Hilton, Levesque, Hogue
Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court setting aside a judgment of the Court of Quebec that summarily dismissed an application to stay proceedings and found the respondent guilty of having operated a motor vehicle at a speed exceeding the legal limit. Granted.
In a decision rendered orally, the trial judge summarily dismissed the application to stay proceedings due to unreasonable delay because she was of the view that it did not comply with the time limit for presenting the application, that it was late, and that it was a dilatory tactic intended to obtain the postponement that counsel for the respondent had been denied that very morning. The respondent was convicted of the offence alleged against her. The Superior Court granted the appeal of that judgment and returned the case back to the Court of Quebec for a determination on the application to stay proceedings.
It is essential for trial judges to have the discretionary power to summarily dismiss applications to stay proceedings because such applications could be used for purely dilatory purposes, thereby directly contributing to the backlog in the courts. Before dismissing such an application summarily, however, the judge must ensure that it has no reasonable chance of success. In this context, delays in presenting the application and the circumstances surrounding its presentation are important factors to consider to enlighten the Court on the applicant’s true objective, but they alone cannot justify the decision to summarily dismiss the application. The violation of the constitutional right to be tried within a reasonable time cannot be ignored simply because the application was presented late or the time limit imposed by the rules of practice was not respected.
In this case, the trial judge should have considered the merits of the application before dismissing it summarily. She appears to have dismissed it due to its dilatory nature but did not indicate in her reasons, rendered orally from the bench, that she had analyzed the application’s chances of success. Instead of remedying this omission herself, the Superior Court judge returned the file to the trial court without personally considering the application’s chance of success. Had she done so, she would have noted that it had no chance of success as a result of the application of the transitional exceptional circumstances, as the 22-month delay exceeded only slightly the 18-month ceiling established in R. v. Jordan (S.C. Can., 2016-07-08), 2016 SCC 27, SOQUIJ AZ-51302609, 2016EXP-2173, J.E. 2016-1212,  1 S.C.R. 631, and was reasonable in a Highway Safety Code (CQLR, c. C-24.2) violation case, in which most of the delay had been incurred before Jordan. The judgment of the Court of Quebec is restored.