March 11, 2019
Morissette, Bouchard, Ruel
Application for leave to appeal and appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for a partial dismissal and a stay of proceedings. Application granted; appeal dismissed, with dissenting reasons. Applications to exclude evidence and for leave to introduce new evidence. Dismissed.
The application was presented in a case where the respondent, charged before the Court of Quebec of having made an illegal political contribution, attacked the constitutional validity of provisions of the Election Act (CQLR, c. E-3.3) both as a defence in that instance and in an application for judicial review brought later before the Superior Court. The applicants argued unsuccessfully that this appeal was a manoeuvre to circumvent the Court of Quebec’s jurisdiction in criminal matters and thereby violated the rule established in Motel Chute des pères inc. c. Procureure générale du Québec (C.A., 2017-11-03), 2017 QCCA 1760, SOQUIJ AZ-51440698, 2017EXP-3207. In their view, the judgment under appeal will force the Superior Court to decide the constitutional validity of statutory provisions that have yet to produce effects in law (the respondent having yet to be convicted of the offence of making an illegal contribution).
The judge did not err in the exercise of his discretionary power. It cannot be claimed that he ignored the applicable test regarding standing to act in public law. Instead, he chose to recognize the respondent’s right to be a party to a legal proceeding, deeming that the debate before him was broader than that before the Court of Quebec and that it raised questions of public interest that required swift resolution. In this respect, it is relevant to point out the draconian nature of the civil penalties automatically arising from a conviction under s. 91 of the Act, that is, the loss of the right to vote and of the right to run for office, which are guaranteed under s. 3 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (S.R.C. 1985, app. II, no. 44, schedule B, Part I) and are insulated from the application of the exemption clause. In this context, it would be better to allow the full debate to take place, rather than compel the respondent to risk conviction without being able to challenge the constitutional validity of s. 568 of the Act and then, if need be, to bring a new proceeding before the Superior Court to recover the democratic rights stripped from him by this provision, which would be unfair.
*Summary by SOQUIJ
Text of the decision:
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