36165 Conférence des juges de paix magistrats du Québec, et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec and Minister of Justice of Quebec

Constitutional law — Judicial independence

On appeal from the Quebec Court of Appeal. The Conférence des juges de paix magistrats du Québec and several presiding justices of the peace (“PJPs”) filed a motion to strike down provisions of the Act to amend the Courts of Justice Act and other legislative provisions as regards the status of justices of the peace (“the Act”) and the Courts of Justice Act on the ground that the scheme established by the impugned provisions did not guarantee judicial independence.  The applicants’ motion also challenged the constitutionality of Order No. 932-2008.

The litigation arose out of amendments made to the Courts of Justice Act in 2004 concerning justices of the peace.  The amendments became necessary as a result of judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Quebec Court of Appeal suggesting that the system then in place in Quebec did not guarantee the independence of justices of the peace.  The effect of the reform undertaken in 2004 was to replace the former categories of justices of the peace with two new categories, including PJPs, who formed part of the judicial system.  The Act gave PJP status to certain justices of the peace who had formerly been justices of the peace with extended powers.  They retained the salary they were receiving before the coming into force of the Act until it was equal to the salary to be determined by the government for subsequently appointed PJPs.  An order was then made specifying the annual remuneration of PJPs appointed after the coming into force of the Act.  Their annual remuneration was about $20,000 less than that of their colleagues.  The Act also provided that a committee on the remuneration of judges would not determine the salary and benefits of all PJPs until three years later, in 2007.  In addition to these changes, the Courts of Justice Act was amended to make the pension plan established by the Act respecting the Pension Plan of Management Personnel applicable to PJPs. The Applicants’ amended motion to institute proceedings was dismissed and the impugned provisions declared constitutional. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.