An Ontario Court of Appeal ruling says an employer’s financial circumstances shouldn’t be a factor in deciding what is a reasonable notice period for a wrongfully dismissed employee.
In Michela v. St. Thomas of Villanova Catholic School released yesterday, the appeal court found three teachers were entitled to a 12-month notice period, not a reduced period of six months because of a perceived financial hardship on the part of the school they worked for — in one case for up to 13 years.
Three schoolteachers brought the complaint in response to a Jan. 7 summary judgment in their wrongful dismissal action against the private school.
Motions Judge Thomas R. Ledere had found that teachers Domenica Michela, Sergio Gomes, and Catherine Carnovale were wrongfully dismissed and awarded pay in lieu of 12 months’ notice he found they should have received. However, he decreased the notice period by half for each of the teachers after considering the school’s financial situation.
The teachers argued the damages should not be reduced. In addition to challenging the notice period on appeal, they also argued the motions judge was wrong in his assumption they could secure other jobs within six months of being let go.
The appeal court also sided with the teachers on that matter.
“There was no factual basis for that — it was speculation,” says Wright.
The teachers worked for the school on a series of one-year contracts over a number of years. Gomes was employed for 13 years, Michela for 11, and Carnovale for eight. In May 2013, they each received a letter from the school indicating their contracts would not be renewed for the upcoming year because enrolment was expected to be lower than the previous year.
Michela and Carnovale received a second termination letter in June 2013, and Gomes received an e-mail on June 30 stating the school was not in a position to offer him a position at that time.
The school had argued the teachers were not entitled to notice because they were employed on fixed-term contracts. However, the motion judge found they were employed for indefinite periods and were entitled to reasonable notice.
The teachers raised three issues on appeal.
• First they argued the motion judge erred in relying on the school’s alleged financial difficulties to reduce the notice period.
• Second, they said the judge erred in presuming there would be positions they could secure six months following their termination.
• Third, that the motion judge made a palpable and overriding error of fact in finding that enrolment issues constituted a financial problem permitting a reduction in the notice period to six months.
The motion judge emphasized the “character of the employment” in determining that the 12-month notice period sought by the appellants should be reduced to six.
“It should be self-evident that, by its nature, the School could not provide the security of employment offered by larger, more established and better-funded institutions. The teachers must be taken to have understood the circumstances of their employer. Every year, they had to wait until June before the School could be sure of its requirements for the upcoming year. . . ”
Writing for the panel, Justice Grant Huscroft wrote: “In my view, the motion judge erred in considering an employer’s financial circumstances as part of the ‘character of the employment.’
The ruling went on to say: “There is no evidentiary basis for the motion judge’s presumption concerning the future availability of teaching positions.”
Michael Wright and Stephen Moreau, of Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre & Cornish LLP, represented the teachers.
The motion for summary judgment was argued by Moreau who established that although the teachers were working on one-year fixed contracts, given the amount of time the teachers had been employed by the school it was appropriate they be considered indefinite, and therefore entitled to common law notice.
“It was an important hurdle to overcome or we would not have got to the rest of it,” says Wright.
Wright says he sees a lot of employers trying to claim financial hardship when it comes to settling matters as part of the statement of defence. The appeal court made it clear in this case that it’s “not appropriate to do so.”
“It is rare to see a judge accept it as a rationale for reducing a notice period,” he says. “When you’re negotiating at the outset if a lawyer says, ‘My client has significant hardship,’ that’s just a reality you have to deal with as part of the negotiation.”
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld a decision to strike a defamation claim against a well-known personal injury lawyer in London, Ont., over statements about a case against a local obstetrician and gynecologist.
The case, Frank v. Legate, dealt with six statements posted on posted on the web site of lawyer Barbara Legate’s firm, Legate & Associates LLP, as well as a seventh statement on the CTV news web site, about civil and disciplinary action against Dr. Cathy Frank.
“If you think you or your baby may have a claim against Dr. Frank, please contact Legate & Associates,” reads one of the statements.
Another statement noted more than 100 former patients of Frank had contacted the firm and pointed out it had, at the time, issued 58 claims in Ontario Superior Court. Two of the statements made reference to “compromised babies” and the fact “children have been born with disabilities that they wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
Besides the defamation claim against Legate, her firm, and two other lawyers who represented the former patients, Frank also sued for malicious prosecution, champerty and maintenance, and intentional interference with economic relations and infliction of mental distress. She claimed $5 million in damages, including $500,000 as a punitive award.
