First Civil Resolution Tribunal Appeal Dismissed

Reasons for judgment were recently released for the first appeal of British Columbia’s newly created Civil Resolution Tribunal ("CRT").

The underlying dispute involved move-in/move-out fees that a strata corporation in Vancouver charged its occupants. A tenant living in the strata challenged the fees levied against his roommates on the basis that they were unreasonable in circumstances where no furniture was required to be moved, and that in any event, it was significantly unfair for the strata to wait two and a half years to levy the fees, and then cancel his roommate’s fob access without notice in order to obtain payment.

The tenant was successful at the CRT. The tribunal member found that the bylaw was unreasonable given that the actual expense to the strata from moves without furniture was closer to $25 but the strata charged a flat fee of $100. The tribunal member further found that the conduct of the strata was significantly unfair given that the strata induced the payment of the fees out of duress.

The strata appealed the CRT decision on three grounds. First, the strata argued that the CRT erred in law in failing to address the tenant’s standing. Second, the strata argued that the CRT erred in law in applying a subjective rather than objective test to determine the reasonableness of the bylaw. And third, the strata erred in law in applying a subjective rather than an objective test to determine whether the strata’s conduct was significantly unfair, and in any event, made an ultra vires order due to a drafting error in the legislation.

Mr. Justice Pearlman dismissed the CRT’s appeal on all three grounds, and exercised his discretion to remedy the drafting error in the legislation (which has, since the appeal hearing, been amended by statute). He also further discussed at length the standard of review to apply to CRT decisions, which will be of precedential value to future CRT appeals.

The reasons for judgment are available here.

David W. Wu acted for the successful tenant in defending the appeal. Arvay Finlay LLP has considerable experience litigating statutory appeals and judicial reviews from tribunal decisions.

Court Rules Solitary Confinement Laws are Unconstitutional

This week the BC Supreme Court struck down the federal laws that govern solitary confinement. The declaration of constitutional invalidity will be suspended for 12 months.

The laws are unconstitutional because solitary confinement can be imposed without strict time limits, inmates in solitary confinement are not entitled to a review conducted by an independent external decision-maker, and the laws fail to provide that inmates may be represented by counsel at segregation review board hearings. The laws further unjustifiably infringe the Charter because they discriminate against mentally ill and/or disabled inmates and Aboriginal inmates.

Joseph Arvay, O.C., Q.C., Alison M. Latimer and Caily DiPuma act for the plaintiffs in this landmark case.

To read the full judgment, click here

Broadcasting of Trial Furthers Principle of Reconciliation

Reasons were released on Friday on the decision to livestream the summary trial proceedings in Restoule et al v. Canada et al, a case being argued by Joseph J Arvay, QC and Catherine Boies Parker, QC in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of 22 First Nations that are signatory to the Robinson Huron Treaty.  In her decision, Justice Hennessey noted that there is “deep and broad public interest in reconciliation with our Indigenous people” and “Canadians and those who live in Canada are studying our history through a new lens.” 

Referring to the TRC, Justice Hennessey noted that the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the justice system has been called dysfunctional, and held that “[t]he integrity of the justice system is at stake when parties who have developed a rational distrust for a system cannot access, for whatever reason, the forum in which key questions and debates are played out….”” The Court held that “[o]pening up the court process to everyone is a declaration that there is nothing to hide and an invitation to hear the debate unfold” and that open access will do more to strengthen the integrity of the court in the eyes of Indigenous people than any political speech or promise.”   The Court concluded that “ [c]ollectively, as Canadians, we suffer a deficit in understanding our history and our relationship with our Indigenous neighbours. Creating and preserving an audiovisual record of this evidence increases its usefulness and accessibility. It is a significant contribution to our national understanding.”

The proceedings in the trial can be accessed at: https://livestream.com/firsttel

Justice Hennessy's Reasons can be found here.

Injunction Granted to Protect Chanterelle Forest

The BC Supreme Court has today issued an interim injunction to prohibit logging activity in the Chanterelle Forest - part of the Sunshine Coast Community Forest - pending determination of a judicial review brought by the Elphinstone Logging Focus (ELF).

