Christie v. British Columbia (Attorney General) et al., (2007) 361 N.R. 322 (SCC)

JudgeMcLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron and Rothstein, JJ.
CourtSupreme Court (Canada)
Case DateMay 25, 2007
JurisdictionCanada (Federal)
Citations(2007), 361 N.R. 322 (SCC);2007 SCC 21;EYB 2007-119921;156 ACWS (3d) 1061;[2007] ACS no 21;240 BCAC 1;[2007] SCJ No 21 (QL);280 DLR (4th) 528;155 CRR (2d) 366;[2007] 8 WWR 64;[2007] 1 SCR 873;[2007] DTC 5225;361 NR 322;JE 2007-1072;66 BCLR (4th) 1

Christie v. B.C. (A.G.) (2007), 361 N.R. 322 (SCC)

MLB headnote and full text

[French language version follows English language version]

[La version française vient à la suite de la version anglaise]

.........................

Temp. Cite: [2007] N.R. TBEd. MY.034

Attorney General of British Columbia (appellant/respondent on cross-appeal) v. Dugald E. Christie (respondent/appellant on cross-appeal) and Attorney General of Canada, Attorney General of Ontario, Attorney General of Quebec, Attorney General of New Brunswick, Attorney General of Manitoba, Attorney General of Prince Edward Island, Attorney General for Saskatchewan, Canadian Bar Association and Law Society of British Columbia (intervenors)

(31324; 2007 SCC 21; 2007 CSC 21)

Indexed As: Christie v. British Columbia (Attorney General) et al.

Supreme Court of Canada

McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron and Rothstein, JJ.

May 25, 2007.

Summary:

The Province, by a 1993 amendment to the Social Services Tax Act, imposed a 7% tax on all billed legal services. Christie applied for a declaration that the tax was ultra vires the Province because it denied access to justice, which was contrary to the unwritten constitutional principle of the "rule of law".

The British Columbia Supreme Court, in a judgment reported [2005] B.C.T.C. 122, granted a declaration that the tax was ultra vires the Province to the extent that it applied to legal services provided for low income persons, which the court defined as persons having an income and asset level entitling them to the benefits of the Family Duty Counsel Program under the Legal Services Society Act. The Province appealed the finding that the tax was ultra vires. Christie cross-appealed, submitting that the tax was ultra vires in all cases, not just where it denied low income persons access to justice.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal, Southin and Thackray, JJ.A., dissenting, in a judgment reported (2005), 220 B.C.A.C. 165; 362 W.A.C. 165, dismissed the appeal and allowed the cross-appeal. The court held that "to the extent that the Act purports to tax legal services related to the determination of rights and obligations by courts of law or independent administrative tribunals, it is unconstitutional as offending the principles of access to justice, one of the elements of the rule of law". Southin and Thackray, JJ.A., dissenting, opined that "the words 'rule of law' in the preamble do not create any substantive independent ground upon which a court can find duly enacted legislation to be 'inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution' and therefore of no force and effect". The Province appealed. Christie cross-appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal and dismissed the cross-appeal. General access to legal services in relation to court and tribunal proceedings dealing with rights and obligations was not a fundamental aspect of the rule of law.

Civil Rights - Topic 8310

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - General - Right of access to courts - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3 ].

Civil Rights - Topic 8552

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Interpretation - Particular words and phrases - Rule of law - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3 ].

Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3

General principles - Unwritten constitutional principles - Constitutionalism and the rule of law - A 1993 amendment to the Social Services Tax Act imposed a 7% tax on all billed legal services - The British Columbia Court of Appeal held that "to the extent that the Act purports to tax legal services related to the determination of rights and obligations by courts of law or independent administrative tribunals, it is unconstitutional as offending the principles of access to justice, one of the elements of the rule of law" - The tax hindered, and in some cases denied, persons access to justice - The court held that the unwritten principle of the "rule of law", incorporating the principle of access to justice, could be used to invalidate legislation that was otherwise valid (i.e., within province's legislative competence and not contrary to any of the substantive provisions of the Charter) - Access to justice flowed by necessary implication from the Constitution - Southin and Thackray, JJ.A., dissenting, opined that "the words 'rule of law' in the preamble do not create any substantive independent ground upon which a court can find duly enacted legislation to be 'inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution' and therefore of no force and effect" - The Supreme Court of Canada held that the tax was not unconstitutional - General access to legal services in relation to court and tribunal proceedings dealing with rights and obligations was not a fundamental aspect of the rule of law.

Constitutional Law - Topic 114

Definitions - Rule of law - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3 ].

Constitutional Law - Topic 542

Powers of Parliament and the legislatures - Limitations on powers of legislatures - Rule of law - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3 ].

Sales and Service Taxes - Topic 113

Sales tax - Liability of persons and property - General principles - Legal services - [See Constitutional Law - Topic 5.3 ].

Cases Noticed:

Carten (John) Personal Law Corp. et al. v. British Columbia (Attorney General) et al. (1997), 98 B.C.A.C. 1; 161 W.A.C. 1; 40 B.C.L.R.(3d) 181 (C.A.), leave to appeal refused [1998] 2 S.C.R. viii; 232 N.R. 198; 120 B.C.A.C. 121; 196 W.A.C. 121, refd to. [para. 6].