Last August, Superior Court Justice Thomas Carey struck Frank’s claim, finding it didn’t disclose a reasonable cause of action. Frank appealed, arguing, among other things, that a court should only strike a defamation claim on a Rule 21 motion where the statements are clearly not capable of a defamatory meaning. The statements at issue, she argued, don’t fall within the clearest of cases.
But on Friday, the appeal court upheld Carey’s decision. Five of the statements, wrote Justice William Hourigan on behalf of a three-judge panel, “were purely informational and did not comment in any way on the merits of the ongoing litigation.”
The comments, he added, were “neutral in their description of the appellant. References to the numerous women who have come forward are supported by the appellant’s own pleading, which indicates that 58 actions have been commenced against her. No reasonable person, who is taken to understand the difference between allegations and proof of guilt, could interpret these statements in the manner suggested by the appellant (i.e. as suggestive of her being negligent and/or incompetent as a physician).”
In his findings, Hourigan also noted a bigger issue was at stake: “The appellant effectively seeks to prohibit law firms from describing allegations that form the basis of potential or ongoing claims. If this type of statement amounted to defamation, no law firm in the province could ever solicit clients because they could not provide the necessary information for people to determine if they should consult a lawyer about a potential claim. The class action process, for example, would be effectively eviscerated if lawyers were restricted in their communications in the manner urged upon us by the appellant.”
Paul Michell, the litigator at Lax O'Sullivan Scott Lisus LLP who acted for Legate and the other defendants, says he could find no other Canadian cases that involved similar circumstances and allegations.
"The Court of Appeal was concerned that, if accepted, it would severely restrict the ability of firms to communicate with potential clients," he says.
As a result, the appeal court dismissed Frank’s appeal and awarded the defendants $12,500 in costs.
Update 4:30 pm: Comments from Paul Michell added.
A rec hockey player in Ottawa has been granted a new trial after a judge was found to have erroneously applied speculative reasoning to her decision that convicted him of blindsiding another player.
|A rec hockey player in Ottawa has been granted a new trial after the judge was found to have erred in convicted him of blindsiding another player. (Photo: Shutterstock)|
At the centre of the determination of guilt at trial was whether an on-ice collision involving MacIsaac and another player was an unavoidable accident or a deliberate blindside hit.
On Monday, the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. MacIsaac allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial, saying MacIsaac did not have a fair trial because the judge “engaged in impermissible speculative reasoning in reaching her verdict.”
On March 15, 2012, MacIsaac’s team the Tiger-Cats was playing in a senior no-contact men’s hockey league in Ottawa against the Pirates. During the last 47 seconds of the game, with the Pirates up by two goals, MacIsaac collided with Pirate Drew Casterton.
Casterton was knocked to the ice on his back and suffered lacerations to his face, a concussion, and the loos of two front teeth. MacIsaac was charged with one count of aggravated assault.
The court heard from 11 witnesses as well as a referee and various members of both teams. The Crown held that MacIsaac deliberately delivered a blindside hit to the left side of Casterton’s head.
The goalie on the Pirate’s team testified he saw MacIsaac leap off the ice, raise his arms, and hit Casterton in his shoulder and head area. He said MacIsaac’s arms hit Casterton’s head and that his facemask may have hit Casterton’s face.
The defence’s position was that the incident was an accidental, unavoidable, face-to-face collision.
At trial, Ontario Court Justice Diane Lahaie said most the witnesses showed “a clear bias depending on which of the two hockey teams he belonged to.”
She found the referee, was the sole “completely neutral” witness and that his evidence was credible and reliable. While his account of MacIsaac’s and Casterton’s positions on the ice — with the pair heading towards the puck behind the net — differed from that of the other witnesses, she accepted the entirety of his evidence aside from his testimony regarding a tripping incident earlier on the same play.
Lahaie also accepted all of Casterton’s testimony. The injuries to the left side of his face were consistent with his testimony about where he was looking and supported the conclusion that this was not a “face to face ‘head on’ collision.”
Lahaie rejected the evidence of one of MacIsaac’s teammates. She was “not prepared to find beyond a reasonable doubt” that the teammate had been on the ice at the time of the incident because it was “not logical” for three Tiger-Cats defencemen to be on the ice with the team down by two points and with so little time left in the game.
