Companies located outside of Ontario sometimes seek to enforce a court judgment from their home province.  Ontario’s Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act1 permits a party to register a foreign judgment obtained in a “reciprocating jurisdiction” and enforce such judgment as if it had been obtained in Ontario, without the need to start a new lawsuit.

Unlike most Canadian provinces, however, Quebec is not a reciprocating jurisdiction.2  What then is the appropriate process for a company with a judgment from Quebec wishing to enforce it in Ontario?  The recent decision in Noël et Associés, S.E.N.C.R.L. v Sincennes3 provides useful guidance on enforcement of Quebec judgments in Ontario.

By action rather than by application

In Noël et Associés, Justice Kane of the Superior Court of Justice held that an action–as opposed to an application– must be brought to enforce the debt created by a foreign judgment of a non-reciprocating jurisdiction.  The judge reasoned that it is the promise to pay arising from the foreign judgment that is being enforced and not the foreign judgment itself. In so doing he accepted the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in Lax v Lax5 and broke from previous decisions6 holding that foreign judgments could be enforced through an application to obtain declaratory relief.

The suit must be taken in the appropriate court

Justice Kane also held that an action to enforce a Quebec judgment must be taken in the appropriate Ontario court, that is, the court with jurisdiction over actions for the amount of money awarded in the Quebec judgment.  A claim based on a Quebec judgment for $25,000 or less should accordingly be brought in Small Claims Court.7 If an action to enforce a Quebec judgment (or a judgment from any other non-reciprocating jurisdiction) awarding less than this amount is brought before the Ontario Superior Court, it would have to be transferred to the Small Claims Court.

William Pellerin