This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down its anticipated decision on sister cases Parsons v Ontario and Endean v British Columbia, which both ask what powers provincial judges have in multi-jurisdictional class actions.
The cases concern a pan-Canadian settlement agreement reached between parties to a class action proceeding. The settlement agreement assigned a supervisory role to the superior courts of British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario, and in 2012 the parties requested that related motions be heard by the three judges sitting together in one location.
The provinces opposed the proposal on the basis that judges did not have jurisdiction to conduct hearings outside of their home provinces, and motions were brought to determine the issues. The three motions judges held that the proposal was acceptable, and Ontario and British Columbia appealed - the Ontario Court of Appeal held that a video-link was required to connect back to the judge's home court, and the BC Court of Appeal held that a BC judge cannot conduct hearings that take place outside the province; a judge may be located out of the province only if the hearing is in a BC courtroom and heard by the judge by telpehone, video or other means of communication. The issue was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The SCC now holds that both statutory and inherent powers enable a judge who has subject-matter and personal jurisdiction over a pan-national class action to hold a hearing outside her territory in conjuction with the other managing judges. So long as the hearing is not contrary to the law of the place in which it is held, and provided that the judge does not have to employ the court's coercive powers in order to convene the hearing (the court declined to address whether any coercive powers could be exercised in the course of the hearing), the court has discretion to hold such a hearing in the interests of the administration of justice.