“Mr. MacIsaac intended to deliver a blindside hit to Mr. Casterton’s head and knew of the risks associated with head shots. He delivered it anyway as his frustration and desire for revenge took over,” she said.
She rejected MacIsaac’s claims that he left his usual position as a defenceman in an effort to steal the puck from Casterton and score a goal, that Casterton made an unpredictable turn rendering a collision unavoidable, and that MacIsaac did not have sufficient control over his speed to avoid hitting Casterton.
On the issue of consent, Lahaie found the hit amounted to a marked departure from the conduct expected in a no-contact hockey league that “consent to such conduct cannot be given.” As for mens rea, she held that MacIsaac foresaw the risk that his actions would cause serious bodily harm, but nonetheless chose to take that risk.
In a case where the circumstances are not proven or the inferences are not reasonable, or both, the factual inference drawn would be described as “speculative” or “unsupported” and if material to the outcome would not withstand appeal, says Patricia Virc, a lawyer with Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP.
“The criminal standard was being applied in this case. Perhaps an inference that is more of a stretch might be accepted in a civil context but you couldn’t do it in a criminal context where you might be putting someone in jail,” says Virc.
MacIsaac’s lawyers said Lahaie misapplied the law of consent and failed to consider whether MacIsaac had an honest but mistaken belief in consent.
He thought players in the league consented to any type of bodily contact that was foreseeable in a game, including deliberate blindside checks. The fact defence counsel did not raise the issue did not relieve the trial judge of her obligation to turn her mind to the defence and whether it was applicable in the circumstances.
The appeal court considered whether the trial judge engaged in impermissible speculation and, did she reverse the onus of proof? It also considered whether Lahaie erred in failing to consider the defence of “honest but mistaken belief in consent?”
Writing for the Court of Appeal, Justice C. William Hourigan wrote: “I agree with the submission of the appellant that the trial judge engaged in impermissible speculative reasoning in rejecting the evidence of the defence witnesses. This impaired the appellant’s right to a fair trial. On this basis, I would order a new trial. It is unnecessary, therefore, to consider the other issues raised by the appellant.”
It won’t be just Marc Rosenberg’s brilliance that his former colleague, former chief justice of Ontario Warren Winkler, will remember. It will also be his smile.
|Marc Rosenberg passed away Aug. 27 after a battle with brain cancer.|
“You know, I was interrupting his work, but it never mattered. It was a big smile, and he’d turn around and the conversation would start like it had never ended from the last time you saw him.”
Winkler is one of many members of the Canadian bar and bench mourning this week. Rosenberg, a former judge of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and one of the country’s foremost experts in criminal law, died on Thursday after a battle with brain cancer. To many of those who worked with him, Rosenberg was not just a colleague but a dear friend.
“He was just one of those people who had an impact on many, many people in different areas, and he wasn’t one dimensional by any stretch of the imagination,” says Winkler. “People he came in contact with, he made a mark on them. He just had that way about him, because he was a person with a huge amount of depth but he also wasn’t reclusive — he was a warm person.”
Born in 1950 to Ethel and Morris Rosenberg, he was called to the bar in 1976 after graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School. He practised criminal law at Greenspan Rosenberg and Buhr for nearly two decades until 1995, then served as a Court of Appeal judge for almost two decades more, retiring earlier this year. He also served as assistant attorney general for the ministry’s Public Law and Policy and Civil Law divisions.
Rosenberg’s accomplishments were many. He was a director of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association from 1987 to 1991, and was a non-bencher member of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s legal education committee. He served as editor of Martin’s Annual Criminal Code and wrote many articles on criminal law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"Justice Rosenberg had a decades-long association with Canada Law Book, and later with Carswell, as author/contributor to numerous prominent publications, including the highly-regarded Martin’s Annual Criminal Code and Martin’s Ontario Criminal Practice. It was both a pleasure and a privilege to work with him. He will be missed," said Rachel Francis, the vice president, legal and regulatory, at Carswell.
Rosenberg served as consultant on a number of influential commissions, including the Law Reform Commission on Electronic Surveillance and on the Powers of the Attorney General, the Donald Marshall Inquiry, and the Government of Ontario’s Justice Review Project, according to a biographical note on the Court of Appeal web site. He also taught at Osgoode, and around the world as a judicial associate with the National Judicial Institute.
