Court of Appeal of Quebec

Procureur général du Québec v. Fédération des médecins spécialistes du Québec


Doyon, Hogue, Rancourt

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court ordering the disclosure of certain documents. Allowed.

The issue is whether a confidential record of the Cabinet on the purpose of legislation or, more specifically, a legislative provision (in this case, s. 22.6 of the Health Insurance Act (CQLR, c. A-29)) should be disclosed to a party trying to prove that the provision infringes its guaranteed rights under the Charter of human rights and freedoms (CQLR, c. C-12).

Two aspects must be considered and weighed: the documents’ importance for the respondents and the public interest in their remaining confidential within the meaning of art. 283 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CQLR, c. C-25.01) (C.C.P.). The notion of “relevance” for the purpose of pre-trial examinations, and perhaps even more so in the course of a constitutional challenge, must be generously applied. The evidence at issue must nonetheless contribute to advancing the debate. That is not, however, the case here. While the role of ministers in developing draft bills is important, the fact remains that they do not enact them and their objectives and motivation are not necessarily those of the legislator and thus do not necessarily reflect the purpose of the legislation. Moreover, the absence of parliamentary debate or explanatory notes in the draft bill does not produce a “factual vacuum” unconducive to a constitutional challenge because other forms of evidence remain, including the legislation’s title and especially its wording. In this sense, the respondents are not deprived of the opportunity of proving that the provision’s purpose infringes their rights. With respect to the public interest, it is true that the affidavits produced under art. 283 C.C.P. do not specifically address the information in question but discuss instead the issue in general. A detailed affidavit is not, however, always required (British Columbia (Attorney General) v. Provincial Court Judges’ Association of British Columbia (S.C. Can., 2020-07-31), 2020 SCC 20, SOQUIJ AZ-51697440, 2020EXP-1784).

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