Update on Supreme Court Federal Jurisdiction cases: Justice Department Intervenes

By Kevin Psutka and COPA Legal Counsel Dan Cornell


Following the decisions which were rendered by the Quebec Court of Appeal in both Laferriere v. CPTAQ and Lacombe v. Sacre Coeur cases, the Attorney General for Quebec applied for and received leave to appeal these decisions to the Supreme Court of Canada. These appeals will likely be heard later this year.

Throughout the years, COPA has made various efforts to have the federal government intervene in various cases. We were advised that there were many demands being made for the Department of Justice to intervene in many cases primarily having to do with The Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Given the limited resources available, the Department of Justice indicated that each request was considered on a case by case basis before a decision to intervene was made and that it was unlikely that the federal government would intervene unless and until the issue reached the Supreme Court of Canada.

We are pleased to report that on March 3, 2009, we received confirmation that the Attorney General for Canada has decided to intervene in both of these cases and has filed the requisite notice to do so.

What does this mean for the cases and COPA’s continued participation?

In Regional District of Comox-Strathcona v. Hansen et al (a case in B.C. on similar issues), the Attorney General chose not to intervene and COPA was left to do its work. Despite the absence of the federal Attorney General, from our perspective, a favourable decision was obtained.

The presence or absence of representatives from a provincial or the federal government should not determine the outcome, rather the case should be decided on proper legal principles. Having said this, we do believe that the presence of the federal government before the Supreme Court of Canada is a positive development.

If the federal government had chosen not to intervene at this final stage, it is possible that in the back of the minds of some of the judges hearing the case, they may think that the federal Attorney General chose not to appear as the matter is of no importance or consequence to the federal government. Now that the federal government has chosen to intervene, the court can focus on the legal and constitutional issues at hand.

Now that the federal government has chosen to participate in these proceedings, you may ask whether it is necessary for COPA to continue to participate in these proceedings. COPA has no alternative but to continue to play a full role in both of these cases. COPA has invested heavily in a series of cases which have allowed us to develop considerable knowledge and expertise in this area. The lawyer selected by the federal government to represent them may not have such extensive experience in this area. In order to maximize our chances for success, COPA must remain engaged.

The need for your financial support is greater than ever. COPA has been successful to this point in large part because of member contributions to the Special Action Fund. The Supreme Court action will put a significant strain on this fund.

There are a variety of ways to contribute. For a limited time, you will receive attractive Centennial of Flight decals for your aircraft as our thank you for donations of $25 or more. See our web site for details and a donation form here.