The Uncertain Status of the Doctrine of Interjurisdictional Immunity on Reserve Lands

By: Nigel Bankes and Jennifer Koshan

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Case Commented On: Sechelt Indian Band v. British Columbia (Manufactured Home Park Tenancy Act, Dispute Resolution Officer), 2013 BCCA 262, application for leave to appeal dismissed with costs, October 23, 2014

The Supreme Court of Canada has passed up the opportunity to clarify the application of the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity (IJI) to reserve lands following its decisions in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 and Grassy Narrows First Nation v. Ontario (Natural Resources), 2014 SCC 48 (Keewatin) in June 2014 by denying leave to appeal in the Sechelt Indian Band case. It is unusual to comment on a decision to deny leave since such decisions are never supported by reasons and the Court has warned that we cannot infer much about the status of an appellate decision on which leave was denied for the very good reason that there may be all sorts of considerations that might lead the Court to deny leave in any particular case. We are commenting on the leave issue in this case because in our view by missing the opportunity to clarify the scope of Tsilhqot’in and Keewatin the Court has left outstanding uncertainty as to the scope of these decisions that it could usefully have resolved. We also include a postscript referring to a recent decision out of Saskatchewan that seems to extend Tsilhqot’in to render IJI inapplicable to provincial limitations legislation applying to reserve lands.

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Posted in Aboriginal, Constitutional | 1 Comment

The Charter Issue(s) in Ernst: Awaiting Another Day

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: The Charter Issue(s) in Ernst: Awaiting Another Day

Case Commented On: Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285

My colleagues Martin Olszynski and Shaun Fluker have posted comments on the Alberta Court of Appeal decision in Ernst here and here. In addition to the regulatory negligence claim against the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and Alberta Environment they cover in their posts, Ernst brought a claim against the ERCB for breach of the Charter. More specifically, she alleged that the ERCB violated her freedom of expression under section 2(d) of the Charter by “punishing her for criticizing the ERCB in public and to the media, and … because she was prohibited and restrained in her communication with the ERCB” (2013 ABQB 537 at para 39). In response to the ERCB’s application to strike the statement of claim, Chief Justice Wittman found that the Charter claim, although novel, was not doomed to fail and should not be struck. However, section 43 of the Energy Resources Conservation Act, RSA 2000, c. E-10 (ERCA) barred Ernst’s Charter claim against the ERCB (2013 ABQB 537 at paras 42, 82-88). Although the ERCB did not appeal the finding that the pleadings disclosed an arguable claim for a breach of the Charter, the Court of Appeal upheld Wittman CJ’s finding that section 43 of the ERCA barred any Charter claim by Ernst.

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Posted in Administrative Law, Constitutional | Leave a comment

How lawyers resolve family law disputes

By: John-Paul Boyd

PDF Version: How lawyers resolve family law disputes

This past July I was able to sample the views of 167 lawyers and judges attending the Federation of Law Societies of Canada‘s National Family Law Program in Whistler, British Columbia through a survey designed and implemented by two prominent academics and the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. The survey asked questions about participants’ views on shared parenting and shared custody, litigants without counsel, and dispute resolution.

In the course of digesting the resulting data for a report, I noticed something very interesting about the information we’d collected on dispute resolution. We had asked lawyers to tell us the percentage of their family law cases which are ultimately resolved by: arrangements made by the parties themselves; negotiation involving lawyers; mediation; collaborative settlement processes; arbitration; through court with the assistance of a judge at an interim hearing or a judicial conference; or, through court at trial. Here’s what the numbers told us:

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Posted in Access to Justice, Family | Leave a comment

Access vs Privacy: A Mounting Rivalry

By: Ronaliz Veron

PDF Version: Access vs Privacy: A Mounting Rivalry

Case Commented On: Covenant Health v Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2014 ABQB 562

Covenant Health v Alberta, 2014 ABQB 562, addresses a difficult power struggle that can develop between government facilities responsible for caring for the elderly, and the family members who question that care. It also examines the conflicting interests that arise when a public health body is asked to disclose records that contain patient data and non-patient information. In navigating the interaction between the Health Information Act, RSA 2000, c H-5 and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000, c F-25 (Freedom of Information Act), Judge Wakeling’s reasons reveal a mounting rivalry between the right to access personal information and the right to privacy. In the end, the Court, after engaging in a balancing exercise, clearly chose to favour privacy rights over access rights.

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Posted in Administrative Law, Health Law, Privacy | Leave a comment

Disagreement in the Court of Appeal about the Wisdom of Judicial Economy

By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: Disagreement in the Court of Appeal about the Wisdom of Judicial Economy

Case Commented On: Calgary Jewish Academy v Condominium Plan 9110544, 2014 ABCA 279

In this judgement, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of Justice Adele Kent in Calgary Jewish Academy v Condominium Plan 9110544, 2013 ABQB 134, where she had found the Academy’s lease of a portion of the Condominium Corporation’s land invalid. The Court of Appeal decision is of interest because of the different approaches taken by Justices Clifton O’Brien and Alan Macleod on the one hand, and Justice Brian O’Ferrall in a concurring opinion on the other, and what those different approaches might say about the wisdom of judicial or decisional economy. The case also illustrates (yet again) that no good deed goes unpunished.

The Calgary Jewish Academy, the plaintiff in this matter, and the condominium complex, the defendant, are neighbours on land adjacent to Glenmore Trail. The Academy has operated a school on their land since 1958. In 1978, the City of Calgary made changes to Glenmore Trail that cut off emergency access to the school. Fortunately, the City owned the land adjacent to the school and leased a portion of it to the Academy for use as a parking lot and for emergency access. The lease—the first lease—was for 10 years, and the Academy had an option to renew for a further period of 10 years on the same terms and conditions. The rent was one dollar per year. A caveat claiming an interest in land pursuant to the lease was filed against the City’s land.