In her reasons, Madam Justice Warren noted that ELF had raised a serious issue to be determined, noting that the Community Forest had failed to provide concrete and specific evidence that there was public consultation in regards to the logging of the Chanterelle Forest. She noted that the purpose and intent of community forests require some form of ongoing public consultation.

In assessing irreparable harm and the balance of convenience, Madam Justice Warren found that while trees are renewable resources, these specific trees and the biodiversity contained within the forest are not. Given that the damages suffered by the Community Forest from the injunction would only be monetary, and thus compensable, the Court found that the balance of convenience favoured granting the injunction to prevent irreparable harm that logging would cause to the forest.

ELF is an organization with a mandate to educate the public about the forests and habitat on the Sunshine Coast, and to protect those forests and habitat in support of tourism and recreation. 

David W. Wu of Arvay Finlay LLP represented ELF in the injunction application. 

Welcoming Arden Beddoes to the Firm

We are pleased to welcome Arden Beddoes who joins our firm as an associate today. 

Arden is a graduate of the University of Toronto Law School and completed a clerkship at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice prior to being called to the bar in 2012. He has practiced at commercial law firms in both Toronto and Vancouver. Arden works on a range of civil litigation matters with a particular interest in commercial and public law.

To find out more about Arden, please click here.

Historic Sinixt Hunting Rights Case Upheld on Appeal

The BC Supreme Court today dismissed the Crown’s appeal of the landmark decision of the Provincial Court of British Columbia in March of 2017, which found that Richard Desautel, a Sinixt descendant and member of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State, had an aboriginal right to hunt in his traditional territory in Canada. 

In 2010, Mr. Desautel was charged with hunting elk as a non-resident, and without a license, near Castlegar, B.C., which falls within Sinixt traditional territory that stretches north from the Colville Reservation to the area in and around the Arrow Lakes in British Columbia. Following a lengthy trial held in the fall of 2016, Justice Lisa Mrozinski of the BC Provincial Court held that Sinixt hunting rights endured to the present day, notwithstanding a variety of historical forces which contributed to many Sinixt moving south of what is now the international border, and the introduction of legislation to make it illegal for the Sinixt to hunt in Canada.   

The Crown’s appeal was heard by Justice Robert Sewell in September of 2017.  In upholding the decision below, Justice Sewell dismissed the Crown’s arguments that  recognizing the Sinixt as an Aboriginal Peoples of Canada would undermine the purposes of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and that recognizing Mr. Desautel’s right to hunt would be incompatible with Canadian sovereignty. 

Mark Underhill and Kate Phipps  of Arvay Finlay LLP represented Mr. Desautel in the B.C. Supreme Court.

Catherine Boies Parker Appointed Queen's Counsel

We are very pleased to announce that Catherine Boies Parker has been recognized with the honourary title of Queen's Counsel. Catherine has been recognized by her peers for her superb record of achievement and commitment to the legal system. Only 7% of practicing B.C. lawyers can be awarded the designation of QC.

To read the full list of 2017 QC appointees in BC, click here.

SCC Strengthens Protection from Workplace Discrimination

In a decision that underscores the complexities of modern workplaces and the vulnerability of workers to many forms of discrimination, the Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed a broad jurisdiction of the BC Human Rights Tribunal to meaningfully address workplace harassment and discrimination. 

The majority of the Court overturned a decision of the BC Court of Appeal, which had restricted the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to circumstances in which the perpetrator was in a position of economic power over the complainant.  In his decision Rowe J, writing for the majority, held that this approach "fails to capture the reality of how power is exercised in the workplace".  The majority also recognized that "economics is only one axis along which power is exercised", noting that gendered and racialized power, for example, can be the basis for equally harmful exploitation of marginalized groups.  

Finally, the majority noted that workers are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in the employment context, as they are "a captive audience for those who seek to discriminate against them ... Whether a server is harassed by the restaurant owner or the bar manager, by a co-worker, or by a regular and valued patron, the server is nonetheless being harassed in a situation from which there is no escape by simply walking further along the street."

For all of these reasons, the Majority adopted a contextual approach to determining the scope of protection for workplace harassment.