Winkler’s friendship with Rosenberg began, he says, soon after he himself became a judge.
“He was one of what I call my ‘have-coffee-with people,’ because I would go in in the morning early, he would go in in the morning early, and we would either go out for a coffee or we’d sit in his office and have a coffee and just talk about general things,” he says.
Rosenberg’s many achievements, says Winkler, stemmed not only from his widely recognized brilliance but also his work ethic.
“He was a tireless worker, and a perfectionist,” says Winkler. “So everything that he did reflected that.
“From my point of view as the chief, if I needed anything done at all by way of extra things, for him to help with, he was always a volunteer. . . I could go to him and he’d take on any sort of task or job no matter how busy he was, and you didn’t have to worry about it — he’d get it done.”
Rosenberg was also a passionate teacher.
“Whenever he wasn’t sitting and doing his judicial work, every other spare moment he spent teaching both across Canada and internationally to both lawyers and other judges. And he did that through the judicial council or through anybody who asked him, frankly.
“I always used to kid him about his air miles . . . because he was always on an airplane going somewhere, to the Orient or Europe or the U.S. to teach, because he was so good at it and so popular.
“He was in great demand, and he would be all over the world, appearing at conferences and teaching other judges and they loved him. Everybody loved him because he was a very good teacher, he was very clear and he simplified everything down so that everybody could understand it,” Winkler says.
Rosenberg was predeceased by his wife Martha, whose death a few years ago dealt him “a huge blow,” says Winkler. He is survived, according to the Court of Appeal web site, by his partner Priscilla Platt and two children, Debra and Daniel.
“I call him a dear colleague but also a dear personal friend,” Winkler says. “And I say I’m going to miss him immensely.”
Toronto criminal lawyer Brian Greenspan, brother of Rosenberg’s late partner in private practice, says he was very well described in the funeral notice written by his family.
“They said he was a man of great integrity, intelligence, and judgement, and of unfailing humility and grace,” says Greenspan. “Knowing Marc as I did for over 40 years, I think he would have smiled and told them ‘well done,’ because I think that probably most aptly describes who he was, the type of person he was, and the type of lawyer and judge he was.
“It’s a great loss to the community and a great loss to the law.”
The notice is viewable on the web site of Benjamin’s Park Memorial Chapel, site of Rosenberg’s funeral this afternoon.
Anthony Moustacalis, current president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, knew Rosenberg when we worked in private practice alongside Eddie Greenspan.
“He was at the time, I would say, the leading criminal appeal lawyer in Canada,” Moustacalis says.
As a legal scholar, Moustacalis says, Rosenberg “had the uncanny ability to synthesize contradictory legal cases and explain how they all fit together, which was always quite remarkable.”
As a judge, he recalls, Rosenberg “was always someone who on and off the bench was very soft-spoken, but a very incisive thinking person,” whose decisions were referred to by “all other courts in Canada, at all levels.”
Among his most influential decisions, Moustacalis says, was in R. v. Priest, 1996, in which Rosenberg argued against custody for a young first-time offender.
In a prepared statement, Ontario Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said: “I was greatly saddened today to learn of the death of the Honourable Marc Rosenberg, a respected and influential figure in the Canadian legal community. . . . Today my thoughts and prayers are with Justice Rosenberg’s family, many colleagues and friends. I join with them in mourning his loss. He will be missed.”
In what lawyers are calling an “extremely rare” move, the Ontario Court of Appeal has expressly overruled one of its own past decisions.
|‘To expressly overrule a former decision is extraordinary,’ says James Morton.|
“As an intermediate court of appeal, we are ordinarily bound to follow our past decisions, even decisions with which we disagree. It is important that we do so. Our common law legal tradition rests upon the idea that we will adhere to what we decided in the past. As expressed by the Latin phrase stare decisis, we stand by things that have been decided,” wrote Justice Robert Sharpe in a ruling earlier this week.
But, Sharpe said, in this case, the faulty jurisprudence, from 1953’s Newman and Newman v. Terdik, isn’t logically consistent with “a steady string” of decisions that found an owner of a motor vehicle who consents to the possession of their vehicle by someone else will be vicariously liable for the negligence of the other person even if there is a breach of a condition imposed by the owner about the use or operation of the vehicle.
