July 04, 2019
Dufresne, Rancourt, Gagné
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court granting an application for judicial review of a decision rendered by the Commission des relations du travail (CRT). Allowed.
The CRT upheld a complaint filed by the Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement du Québec (APIQ) under s. 12 of the Labour Code (CQLR, c. C-27) (L.C.). It ordered the government, its ministries and all its representatives to stop hindering the APIQ’s union activities and to allow engineers to add a union-related message under the signature on emails sent during the performance of their duties. The Attorney General of Quebec (AGQ), representing the Quebec government, the employer, applied for judicial review of that decision. The Superior Court granted the application.
The trial judge applied the standard of reasonableness. The judge concluded that after reasonably balancing the employer’s minimal impairment of the AIPQ’s right to freedom of expression, protected by the Charter of human rights and freedoms (CQLR, c. C-12), and the public interest, the CRT should have concluded that the employer’s prohibition on engineers was reasonable and dismissed the complaint based on s. 12 L.C.
The applicable standard of review in matters opposing the APIQ members’ freedom of expression and the employer’s right of ownership during collective bargaining as well as the lack of justification under s. 9.1 of the Charter is reasonableness.
As to the merits, the trial judge correctly determined the standard, but failed to inquire into the qualities that made that decision reasonable because she substituted her opinion for that of the CRT.
In this case, the CRT’s decision is reasonable. It did not conclude that in all circumstances employees of a public or private business can use an employer’s electronic messaging service to communicate messages expressing the union’s point of view outside of a labour conflict. Its decision was limited to the case before it based on the elements established by the evidence.
The CRT made the necessary distinctions. It was aware that the employer was upset by the use of the computer systems, and took into consideration that negotiations were underway and that there was no evidence of any injury caused by the distribution of the union message. It concluded that 1) freedom of expression prevailed over the other rights raised; 2) the right to freedom of expression, exercised reasonably during negotiations, balanced against the employer’s right of ownership, without proof of any injury whatsoever, grounded a conclusion that the restriction imposed was unreasonable; and 3) the Quebec government’s prohibition on the public service engineers’ use of its electronic messaging system to send a union message constituted an interference within the meaning of s. 12 L.C., given the context of collective bargaining and the lack of evidence of any injury.
The CRT’s reasoning is supported and its approach is rational. Its conclusion falls within a range of possible outcomes. Therefore, it does not give rise to judicial review.
*Summary by SOQUIJ
Text of the decision:
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