A round-up of the Canadian Bar Review
Here’s a quick peek at the latest from legal scholarship on emerging issues in law.
Judging sexual assault
Long-time collaborators Rosemary Cairns-Way and Donna Martinson (a law professor and a former judge) consider the tension between judicial independence, accountability, and education, specifically around concerns about the judicial treatment of sexual assault. Much of their focus is on Bill C-337, which stalled before third reading in the Senate before the election. The bill would have required judges to receive proper legal and social-context training in matters involving sexual assault. It’s perhaps for the best that it did not get proclaimed in force, the authors hint, as the judicial education provisions were likely to be ineffective. The reason for that is “the continued insistence that judicial education be controlled, supervised, and implemented by judges.” In contrast, it is essential, the authors insist, that public stakeholders be involved in the development of judicial education. “The premise that judges alone should determine their needs, and that judges learn best hearing from other judges, is incompatible with an inclusive vision of social context education.”
Seniors on the stand
Helene Love of Simon Fraser University examines whether the legal and procedural rules around reliable evidence have the effect of disproportionately excluding evidence from seniors – an issue that requires more attention given our aging population. She focuses on four physical and cognitive problems that are prevalent among the elderly, and that can interfere with a witness’s ability to testify in person — the increased chance of dying, changes to the sensory organs and the brain, mobility issues, and strokes and dementia. Reviewing Canada’s laws of evidence, she concludes that, overall, they “are capable of being responsive to the coming demographic shift.” “This is not to say that there is not room for improvement,” Love writes. “In the criminal context, having specific rules for expedited trial dates could increase seniors’ ability to attend trial and have the clearest memory of an event. In the civil context, allowing for mandatory pre-trial, or even trial, appearances to be conducted remotely without having to bring a motion to request permission to do so would go some way towards easing the financial disincentives for requesting accommodation.”
Secondary market liability hampered in Canada
Stéphane Rousseau, Dominique Payette & Christopher Trouvé (from l’Université de Montréal) take a deep dive into public and private enforcement methods in the Canadian securities regulation regime. The distinction is that public enforcement refers to regulators prosecuting violations of securities law, whereas private enforcement tends to be initiated by investors who sue for compensation for resulting damages. Specifically, the authors examine the 2015 decision by the Supreme Court of Canada in Theratechnologies Inc. v 121851 Canada Inc., which turns on Quebec’s statutory secondary market liability regime. In its ruling, the top court clarified the test applicable to the authorization of class claims. It concluded, based on the evidence presented by shareholder plaintiffs, that there wasn’t a realistic chance that the action would succeed. Noting that in the wake of the decision, we are seeing fewer statutory secondary market class action, the authors argue that the ruling imposes an overly stringent threshold for the leave test: “If the perceived trend were to persist, this would mean that Thera will have marginalized private enforcement in the secondary market, thereby requiring more vigorous public enforcement in order to ensure the quality of disclosure on the secondary market.
The legal effects of Federal Courts’ constitutional judgments
Does a Federal Court constitutional judgment apply only to litigating parties to a case (inter partes), or can it extend to all beyond those parties (erga omnes)? That is the question Han-Ru Zhou of the Université de Montréal tries to answer in his latest paper. Finding little guidance in the terms of the Constitution Acts, 1867 to 1982, or of the Federal Courts Act, the author notes that “Federal Court judges themselves seemed to have simply assumed that they were empowered to render erga omnes judgments.” Even the Supreme Court has mostly avoided the issue. “Today the view that has become generally accepted is that superior courts can render erga omnes constitutional judgments while non-superior court judgments and tribunal decisions can only be inter partes,” he writes. “This distinction has been identified by a number of judges and commentators as deriving from the superior courts’ inherent jurisdiction, although that proposition has yet to be properly demonstrated. Even so, the notion of inherent jurisdiction is problematic when it comes to the Federal Courts, as their judgments “are not subject to the supervisory jurisdiction of provincial superior courts.”
L’industrie maritime et le principe de la limitation de la responsabilité
André Braën et Marel Katsivela de l’Université d’Ottawa s’intéressent aux conventions internationales que le Canada a intégrées dans son droit maritime et qui précisent le champ d’application de la limitation de la responsabilité, les bénéficiaires et les cas d’exclusion. Les auteurs se penchent notamment sur les dommages subis par les passagers, et les autres employés de l’armateur ou du transporteur, ainsi qu’à l’égard des dommages subis par d’autres acteurs maritimes comme les pêcheurs et les pilotes. Mais parce que le principe de la limitation constitue un aspect de la responsabilité délictuelle en matière maritime, les auteurs rappellent dans un premier temps les difficultés que soulève l’application du droit maritime canadien tant au niveau constitutionnel qu’à celui de l’identification du droit applicable.
Devoir d’information, causalité et responsabilité médicale
Gérard Mémeteau, de l’Université de Poitiers, et Nicholas Léger-Riopel, de l’Université de Moncton,examinent les effets de l’obligation d’information du médecin et les doctrines de « l’équivalence des conditions » et de la « causalité adéquate », permettent d’assister à l’émergence d’une philosophie indemnisatrice qui évolue en marge des modes habituels de preuve. Les auteurs notent que la causalité porte les marques de tensions entre des objectifs d’indemnisation des victimes et ceux de réparation d’un préjudice réel et prouvé, preuve d’autant plus difficile en matière de préjudices dont l’évaluation est complexe. Par ailleurs, la souplesse liée à la preuve de la causalité semble favoriser l’accueil, dans le droit de la responsabilité médicale, de nouveaux chefs de préjudice, qui reposeraient autrement sur un simple rapport de probabilités (perte de chance) dans le meilleur des cas, ou sur des hypothèses invérifiables dans les autres cas (impréparation).