Court of Appeal of Quebec

École communautaire Belz c. Bernard

500-09-029412-210

Hogue, Cotnam, Cournoyer

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for a discontinuance. Allowed.

In the context of an application to institute a class action against 126 private educational institutions, the respondents sought the Court’s authorization to discontinue their application in regard to 4 appellants. They stated that they received no consideration and that the proposed discontinuance caused no prejudice to the putative class members. They refused to disclose the grounds justifying their decision in more detail, asserting that they had undertaken to protect the confidentiality of the information received.

It is not for judges to interfere in the decision of applicants to discontinue their application or to verify the underlying reasons for doing so, unless there is reason to believe that the discontinuance could undermine the integrity of the justice system or the interests of the putative class members. The decision to discontinue an application for authorization rests with applicants. Situations where a discontinuance could undermine the integrity of the justice system should in fact be rare. Knowing whether consideration was received in exchange for the discontinuance is information that is essential for the judge to exercise the role of custodian of the integrity of the justice system. Applicants may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to disclose the reasons for the decision to discontinue, even if such information is requested. The information may be protected by professional secrecy or litigation privilege. In the absence of valid reasons to believe that the discontinuance could undermine the integrity of the justice system or the interests of the putative class members, the authorization sought should not be subject to the condition that those reasons be disclosed. The trial judge erred by insisting on being informed of them without explaining why they were necessary.

Text of the decision: Http://citoyens.soquij.qc.ca

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