Robin Gage and Catherine Boies Parker, together with our colleagues at BC PIAC, represented the intervenors, the Retail Action Network (RAN) in the Supreme Court of Canada.  RAN is a Victoria-based grass-roots organization that represents and advocates for the rights of vulnerable workers in the Retail, Food Service, and Hospitality Industries. 

The decision can be found here:  BC Human Rights Tribunal v. Schrenk

Joseph Arvay Receives Order of BC

In a ceremony at Government House later today, Arvay Finlay LLP partner, Joseph Arvay, QC will receive B.C.'s highest honour - an appointment to the Order of British Columbia.  

The Order of British Columbia recognizes "exceptional individuals whose hard work, generosity of spirit and outstanding achievements have contributed immeasurably to the well-being of our communities."

Joe himself is being recognized for "advancing civil liberties and defending before the Supreme Court of Canada many cases that saved lives, improved the lives of marginalized people, and secured the important rights of others."  

The ceremony can be watched here: http://www.orderofbc.gov.bc.ca/

 

B.C. Supreme Court upholds Environmental Appeal Board in Municipal Contaminated Sites Dispute

In another strong judgment recognizing the specialized expertise of the Environmental Appeal Board, the Supreme Court of British Columbia upheld the Board’s decision denying the City of Burnaby standing to challenge a certificate of compliance issued by the Director of the Environmental Management Act on the basis that it was not prejudiced by the issuance of the certificate.

Between 1963 and 1996, Suncor operated a Petro-Canada service station and garage in Burnaby which contaminated that site and an adjacent property owned by the City of Burnaby.  Suncor carried out an investigation, partial remediation and risk assessments of those lands, and in December of 2015, the Director certified that Suncor had satisfactorily remediated both properties.  The City, however, believed that Suncor had failed to properly remediate the City Lands and appealed to the Board. 

The Board determined the City did not have a right to appeal the Director’s certificate in respect of the former service station site because the certificate did not prejudice the City’s interests.  The Board found that the City could mount its arguments on its appeal of the certificate concerning its own  property.

Applying a deferential standard of review, the BC Supreme Court found the Board’s  decision to be reasonable, taking into account the Board’s expertise in contaminated sites and the interpretation of the Environmental Management act.

Mark Underhill acted as counsel for  the Environmental Appeal Board.

 The full judgment can be found here.  

B.C. Supreme Court Stays Proceedings in International Grain Dispute

In one of the first decisions to enforce the arbitration rules of the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA), the B.C. Supreme Court has stayed a civil claim seeking damages in a contractual dispute regarding the quality of green lentils which were shipped from Canada to Iran.  The defendant argued that any dispute as to the quality of the goods ought to be first brought to arbitration under GAFTA rules, which the defendant said were incorporated into the sales contracts.  The plaintiff took the position that the rules were not clearly incorporated, and the Supreme Court should first  determine whether a binding arbitration agreement existed.

The Supreme Court sided with the defendant, holding that the plaintiff’s position was contrary to the “competence-competence” principle which confirms the authority of arbitrators to determine their own jurisdiction.  Justice Milman held that any determination as to whether the GAFTA arbitration provisions were successfully incorporated into the sales contracts ought to be made by arbitrators who have specialized expertise in the industry, and accordingly stayed the proceedings under the International Commercial Arbitration Act.  

Mark Underhill and David Wu acted for the defendant.  Arvay Finlay LLP has experience in commercial arbitration matters, including stay and appeal proceedings under the Arbitration Act and the International Commercial Arbitration Act.

The full judgment can be found here.

Private Law Claims Based on Violations of Customary International Law Not Bound to Fail

Today the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal in which a BC Corporation applied to have an action stayed in B.C. on the basis that Eritrea was the forum conveniens. The Court accepted that there was a “real risk” of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system. 

The Court also dismissed an appeal from an order refusing to strike the claim that was sought by the BC Corporation based on the doctrine of act of state, which precludes a domestic court from adjudicating on the legality or validity of legislation of a foreign state or acts done by officials of a foreign state. The Court held that the doctrine was not applicable, and in any event the public policy limitation to the doctrine applied in light of the grave nature of the wrongs asserted by the plaintiffs which included forced labour, slavery and torture.

