Wednesday: What’s Hot on CanLII

Each Wednesday we tell you which three English-language cases and which French-language case have been the most viewed* on CanLII and we give you a small sense of what the cases are about.

For this last week:

1. The Hearing Clinic (Niagara Falls) Inc. v. 866073 Ontario Limited, et al., 2014 ONSC 5831

[3] I have found it impossible to articulate a helpful overview of this trial. Sitting atop the evidence here is like scaling a very, very high mountain only to find that, when one reaches the summit, one is too far from everything to see anything. The best that I can do is say that the core of the case is the allegation that the individual defendants and their accountant knowingly made fraudulent misrepresentations and withheld information, such that the plaintiff overpaid for the hearing clinic. General damages are sought. It is further alleged that the defendants intentionally committed certain acts (said to be acts of bad faith and improper conduct bordering upon fraud) that impeded the transfer of assets, constituting breach of contract, and thereby caused the plaintiff to suffer specific financial losses.

[4] E-mails, hundreds of them, along with letters and other documents, proved to be the most reliable evidence. Without them, the truth would have been unattainable, leaving me at the mercy of witnesses and desperately self-interested litigants attempting to recall events today that took place in 2006. There are inherent evidentiary problems in asking witnesses to tell of such events. Sincerely believed memories that are innocently incorrect become more problematic for the court than do intentional lies.

2. Thibodeau v. Air Canada, 2014 SCC 67

[1] Air Canada failed to provide services in French on some international flights as it was obliged to do under the Official Languages Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 31 (4th Supp.) (the “OLA”). Two passengers, the appellants Michel and Lynda Thibodeau, applied to the Federal Court for damages and for orders, referred to as “structural” or “institutional” orders, requiring Air Canada to take steps in order to ensure future compliance with the OLA. The airline defended against the claims for damages by relying on the limitation on damages liability set out in the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, 2242 U.N.T.S. 350 (the “Montreal Convention”), which is part of Canadian federal law by virtue of the Carriage by Air Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-26, a federal statute.

[2] The Federal Court rejected Air Canada’s defence, awarded damages and granted a structural order (2011 FC 876 (CanLII), [2013] 2 F.C.R. 83). However, the Federal Court of Appeal set that ruling aside in part, holding that the Montreal Convention precluded the damages remedy for the events that took place on board Air Canada flights and that a structural order was not appropriate (2012 FCA 246 (CanLII), [2013] 2 F.C.R. 155). The main issue on the further appeal to this Court is whether the Federal Court of Appeal erred in these conclusions.

3. R. v. Joseph, 2014 ONCJ 559

[37] The breach of the defendant’s privacy interests was, in my view both unnecessary and avoidable. The OPP’s installation of video-monitoring of cells in the force’s detachments was undoubtedly well-intended. There are situations where concerns respecting prisoner health and safety, institutional security and the preservation of evidence justify the constant video surveillance of detainees. It is unclear, however, why every prisoner’s toilet functions and genitalia need be closely scrutinized and digitally preserved. Evidentiary concerns can generally be tackled by way of searches conducted before being lodged in a cell including, as is hardly uncommon, non-videotaped strip-searches by officers of the same gender as the detainee. Modesty screens (such, for example, as that described in R. v. Robb, 2014 ONCJ 514, at para. 7), hospital gowns or the provision of other coverings could readily mitigate the predictable privacy claims arising from the routine taping of prisoners’ use of a toilet. Nor, as with search-level determinations, does every prisoner present such degree of concern or jeopardy as to warrant constant video surveillance. (The defendant, by way of immediate example, was documented as negative for any health, safety or security risks and was polite and co-operative throughout the investigation.)

[38] It is at least arguable that the video-taping of prisoners’ use of a toilet is even more invasive than strip searches in so far as the privacy violation is exposed to an unknown number of others and indefinitely preserved. In view of the express guidance afforded by R. v. Golden, 2001 SCC 83 (CanLII), [2001] 3 S.C.R. 679, esp. at para. 97 and, in particular, R. v. Flintoff (1998), 1998 CanLII 632 (ON CA), 126 C.C.C. (3d) 321 (Ont. C.A.), esp. at paras. 23 and 38, it is most perplexing that the OPP did not factor individualized risk assessment into the design of it cell-monitoring policy or, at minimum, provide some measure of modesty protection. Finally, having been alerted to judicial expressions of concern respecting constitutional improprieties at least a year before the defendant’s arrest, it is almost incomprehensible that the force awaited appellate authority before recalibrating the balance between safety and privacy. These systematic or institutional considerations clearly argue against admission of the defendant’s BAC results: see R. v. Flintoff, supra, at para. 43. Like the treatment wing of a hospital, the holding cells area of a police station is not “a Charter-free zone”: R. v. Taylor, infra, at para. 34

The most-consulted French-language decision was Sorel-Tracy (Ville de) c. St-Sauveur, 2007 QCCS 3295

[3] La Ville invoque premièrement l’article 231 L.A.U., dont voici le texte :

Art. 231. Lorsqu’une construction est dans un état tel qu’elle peut mettre en danger des personnes ou lorsqu’elle a perdu la moitié de sa valeur par vétusté, par incendie ou par explosion, la Cour supérieure peut, sur requête de la municipalité régionale de comté, de la municipalité ou de tout intéressé, ordonner l’exécution des travaux requis pour assurer la sécurité des personnes ou, s’il n’existe pas d’autre remède utile, la démolition de la construction. Le tribunal peut, selon le cas, ordonner au propriétaire de la construction ou à la personne qui en a la garde de maintenir une surveillance adéquate de la construction jusqu’à ce que la mesure corrective imposée soit apportée. Il peut autoriser la municipalité régionale de comté ou la municipalité à assurer cette surveillance aux frais du propriétaire si celui-ci ou la personne qui a la garde de la construction omet de se conformer au jugement.

En cas d’urgence exceptionnelle, le tribunal peut autoriser la municipalité régionale de comté ou la municipalité à exécuter ces travaux ou à procéder à cette démolition sur le champ et la municipalité régionale de comté ou la municipalité peut en réclamer le coût du propriétaire du bâtiment. Le tribunal peut aussi, dans tous les cas, enjoindre aux personnes qui habitent le bâtiment de l’évacuer dans le délai qu’il indique.

* As of January 2014 we measure the total amount of time spent on the pages rather than simply the number of hits; as well, a case once mentioned won’t appear again for three months.

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