The Supreme Court of Canada’s spring term begins on April 18. This term has a lot of interesting criminal cases, but only a few that may be interesting to the business community:

  • In Williams Lake Indian Band v Canada (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development), 2016 CanLII 68008 (SCC), the claimants filed a specific claim with the Specific Claims Tribunal alleging British Columbia’s breach of its fiduciary duty to the Band for failure to act in the Band’s best interests and failing to create reserves following British Columbia’s entry into Confederation in 1871. The Tribunal held for the Band, but the Federal Court of Appeal allowed the Crown’s application, holding that Canada’s post-Confederation actions remedied any previous breaches.
  • Canada (Attorney General) v Thouin, 2015 QCCA 2159 will consider the Competition Bureau’s immunity from examination for discovery in civil matters dealing with substantially similar issues. This case arises out of a Competition Bureau investigation into an alleged conspiracy by oil companies and retailers to fix gas prices in Québec. After the Bureau closed the investigation, plaintiffs commenced a civil class action. The class action plaintiffs seek to examine the Competition Bureau’s chief investigator for discovery on all facts relevant to the case. The court will consider the Attorney General’s objection to the chief investigator’s examination.
  • The court will consider the applicability of proprietary estoppel in Cowper-Smith v Morgan, 2016 BCCA 200 [Cowper-Smith]. The doctrine of proprietary estoppel permits parties to ground a claim for transfer of land based on a gratuitous promise made in the absence of consideration. The testatrix in Cowper-Smith had executed a title transfer and Declaration of Trust providing that, upon her death, her home would absolutely transfer to her daughter, Gloria. She then executed a will leaving a third of her estate to each of her three children. Gloria convinced Max, one of the testatrix’s sons, to leave his home to care for their mother in exchange for the right to purchase Gloria’s third of the interest in the testatrix’s house after her death. The sons expressed concern that Gloria held joint title with the testatrix on the property, but Gloria assured them that the joint title did not affect her intention to sell the property. After the deceased’s death, however, Gloria maintained that she owned the house absolutely. The sons brought an action that the house was subject to a trust in favour of the estate and Max claimed he was entitled to purchase Gloria’s interest under the doctrine of proprietary estoppel.
  • The court will consider civil contempt of court for self-represented litigants in Pintea v Johns, 2016 ABCA 99. The applicant began an action in 2005. He then moved to a new home without filing a change of address with the court. He did not receive future notices, nor did he attend a further case management meeting. The case management judge ordered that he be served with a notice advising that if he did not appear in one week, he would be found in contempt and his action would be struck. He did not receive notice of the meeting, nor did he attend. Bennett Jones is counsel to the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, which is intervening in the appeal.