Quebec’s New Code of Civil Procedure and Its Effects on Judicial Review: Giroux c. Gauthier, 2016 QCCS 724

The decision in Giroux c. Gauthier, 2016 QCCS 724 contains the first of what will likely be many judicial discussions of the effect of Quebec’s new Code of Civil Procedure (in force since January 1) on administrative law.* One of the measures taken was to combine all the judicial review remedies in the same provision, s. 529. No doubt the goal was the salutary one of simplifying the state of the law. Dugré J. quotes the Minister for Justice to this effect:

Cet article et les suivants prévoient la procédure applicable à l’exercice par la Cour supérieure du pouvoir général de contrôle judiciaire qui lui est reconnu par l’article 34 du Code. L’article regroupe et simplifie les dispositions antérieures en instituant le pourvoi en contrôle judiciaire, lequel recoupe les actions et requêtes qui étaient visées par les anciens articles 33, 848, 844 et 838 du code antérieur, à savoir : l’action directe en nullité, la requête en évocation ou en révision, la requête en mandamus et en quo warranto et, sous certains aspects de droit public, la requête pour jugement déclaratoire qui était prévue à l’article 453 de l’ancien code.

Le pourvoi en contrôle judiciaire est dorénavant la seule procédure utile soit pour faire déclarer inapplicable, invalide ou inopérante une règle de droit, soit pour évoquer une affaire ou faire réviser un jugement ou une décision, soit pour enjoindre à une personne d’accomplir un acte auquel la loi l’oblige s’il n’est pas de nature purement privée ou encore pour destituer de sa fonction publique une personne qui l’occupe sans droit (see similarly, Rapport du comité de révision de la procédure civile (2001), pp. 62-63).

Rather than having the remedies spread out across several provisions of the Code, as was previously the case, now they are united in one. Moreover, s. 34 provides that the superior court “is vested with a general power of judicial review” and that “[a] matter is brought to the Court by means of an application for judicial review”. This seems to establish the application for judicial review as the sole means of reviewing an administrative decision on the conventional grounds of illegality, unreasonableness and unfairness (see also s. 778(11)). There are, however, at least two problems.

First, as Dugré J. observed in Giroux, there is no express provision as to the superior court’s remedial powers, for instance, its ability to send a matter back to the original decision-maker with fresh instructions (as Dugré J. did here). Dugré J. held that, in the absence of express provision to the contrary, the general remedial powers inherent to the superior court’s superintending jurisdiction have not been eliminated:

Après analyse, le tribunal conclut que l’absence du mot « notamment » dans la phrase « prononcer l’une ou l’autre des conclusions suivantes » de l’alinéa liminaire de l’art. 529C.p.c. et le libellé du paragraphe 2° de cet alinéa n’ont pas pour effet de restreindre la compétence inhérente de la Cour supérieure d’accorder toute réparation qu’elle juge appropriée, selon les circonstances, dans le cas où elle décide de réviser ou d’annuler un jugement rendu ou une décision prise par un organisme administratif (at para. 61).

Second, this approach, by maintaining inherent powers in the absence of express language eliminating them may well presage the treatment of the action directe en nullité. This is a super-remedy available in all types of proceeding, like the common law declaration, but with added teeth and subject to fewer conditions for its invocation than the judicial review remedies (see the discussion in Immeubles Port Louis Ltée v. Lafontaine (Village), [1991] 1 SCR 326). It was available as part of the superior court’s general power of judicial review: even if an applicant could not have certiorari or mandamus (or, at least, their Quebec equivalents), she could still have the action directe en nullité. As explained by a Quebec judge, in a passage approved by the Supreme Court of Canada in Vachon v. Attorney General (Quebec), [1979] 1 SCR 555:

It must be held, therefore, that [the predecessor to s. 34] did not create this superintending and reforming jurisdiction.

By providing that the superintending and reforming power shall be exercised in such manner and form as provided by law and laying down in Art. 834 of the same Code the procedure for the exercise of some extraordinary remedies, did the legislator close the door to the ordinary remedy of the action in nullity? I am unable to share this opinion.

In the new Code, s. 34 recognizes the superior court’s general power of judicial review, but also restricts it to judicial review applications only. What, then, of the action directe en nullité? Is it only available on judicial review and subject to the same conditions as the other remedies? That certainly seems to have been the intention of the drafters: indeed, the first subparagraph of s. 529 describes the action directe en nullité, treating it along with the other judicial review remedies.

But on Dugré J.’s approach, the language of the Code might not be sufficiently clear to “close the door” to the action directe en nullité. What about a challenge to a municipal by-law long since adopted but which turns out to be ultra vires? Or what of a civil action against a public body that relies in part on the invalidity of a decision but which is not commenced “by means of an application for judicial review” as s. 529 requires? Perhaps the requirement in s. 529 that judicial review applications should be made in a reasonable time solves the by-law hypothetical, because a party might have no interest in challenging the vires of a by-law until she learns, potentially long after adoption, that she is adversely affected by it (and, in any event, the action directe en nullité has always had a discretionary component that permits courts to refuse to issue the remedy in cases of unreasonable delay). And perhaps the civil action hypothetical has already been answered in Canadian Food Inspection Agency v. Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, [2010] 3 SCR 657, the ‘Quebec Telezone‘, which suggests that a finding of illegality cannot be a condition precedent to a successful civil action. But maybe readers can think of other areas in which the action directe en nullité would be useful but possibly proscribed by s. 529. Please feel free to chime in on this interesting procedural point.

* It also contains the first judicial citation to this blog. In footnote 10, Dugré J. very generously writes, referring to David Stratas, “The Canadian Law of Judicial Review: A Plea for Doctrinal Coherence and Consistency“:

Le tribunal se doit de signaler qu’il a pu repérer rapidement cet article de doctrine grâce au blogue du professeur Paul Daly – – lequel a d’ailleurs remporté le Fodden Award for Best Canadian Law Blog 2015. Le tribunal tient à féliciter et à remercier le professeur Daly pour son excellent blogue qui est d’une grande utilité à tous ceux et celles qui œuvrent en droit administratif.

Hopefully also the first of many!

This content has been updated on February 29, 2016 at 21:21.