the obligation of judicial deference to administrative appeals to the Court of Quebec was compatible with s. 96 of the Constitution Act, 1867. Article 35 of the CPP granted the Court of Quebec exclusive jurisdiction over all civil disputes in which the value of the subject matter or the amount claimed was less than $85,000. Decisions rendered in exercising the jurisdiction provided for in article 35 could be appealed to the Quebec Court of Appeal but not to the Superior Court. In response to legal proceedings commenced by justices of the Superior Court, the Quebec government filed a notice of reference with the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal concluded article 35 was unconstitutional because it infringed on the core jurisdiction of the Superior Court to adjudicate certain substantial civil disputes.

HELD: Appeals dismissed. Article 35 transferred the jurisdiction over contractual and extracontractual obligations below the monetary limit to the Court of Quebec, effectively removing those matters from the jurisdiction of the superior courts. Applying the core jurisdiction test, Article 35 of the CCP was unconstitutional. The monetary limit of the jurisdiction granted to the Court of Quebec was too high when considered in its historical and institutional contexts. The grant had the effect of transforming the Court of Quebec into a prohibited parallel court that undermined the constitutional role of the Superior Court of general jurisdiction. It prevented the Quebec Superior Court from fulfilling its role under s. 96 of the Constitution Act in cases concerning private law matters. The issue concerning the Court of Quebec’s application of the obligation of judicial deference when it heard appeals from certain administrative decisions was moot as a result of Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Vavilov and the coming into force of s. 83.1 of the Quebec Court of Justice Act. Dissenting reasons were provided.

Reference re Code of Civil Procedure (Que.), art. 35, [2021] S.C.J. No. 27, Supreme Court of Canada, R. Wagner C.J. and R.S. Abella, M.J. Moldaver, A. Karakatsanis, S. Côté, M. Rowe and S.L. Martin JJ., June 30, 2021.Digest No. TLD-June282021011-SCC