This week at the SCC

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear five appeals. They include a judicial independence challenge by justices of the peace in Quebec whose pay had been cut, as well as a labour dispute over whether federal employees can be terminated without cause. The court will also hear arguments relating to whether a judge is empowered to compare handwriting.

Jan. 18 – Quebec – Conférence des juges de paix magistrats v. Quebec

Constitutional law: The applicant filed a motion to strike down amendments of the Courts of Justice Act that significantly altered the remuneration, employment conditions, and pension plans of newly hired justices of the peace. The group of presiding justices of the peace argue that the legislative provisions did not guarantee judicial independence. The SCC will review whether the appeal court erred in rejecting the motion.

Read the Quebec appeal court decision

Jan. 19 – Federal – Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada

Employment law: Wilson was an employee at AECL who claims to have been fired for whistleblowing about improper procurement practices. He refused to sign a release granting him six months’ severance. He remained on payroll until the severance period ended, at which point he brought an arbitral motion under the Canada Labour Code alleging unjust dismissal. The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed arguments on appeal that federally regulated employees can only be removed with just cause.

Read the Federal Court of Appeal decision

Related news stories:

SCC could topple landmark decision on without-cause dismissals, Canadian Lawyer InHouse

Court releases ‘game-changing’ decision on federally regulated employees, Canadian Lawyer InHouse

Jan. 20 – Alberta – R. v. M.K.B.

Criminal law: The accused was charged with second-degree murder for having killer her two newborn children. She placed them in a garbage bag and put them in a dumpster. The trial judge ruled that the accused’s mind was disturbed after childbirth and acquitted her of the murder charges, instead applying the lesser charge of infanticide. The Crown’s appeal was dismissed with dissent. The SCC will review the original ruling. A publication ban is in place.

Read the Alberta Court of Appeal decision

Related news stories:

Calgary mother charged in killing of two infants, The Globe and Mail

Jan. 21 – Alberta – Meer v. R.

Charter of Rights: The appellant was convicted on charges relating to assault, intimidation, threats, and arson. His counsel had been engaged in disciplinary proceedings for an unrelated matter. The appellant knew of the disciplinary proceedings but allowed his counsel to continue. At trial, the judge compared handwritten notes allegedly by the accused without use of an expert. On appeal, the accused claimed incompetent counsel had led to a miscarriage of justice and that he had been denied his right to a fair hearing. The SCC will review whether the accused in such circumstances waive their right to competent counsel, and whether judges are free to compare handwriting samples without an expert.

Read the Alberta appeal court decision

Jan. 22 – Alberta – Heritage Capital v. Equitable Trust

Municipal law: Heritage Capital is the financing firm underwriting the purchase of the Lougheed Block, a Calgary building in which Equitable Trust held interest. The building was declared a heritage property and was entitled to payments from the city for rehabilitation work. The building was sold, after which a dispute arose as to whether the city’s ongoing payments were included in the price of the transaction. Equitable Trust successfully applied for a declaration that they were not. The appeal was dismissed. The SCC will review whether the lower court erred in its assessment.

Read the Alberta appeal court decision

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