This week at the SCC

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear four appeals (three civil) this week. It’s the last week it will sit this year.

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear four appeals (three civil) this week, which is the last week it will sit this year. The most highly publicized appeal will be of Gerard Comeau's successful bid to have charges against him dropped under New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act, for exceeding limits of alcohol brought over provincial borders; the Crown's appeal in the case will be heard over two days. The remaining two civil cases involve trust obligations in the construction sector, and contract law interpretation under the Civil Code of Quebec.

December 4 – British Columbia – West Fraser Mills v. Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal

Civil law, workers’ compensation: A tree faller was fatally struck by a rotting tree while working within the area of a forest licence held by West Fraser Mills Ltd.
West Fraser was the owner of the workplace, as defined by the Workers Compensation Act.
The faller’s employer worked for an independent contractor. The Workers’ Compensation Board conducted an investigation and imposed an administrative penalty on West Fraser. On appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal, West Fraser argued that s. 26.2 of B.C.’s Occupational Health and Safety Regulation is ultra vires, and that an administrative penalty can only be levied against a person who has, in the course of acting as an employer, committed a violation.

Read the British Columbia appellate court decision here.

Related legal bulletin:
7 Business Cases to Follow in the Supreme Court's Fall Term; Bennett Jones LLP

December 5 – Quebec – Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. v. Hydro-Québec

Contract law: In 1969, the applicant Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. Ltd. and the respondent Hydro-Québec entered into a contract in which Hydro-Québec undertook to purchase almost all the energy generated by a hydroelectric plant to be built on the Churchill River in Labrador. The 65-year contract set a fixed price for the energy that was to decrease in stages over time. In 2010, Churchill Falls brought an action against Hydro-Québec, arguing that the magnitude of Hydro-Québec’s profits due to the higher value of electricity had been unforeseeable in 1969, and that the Civil Code of Quebec therefore imposed a duty to renegotiate the terms of the contract. The Superior Court dismissed the action and the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, finding that except in cases of real hardship the general principle of good faith set out in the C.C.Q. was of no assistance to a party in the applicant’s situation.

Read the Quebec appellate court decision here.

Related news story:
Supreme Court to review Hydro-Québec's Churchill Falls energy deal with Newfoundland and Labrador; Montreal Gazette

December 5 – Ontario – R.A. v. Her Majesty the Queen

Criminal: Publication bans in effect.

December 6-7 – New Brunswick – R. v. Gerard Comeau

Constitutional law: In October 2012, Gerard Comeau was intercepted by police in Campbellton, N.B. as he was returning from a First Nation reserve in Quebec, where had purchased alcoholic beverages at a lower price than he would have paid in New Brunswick. Comeau was charged under New Brunswick’s Liquor Control Act for exceeding the limit on beer and liquor that could be brought into New Brunswick from another province, and the beverages were seized. In his defence, Comeau claimed that section 134(b) of the Act was an unenforceable provincial law and of no force and effect, as it contravened section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867.

Read the New Brunswick appellate court decision here.

Related news stories:
SCC grants Crown leave to appeal in New Brunswick liquor case; Canadian Lawyer

New Brunswick asks Supreme Court to rule on cross-border liquor limits; CBC News New Brunswick

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