British Columbia Government Employees' Union v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 214; 87 N.R. 241; 71 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 93; 220 A.P.R. 93, refd to. [para. 16].

Roncarelli v. Duplessis, [1959] S.C.R. 121, refd to. [para. 19].

Reference Re Secession of Quebec, [1998] 2 S.C.R. 217; 228 N.R. 203, refd to. [para. 19].

Manitoba Language Rights Reference, [1985] 1 S.C.R. 721; 59 N.R. 321; 35 Man.R.(2d) 83, refd to. [para. 19].

British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. et al., [2005] 2 S.C.R. 473; 339 N.R. 129; 218 B.C.A.C. 1; 359 W.A.C. 1; 2005 SCC 49, refd to. [para. 20].

Charkaoui, Re (2007), 358 N.R. 1; 2007 SCC 9, refd to. [para. 20].

Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989] 1 S.C.R. 143; 91 N.R. 255, refd to. [para. 22].

MacDonald Estate v. Martin and Rossmere Holdings (1970) Ltd., [1990] 3 S.C.R. 1235; 121 N.R. 1; 70 Man.R.(2d) 241, refd to. [para. 22].

Fortin v. Barreau du Québec, [2001] 2 S.C.R. 500; 272 N.R. 359; 2001 SCC 45, refd to. [para. 22].

Law Society of British Columbia v. Mangat, [2001] 3 S.C.R. 113; 276 N.R. 339; 157 B.C.A.C. 161; 256 W.A.C. 161; 2001 SCC 67, refd to. [para. 22].

Lavallee, Rackel & Heintz et al. v. Canada (Attorney General), [2002] 3 S.C.R. 209; 292 N.R. 296; 312 A.R. 201; 281 W.A.C. 201; 164 O.A.C. 280; 217 Nfld. & P.E.I.R. 183; 651 A.P.R. 183; 2002 SCC 61, refd to. [para. 22].

Dehghani v. Minister of Employment and Immigration, [1993] 1 S.C.R. 1053; 150 N.R. 241, refd to. [para. 25].

New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v. J.G. and D.V., [1999] 3 S.C.R. 46; 244 N.R. 276; 216 N.B.R.(2d) 25; 552 A.P.R. 25, refd to. [para. 25].

R. v. Videoflicks Ltd. et al., [1986] 2 S.C.R. 713; 71 N.R. 161; 19 O.A.C. 239, refd to. [para. 28].

MacKay et al. v. Manitoba, [1989] 2 S.C.R. 357; 99 N.R. 116; 61 Man.R.(2d) 270, refd to. [para. 28].

Danson v. Ontario (Attorney General), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 1086; 112 N.R. 362; 41 O.A.C. 250, refd to. [para. 28].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Comment, An Historical Argument for the Right to Counsel During Police Interrogation (1964), 73 Yale L.J. 1000, p. 1018 [para. 26].

Finkelstein, Marie, The Right to Counsel (1988), pp. 1-4 to 1-6 [para. 26].

Tarnolpolsky, W.S., The Lacuna in North American Civil Liberties - The Right to Counsel in Canada (1967), 17 Buff. L. Rev. 145, generally [para. 26].

Counsel:

George H. Copley, Q.C., and Jonathan Penner, for the appellant/respondent on cross- appeal;

Darrell W. Roberts, Q.C., Robin D. Bajer and Linda H. Nguyen, for the respondent/ appellant on cross-appeal;

Graham R. Garton, Q.C., and David Jacyk, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Canada;

Janet E. Minor and Shannon Chase-Hall, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Ontario;

Brigitte Bussières and Gilles Laporte, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Quebec;

Gaétan Migneault, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of New Brunswick;

Diana M. Cameron, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Manitoba;

Written submissions only by Ruth M. DeMone, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Prince Edward Island;

Graeme G. Mitchell, Q.C., for the intervenor, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

J.J. Camp, Q.C., and Melina Buckley, for the intervenor, Canadian Bar Association;

Josiah Wood, Q.C., and Joanne R. Lysyk, for the intervenor, Law Society of British Columbia.

Solicitors of Record:

Attorney General of British Columbia, Victoria, British Columbia, for the appellant/ respondent on cross-appeal;

Miller Thomson, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the respondent/appellant on cross- appeal;

Attorney General of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Canada;

Attorney General of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Ontario;

Attorney General of Quebec, Sainte-Foy, Quebec, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Quebec;

Attorney General of New Brunswick, Fredericton, New Brunswick, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of New Brunswick;

Attorney General of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Manitoba;

Attorney General of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, for the intervenor, the Attorney General of Prince Edward Island;

Attorney General for Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatchewan, for the intervenor, the Attorney General for Saskatchewan;

Camp Fiorante Matthews, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the intervenor, Canadian Bar Association;

Blake, Cassels & Graydon, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the intervenor, Law Society of British Columbia.

This appeal and cross-appeal were heard on March 21, 2007, before McLachlin, C.J.C., Bastarache, Binnie, LeBel, Deschamps, Fish, Abella, Charron and Rothstein, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On May 25, 2007, the following judgment was delivered in both official languages by the Court.

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