Supreme Court of Canada Decisions, 1984-94

AuthorW.H. Charles
Chapter 2
Supreme Court of Canada Decisions
Although lower courts of necessity had to ma ke decisions about the avail-
ability of Ch arter da mages as a remedy for Charter violations within a few
years of the enactment of the Canadi an Charter of Rights and Freed oms and
section 24(1),1 the Supreme Court of Canada did not make any k ind of authori-
tative pronouncement on the issue until 1994.2 The time lag is not su rprising
given the cost of appealing a case to Ca nada’s highest court and the time
it usually takes for any case to ascend the judicia l ladder. When the case of
RJR – MacDonal d Inc v Canada (AG)3 did reach the Supreme Court in 1994,
the primary iss ue for the Court was not whether money compensation could
be awarded as a remedy under section 24(1) but whether the Court could and
should provide interlocutory relief to delay the legal ef‌fect of tobacco regu-
lations that had been passed and to prevent public authorities from enfor-
cing them. The interlocutory relief in question was a stay and a n injunction.
The issue of Charter da mages arose only incidentally as pa rt of the
judicial discussion of irreparable ha rm and the suitability of da mages as
an alternative remedy. Justices Sopinka and Cory, wr iting for the major-
ity, suggested that the assessment of irreparable ha rm in an interlocutory
application involving Charter rights would often be more dif‌f‌icult th an a
comparative assessment in a private law application.4 One reason for such
1 Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canad a Act 1982
(UK), 1982, c 11 [Charte r].
2 RJR – MacDonald Inc v Canad a (AG), [1994] 1 SCR 311 at 342 [RJR – MacDo nald].
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid at 341.

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