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Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board): The gatekeeper is alive and well

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board): The gatekeeper is alive and well

Case Commented On: Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285

This comment adds to the earlier post by Martin Olszynski (here) on the Ernst litigation against Alberta Environment, the Alberta Energy Regulator/Energy Resources Conservation Board (AER/ERCB) and Encana Corporation concerning allegations of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Readers interested in more details on the substance of the litigation will find it here. My focus in this comment is on whether the Alberta Court of Appeal has correctly applied the law on a motion to strike under Rule 3.68 of the Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 124/2010 (the Rules). I argue the Court of Appeal has erred by applying the test too restrictively.

Simply put, Ernst alleges that Alberta Environment and the AER/ERCB owe her a duty of care and are negligent by failing to meet that duty. This is a question of regulatory negligence, and the parameters of the law on this question have been summarized by Professor Olszynski. The AER/ERCB applied to the Court to strike Ernst’s claim for failing to disclose a reasonable cause of action, and for summary judgment. In the first instance, Chief Justice Wittman granted the request to strike back in September 2013 (Ernst v Encana Corporation, 2013 ABQB 537).

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Posted in Civil Procedure and Evidence, Environmental | Leave a comment

The Debate over the Charter’s Reach Continues: A Question Regarding Free Expression at Airports

By: Sarah Burton

PDF Version: The Debate over the Charter’s Reach Continues: A Question Regarding Free Expression at Airports

Case Commented On: The Calgary Airport Authority v Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2014 ABQB 493

In The Calgary Airport Authority v Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2014 ABQB 493 (“CAA v CCBR”), Chief Justice Wittmann granted an interim injunction prohibiting an anti-abortion group from protesting at the Calgary International Airport. Separate and apart from the polarizing subject-matter, this case is interesting because it raises some basic Charter questions that stubbornly refuse to be settled. Despite raising interesting questions regarding the reach of the Charter to quasi-governmental entities and the meaning of public property, the Court did not provide any answers at this stage. Given the nature of an interim injunction application, Chief Justice Wittmann was only asked to determine if the matters raised “serious issues to be tried” – a decision he had little difficulty making. Even without final answers though, this decision still merits attention. Not only are the issues themselves thought-provoking, the parties clearly viewed the application as one of massive importance, and accordingly prepared forceful arguments. At the very least, Chief Justice Wittman’s direction that the matter move expeditiously via case management signals that the Court will be providing a substantive answer to these questions in the not-too-distant future.

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Revisiting Regulatory Negligence: The Ernst Fracking Litigation

By: Martin Olszynski

PDF Version: Revisiting Regulatory Negligence: The Ernst Fracking Litigation

Case Commented On: Ernst v. Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285

On September 15, 2014, the Alberta Court of Appeal released its decision in Ernst v. Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board). Ms. Ernst owns land near Rosebud, Alberta, and is suing EnCana Corporation, the ERCB (now the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Alberta Environment (now Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development) for negligence in relation to the alleged contamination of her groundwater as a result of EnCana’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities in the area. The ERCB (but not Alberta Environment – a point further discussed below) applied to have the action against it struck. The case management judge, Chief Justice Wittmann, agreed that this particular negligence claim was not supported in law: he found that the ERCB owed no private law duty of care to Ms. Ernst and that, in any event, any claim was barred by s 43 of the ERCB’s enabling legislation (see Ernst v. EnCana Corporation, 2013 ABQB 537). The Alberta Court of Appeal (Justices Côté, Watson and Slatter, writing as “The Court”) dismissed Ms. Ernst’s appeal. This post considers the regulatory negligence aspects of both the Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal decisions.

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Posted in Environmental, Torts | 1 Comment

Divergence at the Court of Appeal on What Amounts to Unreasonable Decision-making

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Divergence at the Court of Appeal on What Amounts to Unreasonable Decision-making

Case Commented On: Hunter v College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, 2014 ABCA 262

In this judgment the Court of Appeal reviews a disciplinary decision made by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta against one of its physician members. I think the judgment is noteworthy to a broader audience of administrative law scholars and practitioners because of the stark contrast in how the majority and the dissent apply the reasonableness standard to review the College’s decision. The majority judgment written by Justice Slatter and Madam Justice Veldhuis dismisses the appeal by the physician using only 6 paragraphs of reasons to conclude the disciplinary decision is reasonable. The dissenting opinion written by Justice O’Ferrall concludes the College’s decision is unreasonable and in doing so probes much further into the impugned regulatory process and the record in this case. There would appear to be a divergence of views at the Court of Appeal in how to apply the reasonableness standard in judicial review.

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Sentencing in an Unusual Domestic Violence Case

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Sentencing in an Unusual Domestic Violence Case

Case Commented On: R v Hernandez, 2014 ABCA 311

The most recent edition of Eugene Meehan’s Supreme Advocacy newsletter lists R v Hernandez, 2014 ABCA 311, as the Court of Appeal case of the week nation-wide. The case involves a Crown sentence appeal in the domestic violence context. Sadly, domestic violence cases are not uncommon, so what is so remarkable about this case?

First, it involves a female perpetrator. As annual Statistics Canada reports on family violence show, domestic violence is a gendered crime. In the most recent Stats Can report, 80% of all domestic complaints made to police in 2011 were made by women, a number which is consistent over time. At the international level, gender-based violence has been recognized as a form of discrimination against women in documents such as General Recommendation No. 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. But in this case, Luisa Amelia Hernandez was the accused, and the complainant was her former common-law husband.

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Posted in Criminal, State Responses to Violence | Leave a comment