In a starkly different stance, Newman had found consent to possession does not translate to consent to operate a vehicle if the owner has placed restrictions on the operation of their vehicle.
“There comes a point at which the values of certainty and predictability must yield to allow the law to purge itself of past errors or decisions that no longer serve the interests of justice,” Sharpe wrote. “Moreover, decisions that rest on an unstable foundation tend to undermine the very values of certainty and predictability that stare decisis is meant to foster.”
It’s so rare for the appeal court to overrule itself that civil litigation lawyer James Morton says he’s only come across a similar move two or three times over the last 20 to 25 years.
“To expressly overrule a former decision is extraordinary,” says Morton. “The court of appeal often overrules earlier decisions without saying they’re doing it; they just kind of narrow the case or say, ‘Well, that’s not what it really means,’ but in this particular situation, it was black and white.”
Adds Morton: “The court was correct to overturn [Newman], I don’t have a problem with that, but it’s an extremely rare situation.”
While the Supreme Court of Canada more freely overrules its own decisions, as it did recently in R. v. Bedford, appellate lawyer Allan Rouben says it’s unusual for an intermediate court to do so. Still, Rouben says the court in this case made “a very well-reasoned decision.”
“It goes through the circumstances in which it’s appropriate to consider overruling, and here they found that the virtues of certainty and predictability were...outweighed by the other considerations,” he adds.
Part of the court’s unspoken motivation could have been that it’s difficult to obtain leave to the top court on an issue as narrow as the one considered in this case, says Morton.
“So if the Court of Appeal didn’t overturn Newman, it just would never get overturned.”
The Ontario Court of Appeal has rejected the superintendent of financial services’ bid to provide greater security for pension provisions during the restructuring proceedings of an Ontario wood manufacturing company.
The case once again raised questions about the deemed-trust provisions in Ontario’s Pension Benefits Act that the superintendent argued works in combination with the Personal Property Security Act to create a priority over the claims of secured creditors during Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act proceedings.
“The Superintendent submits that the CCAA judge erred in concluding that no wind up deemed trusts arose during the CCAA Proceeding,” wrote Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Eileen Gillese in setting out one of the key issues in Grant Forest Products Inc. v. The Toronto-Dominion Bank on Friday.
“He contends that where a pension plan is wound up after an initial order is made under the CCAA, but before distribution is complete, unpaid contributions to the pension plan constitute a wind up deemed trust under the PBA.”
The case dealt with Grant Forest Products, a manufacturer with facilities in Ontario, Alberta, and the United States. It sought protection under the federal restructuring act after GE Canada Leasing Services Co. applied for a bankruptcy order against it in 2009.
During the ensuing years, the company sold off the bulk of its assets and was able to pay off its first lien lenders in full in January 2012. But there was little left for the second lien lenders and growing deficits in the pension plans for both salaried employees and executives.
In early 2012, the superintendent ordered the wind up of both plans with an effective date of June 10, 2010, for the executive plan and March 31, 2011, for the salaried plan. Later that year, Grant Forest Products and related companies brought a motion for a declaration that they no longer had to make contributions to the pension plans.
In the meantime, one of the creditors, West Face Capital Inc. sought to petition Grant Forest Products into bankruptcy. In 2013, former Ontario Superior Court justice Colin Campbell issued a transition order adjudging the companies to be bankrupt. The order stated that none of the companies’ funds were subject to a deemed trust under the Pension Benefits Act.
In deciding whether Campbell had erred, the appeal court returned to a familiar them: federal paramountcy under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. “As I have explained, at the time that the Motions were heard, it was open to the CCAA judge to order the Remaining Applicants into bankruptcy,” wrote Gillese.
“Once the CCAA judge exercised his discretion and made that order, the priorities established by the BIA applied to the Remaining Funds and rendered the wind up deemed trust claims inoperative.
“Because wind up deemed trusts are created by provincial legislation, their payment could not be ordered when the Motions were heard because payment would have had the effect of frustrating the priorities established by the federal law of bankruptcy.”
As part of Friday’s ruling, Gillese included some comments about the merits of Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act proceedings versus the bankruptcy process when it comes to pension funds. As she noted, all pension contributions continued to the plans during the bulk of the restructuring proceedings. Second, she pointed out that the company that bought some of the assets continued one of the pension plans. And third, she said the restructuring proceedings bought the company “breathing space” to ensure proper administration of the pension plans with orders authorizing the monitor to hold back some funds for pension claims.