Finally, the Court dismissed the he BC Corporation's application to have causes of action based on customary international law struck out. The BC Corporation argued that even though Canada is a party to the Convention Against Torture, there is no right in Canada to a civil remedy for acts of torture committed outside Canada. Although prior Canadian decisions against foreign states have declined to recognize private causes of action for breaches of peremptory international norms, this case involves a claim against a private party and was not bound to fail. Developments in transnational law leave open the possibility that an incremental development in the law reflecting customary international law norms in private law remedies might be appropriate.

Alison M. Latimer and Tamara Morgenthau acted for the Intervenor, EarthRights International.

To read the full decision, click here.

 

Privacy of Residential School Survivors Protected

The Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous decision, has protected the confidentiality of the sensitive records of survivors of residential schools.  The ruling permits survivors to consent to the preservation of their records, but places the power to make that decision squarely with the survivors themselves.  If no consent is obtained, the records will ultimately be destroyed, and the privacy of the survivor preserved.

The Government of Canada had argued that they were entitled to hold these records and ultimately to make them available in the Archives of Canada whether or not the survivor consented to this disclosure.  However, as the Chief Adjudicator has stated, making this information public would be an "appropriation of their experience", is contrary to the promises made to the survivors, and ultimately is not consistent with the paramount principle of reconciliation.

The Court's decision is a great outcome for those survivors of the residential school tragedy who were promised that their horrific stories of physical and sexual abuse would remain  private and confidential.  

Arvay Finlay partners, Joseph J. Arvay, QC and Catherine Boies Parker, were counsel for the Chief Adjudicator in this matter. 

A copy of the decision can be found here:  https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/16797/index.do 

We're putting the band back together...

We are very pleased to welcome Joseph J. Arvay, OC, QC to the partnership, effective October 1, 2017. Joe is one of the preeminent litigators in Canada, particularly in the areas of constitutional, human rights, and aboriginal law.  You can access his full bio on our website here .

Effective the same date, Underhill, Boies Parker, Gage and Latimer LLP, will change its name to Arvay Finlay LLP, reconstituting the leading litigation boutique co-founded by Joe, the late John Finlay, QC, and Murray Rankin, QC, MP in 1990.   Each of our partners got their start at that exceptional firm, and we look forward to carrying on its legacy of excellence, specializing in complex litigation, appeals, and public law.

Court Defers to Environmental Appeal Board

"In rural British Columbia, water is a precious commodity." That statement set the stage for a BC Supreme Court decision addressing the management of water in the province's interior.  The matter proceeded by judicial review from a decision of the province's Environmental Appeal Board (EAB) upholding an approval of a change to a stream.  At the hearing before the EAB, the appellants raised environmental and practical concerns, as well as constitutional questions about the province's authority to regulate riparian and other water rights.   After a lengthy hearing, the EAB ultimately upheld the approval, while imposing some additional monitoring requirements. Upon judicial review, the BC Supreme Court upheld both the fairness of the EAB process and the reasonableness of the EAB's decision, all while confirming the high level of deference owed to this specialized tribunal.  

The Environmental Appeal Board is a specialized appeal tribunal that hears appeals from certain decisions made by government officials related to environmental issues.

Robin Gage was counsel for the Environmental Appeal Tribunal.  We have broad experience in administrative law matters, and significant expertise in the area of environmental law. 

The full decision can be found here:  Lindelauf v. British Columbia (Assistant Regional Water Manager)

Privacy Commissioner’s Interpretation of “Artistic” and “Journalistic” Work Upheld

British Columbia’s Personal Information and Privacy Act (“PIPA”) is one of several pieces of provincial legislation that protects the privacy rights of BC citizens. PIPA regulates how private sector organizations can collect, use and disclose information, and how citizens can access their personal information from such organizations. Notably however, PIPA does not apply in certain circumstances, including when the collection, use or disclosure of personal information is “for journalistic, artistic or literary purposes and for no other purpose”.

Recently, Madam Justice Adair of the BC Supreme Court upheld the decision of a Privacy Commissioner investigator who found that a complaint regarding the filming of a documentary series at the Canadian-US border constituted “artistic” or “journalistic” work and therefore PIPA did not apply. This case is one of the very few cases that have involved the interpretation and application of the “artistic” or “journalistic” exception under privacy legislation.

