New decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada

The following decisions were released on the Supreme Court of Canada Judgments website since the last InForum. The subject headings and summaries have been prepared by the Supreme Court of Canada. This notice has been prepared by Society staff in Library & Information Services.

August 1, 2014
Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp.
Neutral Citation: 2014 SCC 53 (CanLII)
File No.: 35026.
2013: December 12; 2014: August 1.

Present: McLachlin C.J. and LeBel, Abella, Rothstein, Moldaver, Karakatsanis and Wagner JJ.

On Appeal from the Court of Appeal for British Columbia

Arbitration — Appeals — Commercial arbitration awards — Parties entering into agreement providing for payment of finder’s fee in shares — Parties disagreeing as to date on which to price shares for payment of finder’s fee and entering into arbitration — Leave to appeal arbitral award sought pursuant to s. 31(2) of the Arbitration Act — Leave to appeal denied but granted on appeal to Court of Appeal — Appeal of award dismissed but dismissal reversed by Court of Appeal — Whether Court of Appeal erred in granting leave to appeal — What is appropriate standard of review to be applied to commercial arbitral decisions made under Arbitration Act — Arbitration Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 55, s. 31(2).

Contracts — Interpretation — Parties entering into agreement providing for payment of finder’s fee in shares — Parties disagreeing as to date on which to price the shares for payment of finder’s fee and entering into arbitration — Whether arbitrator reasonably construed contract as a whole — Whether contractual interpretation is question of law or of mixed fact and law.

S and C entered into an agreement that required C to pay S a finder’s fee in relation to the acquisition of a molybdenum mining property by C. The parties agreed that under this agreement, S was entitled to a finder’s fee of US$1.5 million and was entitled to be paid this fee in shares of C. However, they disagreed on which date should be used to price the shares and therefore the number of shares to which S was entitled. S argued that the share price was dictated by the date set out in the Market Price definition in the agreement and therefore that it should receive approximately 11,460,000 shares priced at $0.15. C claimed that the agreement’s “maximum amount” proviso prevented S from receiving shares valued at more than US$1.5 million on the date the fee was payable, and therefore that S should receive approximately 2,454,000 shares priced at $0.70. The parties entered into arbitration pursuant to the B.C. Arbitration Act and the arbitrator found in favour of S. C sought leave to appeal the arbitrator’s decision pursuant to s. 31(2) of the Arbitration Act, but leave was denied on the basis that the question on appeal was not a question of law. The Court of Appeal reversed the decision and granted C’s application for leave to appeal, finding that the arbitrator’s failure to address the meaning of the agreement’s “maximum amount” proviso raised a question of law. The superior court judge on appeal dismissed C’s appeal, holding that the arbitrator’s interpretation of the agreement was correct. The Court of Appeal allowed C’s appeal, finding that the arbitrator reached an absurd result. S appeals the decisions of the Court of Appeal that granted leave and that allowed the appeal.

Held: The appeal should be allowed and the arbitrator’s award reinstated.


July 31, 2014
R. v. Hart
Neutral Citation: 2014 SCC 52 (CanLII)
File No.: 35049.
2013: December 3; 2014: July 31.

Present: McLachlin C.J. and LeBel, Abella, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis and Wagner JJ.

On Appeal from the Court of Appeal for Newfoundland and Labrador

Criminal law — Evidence — Admissibility — Confessions — “Mr. Big” confessions — Accused confessing to murdering his two young daughters at end of lengthy Mr. Big operation — Whether new common law rule of evidence should be developed to determine admissibility of Mr. Big confessions — Whether accused’s confessions should be excluded.

Courts — Proceedings — Open court principle — Accused requesting to testify with public excluded from courtroom — Trial judge refusing request — Whether exclusion order in interests of proper administration of justice — Whether failure to accommodate request necessitates new trial — Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C46 , s. 486(1) .

H’s twin daughters drowned on August 4, 2002. The police immediately suspected that H was responsible for their deaths. However, they lacked the evidence needed to charge him. As a result, two years after the drowning, undercover officers began a “Mr. Big” operation by recruiting H into a fictitious criminal organization. At the time, H was unemployed and socially isolated — he rarely left home and when he did, he was in the company of his wife. After he was recruited to the organization, H worked with the undercover officers and was quickly befriended by them. Over the next four months, H participated in 63 “scenarios” with the undercover officers and was paid more than $15,000 for the work that he did for the organization. As part of that work, H was also sent on several trips across Canada — to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. H often stayed in hotels and occasionally dined in expensive restaurants during these trips, all at the fictitious organization’s expense. Over time, the undercover officers became H’s best friends and H came to view them as his brothers. According to one of the undercover officers, during this time frame, H made a bald statement in which he confessed to having drowned his daughters.

The operation culminated with a meeting akin to a job interview between H and “Mr. Big”, the man purportedly at the helm of the criminal organization. During their meeting, Mr. Big interrogated H about the death of his daughters, seeking a confession from him. After initially denying responsibility, H confessed to drowning his daughters. Two days later, H went to the scene of the drowning with an undercover officer and explained how he had pushed his daughters into the water. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

At trial, H’s confessions were admitted into evidence. The trial judge denied H’s request for permission to testify with the public excluded from the courtroom. A majority of the Court of Appeal allowed H’s appeal and ordered a new trial. The Court of Appeal unanimously held that the trial judge erred in refusing to allow H to testify outside the presence of the public. A majority of the court also concluded that the Mr. Big operation had breached H’s right to silence under s. 7 of the Charter. The majority excluded two of H’s confessions, the one to Mr. Big and the one to the undercover officer at the scene of the drowning. However, the majority concluded that H’s bald confession was admissible and ordered a new trial.

Held: The appeal should be dismissed.


July 25, 2014
Quebec (Commission des normes du travail) v. Asphalte Desjardins inc.
Neutral Citation: 2014 SCC 51 (CanLII)
File No.: 35375.
2014: March 28; 2014: July 25.

Present: McLachlin C.J. and LeBel, Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis and Wagner JJ.

On Appeal from the Court of Appeal for Quebec

Employment law — Contracts — Contract of employment for indeterminate term — Obligation to give notice of termination — Employee giving notice of termination to employer to terminate contract of employment as of later date — Employer terminating contract of employment before departure date announced by employee — Whether employer who receives notice of termination from employee can terminate contract of employment before notice period expires without in turn having to give notice of termination or pay indemnity in lieu of such notice — Civil Code of Québec, arts. 2091, 2092 — Act respecting labour standards, CQLR, c. N1.1, ss. 82, 83.

The employee in question had been working for his employer since 1994. On Friday, February 15, 2008, he gave his employer a notice of resignation in which he announced that he would be terminating his contract of employment as of March 7, 2008, that is, three weeks later. On Monday, February 18, after failing to convince the employee to stay with the company, the employer decided without any other formalities to terminate his contract of employment the very next day, February 19, 2008, rather than March 7 — the departure date announced by the employee.

The appellant, the Commission des normes du travail (“Commission”), claimed on the employee’s behalf an indemnity equivalent to a notice period of three weeks, which corresponded to the notice of termination given by the employee in his letter of resignation. It also claimed, in the same proportion, the monetary value of his annual leave. The Court of Québec found in the Commission’s favour, but the Court of Appeal ruled against it.

Held: The appeal should be allowed.