“I hasten to add that these remarks are not intended to suggest a lack of sympathy for the position of pension plan beneficiaries in insolvency proceedings,” wrote Gillese.
“Rather, it is to recognize that while no panacea, at least there is some prospect of amelioration of that position in a CCAA proceeding.”
While the appeal court rejected the superintendent’s position, Andrew Hatnay, a partner at Koskie Minsky LLP who acted for an intervener in the case, says he was very happy with the decision.
While “it certainly disadvantages the Grant Forest pension plan members,” the decision was a narrow one that doesn’t create new law, says Hatnay, whose clients include non-union active employees and retirees of U.S. Steel Canada Inc. in its own restructuring proceedings.
The appeal court, he adds, dealt with the narrow issue of whether Campbell had erred in granting the bankruptcy application.
“Timing is always critical in CCAA proceedings,” he says.
“The courts have always made clear that creditors should make the rights on which they intend to rely known early in a CCAA proceeding.”
As for the court’s comment on the advantages of the restructuring legislation in general, Hatnay says he largely agrees. “Generally, we agree with the courts’ comments because the CCAA permits greater flexibility than a bankruptcy proceeding and encourages stakeholders to reach resolutions and settlements,” he says.
A couple who lost $3.6 million lawyer Javad Heydary disappeared are entitled to garnishment from his liability insurance policy — but will have to renounce any claims against three lawyers formerly employed by him, the Court of Appeal for Ontario ruled yesterday. They will get well under the $3.6 million they lost.
In November 2013, Heydary disappeared after claims were filed by Hasan and Samira Abuzour, a Mississauga couple, for $3.6 million he had been holding in trust for them. Heydary was later declared dead. Soon after his disappearance, the Abuzours successfully obtained two court orders requiring the payment of the funds from the trust account held by Heydary’s company, Heydary Hamilton. But the money was not forthcoming, and Heydary and Heydary Hamilton were found in contempt of court.
In March, 2014, the Abuzour’s lawyer sent a demand letter to three lawyers formerly employed by Heydary — Jeff Landmann, Darren Smith, and Yan Wang — threatening to sue them “unless a resolution is reached” regarding the missing funds.
Last October, Superior Court Justice Michael Penny awarded the sum remaining in Heydary’s $1-million coverage under LawPRO’s innocent-party insurance to the Abuzours. According to the terms of the policy, LawPRO is entitled to use some of the money to investigate and defend claims that might arise against a lawyer ensured by it.
The three lawyers then filed a motion to set aside or vary the order, arguing the payout would leave them without coverage in case the Abuzours sued them.
But in February, Penny ruled against the motion.
The lawyers appealed the decision, and in April LawPRO successfully obtained an order to stay the garnishment order pending a decision in the lawyers’ appeal.
In yesterday’s ruling, the three-member Court of Appeal panel ruled to allow the appeal and vary the motion judge’s order, adding a requirement that the Abuzours “should provide a release as a condition of the payment to them of the garnished insurance policy limits.”
Explaining the panel’s decision, the ruling states: “This situation is unusual in that the initial orders for payment out of the Heydary Hamilton trust accounts were not based on negligence, omissions, errors or fraud covered by the policy. It is the failure to comply with these orders which arguably gives rise to an insured loss.”
But the most important factor in the panel’s decision, the ruling states, is that, despite their refusal to release the lawyers from future claims against them for the missing money, the Abuzours were unable to provide any grounds for a possible lawsuit against them.
“The respondents at oral argument were unable to articulate any basis upon which the respondents might advance a claim against the appellants relating to the money which has vanished,” wrote Justice Gladys Pardu for the panel.
“I am left with the impression that the respondents’ refusal to execute a release in favour of the appellants is a tactical one, designed to extract funds from innocent parties who do not have the means to defend themselves. The losses suffered by the respondents must be devastating, but there is no basis shown to visit Heydary’s misconduct on the appellants.”
Commenting on the decision, Brian Radnoff, counsel for the three lawyers, says, “My clients, who were also innocent victims of Mr. Heydary, are pleased they will not lose their insurance coverage for a claim that was asserted against them.”
