Class Reunion: Revisiting Class Action Justification After Twenty Years

AuthorBrian Smith
Brian Smith
Abstract: Since it was issued two decades ago, the Ontario
Law Refor m Commiss ion’s Report on Class Actions ha s been
the foundational document for any dis cussion of the Can-
adian clas s action. Judges and commentators regularly cite
the three goals or bene f‌its of class actions that were outlined
in that report, na mely, improved judicial economy, behaviour
modif‌ication, and improved acces s to justice. However, the
Report neces sarily relied largely on dat a from foreign juris-
dictions to support its f‌ind ings, and virtua lly no studies have
tested whether or not these goals a re being met by the Can-
adian clas s action. The author undertakes a critical an alysis of
the goals as stated by t he Report on Class Actions and uncover s
areas of conceptual and potent ial practical weakness. Thi s an-
alysis suggest s some viable starting poi nts for future studies
of class actions t hat can validate and improve their useful ness
in Canadia n society. Ultimately, the author concludes that the
continued assumption by the cour ts that these th ree goals
are being forwarded m ay be correct, but is not justif‌ied by
existing d ata. The fact that many valid cr iticisms have been
raised sugge sts that studies of Canad ian class actions a nd
their results should be u ndertaken to ensu re that the class ac-
tion maintai ns a useful and benef‌icial role in Canada.

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