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SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC 2010 2014 ACTIVITY REPORT A COURT FOR CITIZENS SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC 2010 2014 ACTIVITY REPORT A COURT FOR CITIZENS CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS The drawing on the cover is the red rosette found on the back of the collar of the judge’s gown. It was originally used in England, where judges wore wigs: their black rosettes, which were applied vertically, prevented their wigs from rubbing against and wearing out the collars of their gowns. Photo on page 18 Robert Levesque Photos on pages 29 and 30 Guy Lacoursière This publication was written and produced by the Office of the Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Québec 1, rue Notre-Dame Est Montréal (Québec) H2Y 1B6 Phone: 514 393-2144 An electronic version of this publication is available on the Court website ( © Superior Court of Québec, 2015 Legal deposit – Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 2015 Library and Archives Canada ISBN: 978-2-550-73409-3 (print version) ISBN: 978-2-550-73408-6 (PDF) CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS Table of Contents 04 A Message from the Chief Justice 06 The Superior Court 0 7 Sectors of activity 07 Civil Chamber 08 Commercial Chamber 10 Family Chamber 12 Criminal Chamber 14 Class Action Chamber 16 Settlement Conference Chamber 19 Districts 19 Division of Montréal 24 Division of Québec 31 Case management, waiting times and priority for certain cases 33 Challenges and future prospects 34 Court committees 36 The Superior Court over the Years 39 The judges of the Superior Court of Québec November 24, 2014 A message from the Chief Justice I am pleased to present the Four-Year Report of the Superior Court of Québec, covering the period 2010 to 2014. Over the last four years, the Court has focused on best practices in order to achieve its mission: to be a court accessible to all citizens, made up of competent, empathetic and efficient judges who are aware of current concerns and proud to belong to the Court. The Court has paid special attention to the design and implementation of practical methods to ensure that cases are dealt with diligently and effectively. The initiatives it has introduced centre on reducing formality and ensuring fluid communications and the availability of judges. The main emphasis has been on case preparation and the control of proceedings to ensure that, once a case is heard, judges’ time and the amounts spent by citizens are used in the most efficient way possible. In terms of numbers, the region of Montréal continues to experience a major shortage of judges. This increases the delays faced by citizens before their case, whether civil CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 5 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT or criminal, can be heard. For criminal cases, I would also like to thank Senior Associate the exponential increase in the time needed Chief Justice Robert Pidgeon for his ongoing to hear each case is a problem that requires assistance, and Associate Chief Justice immediate attention, and the authorities have Jacques Fournier, who took up his duties in been informed of the situation. In civil cases, December 2013. I would like to address my the imminent implementation of the new special thanks to my colleague André Wery, Code of Civil Procedure will require judges who worked alongside me from 2005 to 2013 to devote more time to case management. as Associate Chief Justice. His judgment and This will be another major challenge, given the support were of invaluable assistance. existing shortage of judges. I also cannot fail to mention the staff members This will be my last report as Chief Justice. Since in the clerks’ offices, who work in the shadows I took up my duties in 2004, I have tried to ensure and whose numbers have continued that all my fellow citizens have better access to to decrease in recent years. Their devotion the justice system and that they have equivalent is an essential element in the smooth operation access to all the Court’s services, wherever they of the Court. live in Québec. We have made great progress, but much remains to be done. Last, my thanks go to Judge Christiane Alary, Mtre. Gilles Tremblay and Mtre. Guillaume I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude Bourgeois, who played an active role in to my colleagues at the Court for their support the drafting of this report. and cooperation. They form an outstanding and dedicated team, one that I was extremely proud to direct. I hope you will enjoy reading it. François Rolland Chief Justice of the Superior Court CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS The Superior Court François Rolland Chief Justice Robert Pidgeon Senior Associate Chief Justice Jacques R. Fournier Associate Chief Justice André Wery Associate Chief Justice (2005-2013) As the court of original general jurisdiction in Québec, in other words the court that hears, in first instance, all cases that are not formally assigned by law to another court, the Superior Court plays a key role in our justice system. The Superior Court has 149 puisne judges working full-time in the judicial districts to which they are assigned. It also has a number of supernumerary judges, 52 in 2014, who sit on a half-time basis. In all, 63 of the Court’s judges are women. The Superior Court is led by a Chief Justice, a Senior Associate Chief Justice and an Associate Chief Justice. The Chief Justice has charge of the general policy of the court in judicial matters. The Chief Justice, the Senior Associate Chief Justice or the Associate Chief Justice, in the division where he resides, coordinates and apportions the work of the judges. The Senior Associate Chief Justice exercises the powers of the Chief Justice under the latter’s authority. When the Chief Justice of the Superior Court resides in the territory of Québec City, the Senior Associate Chief Justice performs his or her duties in division of Montréal. When the Chief Justice resides in the territory of Montréal, the Senior Associate Chief Justice performs his or her duties in the division of Québec. The Associate Chief Justice assists the Chief Justice or the Senior Associate Chief Justice, as the case may be, residing in the territory of Montréal, in the performance of his or her duties and exercises his or her powers to the extent determined by the Chief Justice or Senior Associate Chief Justice. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 7 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT Sectors of activity The Superior Court has jurisdiction in civil, commercial, administrative, family and criminal matters. In the more densely populated districts of Montréal and Québec, the Court’s activities are divided between a number of internal administrative entities known as chambers, whose operations are described below. These are: the Civil Chamber, Commercial Chamber, Family Chamber, Criminal Chamber, Class Action Chamber and Settlement Conference Chamber. CIVIL CHAMBER 1 Christiane Alary Division of Montréal 2 Bernard Godbout Division of Québec 1 2 3 3 Yves Alain Division of Québec, long-duration cases Jurisdiction The Superior Court hears cases in which the amount in dispute is $70,000 or more. The mission of the Civil Chamber is to rule on disputes between individuals, businesses or the State. More specif­ ically, the Civil Chamber hears disputes about civil liability, claims for bodily injury, and cases involving unjust dismissal, hidden defects, defamation, or breach of contractual obligations. The Civil Chamber has a practice division, which is where applications for an injunction and all other pre-trial motions are presented. The Civil Chamber also deals with cases in which the Court is asked to exercise its superintending and reforming powers over decisions made by courts of provincial jurisdiction and other bodies, such as administrative tribunals, as well as cases to compel a body to fulfill its duties or to relieve an individual of his or her duties. In Québec, from 2011 to 2014, the number of civil cases filed each year in the Superior Court has remained constant at around 18,400 cases. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 8 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT Decisions Some decisions that have attracted widespread media coverage illustrate the work of the Civil Chamber. They include the Hinse case, where the applicant sued the federal government for wrongful imprisonment, and the challenge to the abolition of the federal long gun registry. In addition, numerous motions were filed in the wake of the commission of inquiry into the granting and administration of government contracts in the construction industry, chaired by Judge France Charbonneau. COMMERCIAL CHAMBER 1 Martin Castonguay Division of Montréal 1 2 2 Daniel Dumais Division of Québec The creation of the Commercial Chamber reflects the Superior Court’s aim to provide a modern approach to case management, as found in several major jurisdictions in North America. The Commercial Chamber ensures that parties involved in commercial litigation have access to spe­ cialized judges, all of whom have relevant training or experience. Each year, specific periods of time are set aside to allow these judges to upgrade their skills and remain at the forefront of legal knowledge. Jurisdiction The matters under the jurisdiction of the Commercial Chamber arise mainly from three federal statutes, the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act and the Canada Business Corporations Act, the provincial Business Corporations Act, and the federal Winding-up and Restructuring Act and related provincial legislation. In addition to litigation under these specific statutes, any case of a commercial nature may be assigned to the Commercial Chamber at the discretion of the Chief Justice or the coordinating judge. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 9 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT EXAMPLES OF CASES HEARD BY THE COMMERCIAL CHAMBER BANKRUPTCY ARRANGEMENTS WITH CREDITORS CORPORATION LAW Bankruptcy orders against an individual or corporation Initial orders to allow a company to restructure Litigation between shareholders Discussions of bankruptcy proposals Litigation about the restructuring process Recourse for rectification of abuse Disputes about preferential payments Creation of priority charges Liquidation and dissolution of a corporation Questions concerning the distribution of monies following bankruptcy Certification of plan of arrangement Approval of arrangements and corporate restructuring Judges sitting in the Commercial Chamber must be available to rule quickly on any specific questions submitted to them. They must sometimes work closely with judges in other jurisdictions to coordinate the restructuring of a corporation. National and international commercial realities are the primary focus of the Commercial Chamber. The importance of its role is recognized country-wide. The number of insolvency cases involving major Canadian corporations has dropped slightly compared to previous years. On the other hand, the Commercial Chamber has dealt with an increasing number of disputes between shareholders. Decisions Between 2011 and 2014, several decisions by the Commercial Chamber have been mentioned in the media. They include: ã the restructuring of Whitebirch Paper Holding Company, a forest products company; the case raised the question of the prior ranking of deemed trusts in claims involving pension funds; ã the winding-up of Aveos Fleet Performance Inc., an aircraft maintenance company with facilities and employees across Canada; the Court had to rule on the prior ranking of the employees’ pension fund; ã the major restructuring of paper company Abitibi Bowater, in which the Court rendered many different judgments. Initiative and innovation To increase efficiency and reduce costs, the Commercial Chamber intends to allow certain motions to be heard by telephone. The members of the Montréal bar association’s liaison committee with the Commercial Chamber are currently discussing the options with the coordinating judge to determine which motions would be eligible for presentation by telephone. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 10 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT Beginning in the 2015-2016 court year, the Commercial Chamber in Montréal will devote one afternoon every two weeks to settlement conferences for cases involving the oppression of a company’s minority shareholders. The goal of this initiative is to encourage judicial mediation at an early stage in the court process and find a rapid solution to each dispute. The Commercial Chamber requires lawyers to use “standard orders” prepared by the liaison committee with the bar association. This ensures that all lawyers and Superior Court judges use the same approach when certain applications for a court order are presented. In recent years in the district of Québec, seminars for lawyers practising in the commercial sector have included a presentation of the activities of the Commercial Chamber. FAMILY CHAMBER 1 Marie Gaudreau Division of Montréal, training coordinator 1 2 2 Catherine La Rosa Division of Québec Jurisdiction The Family Chamber hears cases involving applications for divorce, annulment of marriage, separation from bed and board and dissolution of civil union. It also hears cases where de facto spouses apply for an order to determine or amend child support payments. The exercise of parental authority (custody and access rights) and applications concerning civil status are also a part of the caseload. The cases heard by the Family Chamber represent at least 50% of all the cases brought before the Superior Court in major urban centres, and an even greater proportion in outlying regions. From 2011 to 2014, the number of family cases brought before the Superior Court has dropped slightly from around 28,900 to around 26,900 per year. Proceedings are heard behind closed doors, and the identity of the parties is not disclosed. Ideally, the hearing should come as soon as possible after the application is presented, to avoid further complexity in the case. Most of the motions presented to the court are settled amicably before the hearing. In general only the most complex cases, where the possibility of settlement is more remote, are heard by the Court. Cases involving international child abduction are always given priority. The judges who hear them have a pan-Canadian network of contacts, allowing them to apply the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 11 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT Initiative and innovation In recent years, several measures have been put in place to promote access to justice. In the district of Montréal, every weekday, a courtroom under the responsibility of a Superior Court judge deals with family case management. The judge ensures that cases proceed diligently, and that the actions taken are proportionate to the actual issues between the parties. Individuals who represent themselves before the court have access, every weekday morning, to a duty lawyer service (service d’avocats de garde, or SAGE) free of charge. The lawyers involved offer 30-minute sessions to provide basic information to individuals without lawyers. One of the steps taken by the Court authorities to reduce costs and avoid delays is to make it possible for lawyers to obtain a judgment homologating a consent to judgment, by the deposit in an envelope of a consent duly signed by the parties, accompanied by the necessary documents and the sworn statements (affidavits) of the parties. Copy of the judgment is sent by fax within 24 hours of the deposit of said documents. In another initiative, the Minister of Justice, the Québec bar association, youth centres and the Superior Court have formed a partnership to implement a 24-month pilot project to assist 10 families facing an unusually conflict-ridden situation. Each family was able to benefit from 40 hours of meetings with an experienced parental coordinator, at no cost. The results of the pilot project will be released in the fall of 2015. In the district of Québec, an intervention protocol will be introduced shortly to deal with certain high-conflict cases, where there is a risk that the parent-child bond will be broken because of one parent’s behaviour (parental alienation). A single judge will be given responsibility for the case from beginning to end, after receiving special training and indicating an interest in helping to establish the protocol. The lawyers involved will also have received special training, and the judge, lawyers and parents will be supported by psychosocial workers. The judge may refer the parents to an ad­ vanced training course on co-parenting skills, which comprises three, three-hour sessions given by two social workers. The approach focuses on the parents’ ability to communicate, an essential element for protecting the children’s best interests. A team of university researchers will monitor the whole process to ensure that the protocol meets the needs of both parents and children. This will give citizens direct access to justice, by ensuring that the judicial system is adapted to their specific needs. The Homologation Assistance Service became available on October 10, 2013. It is offered to citizens who already have a court judgment concerning child custody, child support payments or spousal support payments, and who agree on the changes to be made to their custody arrangements, access rights or support payments for their children or ex-spouse. The service offers a quick way to have their agreement homologated. The parties must file a joint application for homologation directly with the special clerk by mail. A court hearing is not required, except in some circumstances. If the agreement does not comply with the provisions of the Regulation respecting the determination of child support payments, the clerk submits the case to a judge. Neither the parties, nor their lawyers, need to complete any further steps, and the service is provided free of charge for parents eligible for legal aid. CLICK HERE — TABLE OF CONTENTS 12 SUPERIOR COURT OF QUÉBEC — 2010-2014 ACTIVITY REPORT Parents who separate but cannot reach an agreement on child custody can have access, free of charge, to psychosocial counselling if ordered by a judge. This expert assistance generally focuses on the parenting abilities of each of the ex-spouses and their child custody arrangements. Recommendations are then made on custody arrangements, or one parent’s access rights to the children, and the recommendations are generally followed by the parents. The judge is not bound by the expert recommendations, but they provide valuable guidance. Several amicable approaches to dispute resolution have emerged in recent years: mediation, co-par­ enting sessions, collaborative law, settlement conferences, etc. However, there will always be situations in which citizens need a judge to find a solution to their specific problems. The challenge for the future is to identify a simple, quick and effective way to do this. The situation in Montréal is currently a concern, since the waiting time for presenting a motion in the practice division concerning child custody, support payments, etc. and requiring two to three days of hearings (a large part of the caseload) was between 39 and 44 weeks in December 2014. CRIMINAL CHAMBER 1 Marc David Division of Montréal 1 2 2 Raymond W. Pronovost Division of Québec Jurisdiction In Québec, trials before judge and jury fall under
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