The Abuzour’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Far from mitigating violent crime, cultural beliefs leading to violence should, if anything, be an aggravating factor supporting a harsher sentence, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled yesterday in striking down the inadequate sentence of a lower court.
The ruling in R. v. H.E. involves an Iranian immigrant convicted of raping his wife repeatedly and beating her along with his children. The assaults were routine, occurring three or four times a month, and the wife never thought to contact police because, according to her, such domestic abuse was common in Iran.
Indeed, the victim seemed shocked when it became clear to her that her husband could go to prison. Despite terrible abuse suffered over years, neither she nor her children wanted the man jailed.
The Crown sought a prison term of four years, but Justice William Gorewich of the Ontario Court of Justice handed down a much lighter sentence — 18 months plus probation — reasoning that there was no risk to reoffend and there were “no injuries” requiring medical attention.
Gorewich also took it upon himself to weigh cultural considerations despite the fact that none were offered as a defence: “In my considerations, I ask how much weight [should] the cultural impact of moving from Iran to Canada be given. [The accused’s wife] testified in Iran if she complained about any abuse she would be ignored. It is a different culture, it is a different society. As far as I’m able to ascertain from the evidence those cultural differences moved with them from Iran to Canada. It is only a factor in my deliberations, and not a sentencing principle.”
On appeal, Associate Chief Justice Alexandra Hoy, on behalf of a unanimous court, took great exception with the notion that one’s cultural background could excuse violent criminal behaviour. “Cultural differences do not excuse or mitigate criminal conduct. To hold otherwise undermines the equality of all individuals before and under the law, a crucial Charter value,” the decision states.
“All women in Canada are entitled to the same level of protection from abusers. The need to strongly denounce domestic violence is in no way diminished when that conduct is the product of cultural beliefs that render women acceptable targets of male violence. If anything, cultural beliefs may be an aggravating factor enhancing the need for specific deterrence in cases where the sentencing judge is satisfied that the offender continues to maintain those views at the time of sentencing.”
Hoy’s decision also cited errors with the lower court’s explanation that “no injuries” were suffered because medical attention was never sought. “The sentencing judge commented that medical attention was not sought. This does not mean there were no physical injuries.”
Finally, the appeal court found errors with the lower court’s assumption the accused posed no risk to reoffend. Much to the contrary, it found, the convicted man expressed no remorse for his actions and may continue to hold beliefs that his criminal behaviour was acceptable. “Given the lack of remorse, what then was the evidence that there was no risk to reoffend? . . . The respondent, in his late forties, was found guilty of routinely raping his wife over many years, and of physically attacking his own children. These offences were not isolated incidents. By nearly all accounts, the respondent had difficulty controlling his anger. This engaged an inference that the respondent was a risk to re-offend.”
The appeal court decision imposed a sentence of four years with no parole. Counsel for both the Crown and the respondent declined to comment on the decision.
|Anne Jacob is appointed to the Superior Court of Quebec.|
In several instances the appointments are said to be filling new positions created by Bill C-31.
Guy R. Smith, a sole practitioner in Ottawa, was appointed a judge of the Tax Court of Canada to replace Justice Joe E. Hershfield, who elected to become a supernumerary judge as of June 1, 2015.
Smith had been a sole practitioner since 2014. Previously, he had been the judicial affairs adviser for the federal Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada from March 2009 to July 2014. He practised administrative law, constitutional law and litigation with Perley-Robertson Hill & McDougall LLP from 1997 to 2005 and as a sole practitioner from 1991 to 1997. He was called to the Ontario bar in 1988.
Alberta Provincial Court Judge Robin Camp has been appointed to the Federal Court to replace Justice Yves de Montigny, who has been elevated to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Camp received his law degree in South Africa and successfully completed challenge exams to re-qualify to practise in Canada in 1998. He was appointed a judge of the Provincial Court, Criminal Division, in 2012. Prior to his appointment, he had been a lawyer at JSS Barristers from 2004 and a managing partner from 2008 to 2012. His main area of practice was commercial litigation. He was called to the Alberta bar in 1999.
E. Susan Elliott, a lawyer with Good Elliott Hawkins LLP in Kingston, Ont. has also been appointed to the Federal Court. She replaces Justice Mary.J.L. Gleason, who has been elevated to the Federal Court of Appeal.