Catherine Boies Parker and David Wu were counsel of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC.  We have broad experience in administrative law matters, and has significant expertise in the area of privacy law.

The full decision can be found here: Taylor v. BC (Information and Privacy Commissioner).

Alberta Court Gives Green Light to Summary Trial

Ensuring access to justice is the greatest challenge to the rule of law in Canada today.  As trials become increasingly expensive and protracted, summary trials offer an effective and affordable means of enforcing rights. This week, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench dismissed a preliminary objection to proceeding by summary trial in a breach of contract claim by a First Nations leader who spent decades negotiating and advocating for the creation of the Peerless Trout First Nation.  Mark Underhill and co-counsel Bram Rogachevsky represented the plaintiff, whose claim will proceed to a summary trial in September of 2017.  

We understand the need to find the right strategy to resolve our clients' disputes in an efficient and cost-effective manner, including the use of summary trial procedures where appropriate.

To read the decision, click here.

B.C. Supreme Court Rejects Easement Claim

Mark Underhill successfully obtained summary dismissal of a claim for an easement over and/or expropriation of his client’s land.

The plaintiff held a water licence for the purpose of accessing water from a nearby creek by way of a ditch across his neighbour’s property.  However, the BC Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiff did not have an implied easement to operate any irrigation ditches both because the ditches were not the subject of continuous use and because any implied easement would have been granted by a different person than the current property owners. 

The plaintiff’s request to expropriate a ditch that was not envisioned on his water licence was also denied because it would unreasonably interfere with the defendant’s use and enjoyment of his property, and was not necessary to the exercise of the plaintiff’s water rights.

We have a broad civil litigation practice with experience resolving disputes arising under complex legislative regimes like this one which arose under the Land Title Act and Water Sustainability Act.

To read the full judgment, click here.

Federal Court Refuses to Interfere in Administrative Process

Today the Federal Court issued its decision in Northern Cross (Yukon) Limited v Canada (Attorney General, 2017 FC 622. The case concerns an application for judicial review pursued by a company involved in the exploration for and potential development of crude oil and natural gas in Yukon. A designated office of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board determined to refer the project to the Executive Committee of the Board for a screening because, after taking into account any mitigative measures included in the project proposal, it could not determine whether the project would likely have significant adverse socio-economic effects. The company applied for judicial review of that decision.

The Court accepted the argument of the Respondent and the Board and held that the applicant's application for judicial review was premature. Absent exceptional circumstances, the Court will not interfere with an ongoing administrative process until after that process has been completed or until the available, effective remedies have been exhausted. A designated office's decision may be subject to judicial review when the designated office makes a recommendation to the decision body or bodies for the project to be allowed, not allowed, or allowed with terms and conditions. A decision to refer assessment of a project to the Executive Committee for a screening does not complete or end the administrative assessment of a project before the Board. A referral decision is merely one to continue the assessment of a project at a higher level in the review process established under the Act.

This decision accords with the jurisprudence that holds that generally speaking courts are reluctant to review the merits of an administrative decision until it has been finalized. Applications for judicial review are properly brought at the conclusion of an administrative process after all issues have been determined and the reviewing court has the benefit of the complete record.

Alison M. Latimer and Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C., acted for the Board in this proceeding. To read the full decision, click here.

We have broad experience in administrative law matters, including environmental assessment procedures.

Alison M. Latimer and Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C. are called to the bar in the Yukon.

 

BC Supreme Court Grants Partial Mareva Injunction

Justice Steeves of the BC Supreme Court granted a partial Mareva injunction to a plaintiff seeking to enforce a multi million dollar judgment obtained in China.  Mark Underhill and David Wu of Underhill Boies Parker Gage & Latimer LLP  represented the plaintiff in obtaining this extraordinary remedy. The injunction prevents the disposition or dissipation of the defendants’ assets in British Columbia while the plaintiff pursues its claim, and ensures  that any judgment the plaintiff might ultimately obtain would not be a hollow one. To read the full judgment click here.

We have a broad civil litigation practice and is experienced in obtaining fast and effective remedies for clients involved in complex and time sensitive litigation.