Elliott was called to the Ontario bar in 1981. She had been at Good Elliott Hawkins (formerly Good & Elliott) since 1981, and during that time she had been general counsel, legal line of business, Teranet Inc. She also served as treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada; as well as hearing commissioner, part time, for the Rent Review Commissioner of Ontario and a smalls claims court judge since 2009.
Sylvie Roussel, a lawyer with the Security Intelligence Review Agency in Ottawa, is appointed to the Federal Court as well, replacing Justice Marie-Josée Bédard, who was appointed to the Superior Court of Quebec.
Roussel was called to the Ontario bar in 1987. She had been senior general counsel with the Security Intelligence Review Agency since 2007. Previously, she had practised with the firm Noël & Associés, s.e.n.c.. Her main areas of practice were public/constitutional law, criminal law, Charter Law and human rights law.
Fredricton’s Ann Marie McDonald, a lawyer with McInnes Cooper LLP, is also headed to the Federal Court. She replaces Justice R.T. Hughes, who elected to become a supernumerary judge, effective Sept. 1, 2015.
McDonald was called to the bar of New Brunswick in 1994. She became an associate with McInnes Cooper in 2000 and a partner in 2002, practising primarily in the areas of commercial litigation, employment law, administrative law and general litigation.
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|Newly appointed Ontario appeal court Justice Bradley Miller has some controversial views on same-sex marriage.|
Miller, a former law professor at Western University, has been vocal about what he perceives as an attack on those who reject same-sex marriage in Canada.
Last year, while he was still a law professor, he wrote to the Law Society of Upper Canada in support of Trinity Western University’s bid for accreditation.
“If LSUC determines that the acceptance of a particular form of marriage is in fact a pre-condition to participation in public life, we must consider what consequences there will be for those existing member of LSUC who cannot, in good conscience, affirm that conception,” Miller wrote.
“Is LSUC prepared to impose statements of belief on its membership? The condemnation of TWU’s code of conduct would end, logically, in the code of belief to be imposed on the LSUC membership,” he added.
The LSUC voted not to accredit TWU due to its community covenant that effectively bans sexual intimacy between same sex couples. The university is challenging that decision at the Divisional Court.
Miller has written in other places saying the rejection of same-sex marriage has been likened to bigotry, which he said harms freedom of expression.
“The formal effect of the judicial decisions (and subsequent legislation) establishing same-sex civil marriage in Canada was simply that persons of the same-sex could now have the government recognize their relationships as marriages. But the legal and cultural effect was much broader,” he wrote in a 2012 essay.
“What transpired was the adoption of a new orthodoxy: that same-sex relationships are, in every way, the equivalent of traditional marriage, and that same-sex marriage must therefore be treated identically to traditional marriage in law and public life.”
Although Miller has spoken out in this area, Toronto appellate lawyer Allan Rouben says there’s nothing to suggest the appointment was ideologically motivated.
“The assumption appears to be that the appointment is ideologically motivated,” Rouben says. “There are a whole range of factors that go into the judicial appointment process. He had an impressive academic career and there’s nothing to say that isn’t the predominant factor in the first place,” he adds.
In Quebec, Superior Court Justice Jacques Fournier, who has been the court’s associate chief justice has been appointed its chief justice.
Fournier, who became associate chief justice in 2013, is replacing Justice François Rolland. He was appointed as puisne judge of the Court of Appeal of Quebec in 2011 and judge of the Superior Court of Quebec in 2002. Fournier was also an instructor at Université du Québec à Montréal and the Université de Montréal.
Justice Eva Petras becomes the new associate chief justice, effective June 30. She was first appointed to the Superior Court of Quebec in 2006.
Before becoming a judge, Petras practised family law and litigation at Eva Petras law firm. Prior to launching her own firm, she practised at MacKenzie Gervais from 1981 to 1986 and Lapointe Rosenstein from 1986 to 1990. She has also been a lecturer in family law at McGill University’s Faculty of Law.
Earlier in the month, New Brunswick Justice Raymond French, a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench was appointed to the province’s court of appeal, He replaces Justice B. R. Bell, who was appointed to the Federal Court.
French was first appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench in 2007. Before his appointment, he was a lawyer with Patterson Palmer in Saint John.
Replacing French on the Court of Queen’s Bench Trial Division is Richard Petrie. Prior to his appointment, Petrie worked as a lawyer with Stewart McKelvey in Fredericton.
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