Supreme Court to examine whether fines to companies can be ‘cruel and unusual’

OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case examining whether the Charter protection against cruel and unusual punishment can apply to companies as well as individuals

The question arose when a Quebec company convicted of acting as a construction contractor without the necessary license was fined $30,000, the minimum under the provincial Building Act.

The numbered company sought to have the minimum fine in the law struck down, invoking Section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states, “Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.”

Last March, the Quebec Court of Appeal sided with the company, with one of the three judges who heard the case dissenting. Quebec’s attorney general sought leave to appeal, and on Thursday the high court agreed to hear the case.

The main argument against giving a legal entity the protection provided under Section 12 is that it falls within the framework of the preservation of “human dignity.” In an online “Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the federal government cites torture, abusive use of force and disproportionate prison sentences as examples of cruel and unusual punishment.

But Court of Appeal Justice Dominique Belanger, writing for the majority last March, said she was not convinced Section 12 refers only to “human dignity.” She noted that companies have successfully invoked other Charter protections in the past.

“The fine can be cruel to the legal entity,” she reasoned. “A legal entity may suffer from a cruel fine that manifests itself by its harshness, its severity and a sort of hostility.”

The decision opened the door for Quebec businesses to challenge other statutes with minimum fines.

An association representing the construction industry had joined the challenge of the numbered company’s fine, and after winning in the Court of Appeal, it said it hoped the decision would lead the government to review fines levied on construction companies to ensure they are proportionate to the offence.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Food Truck Fridays to start new Drive and Dash events next week

Events will be held in Westerner Park parking lot Thursday evenings, Friday afternoons all June

Alberta gov’t to expand mental health supports

The Government of Alberta says a $21.6-million investment will expand online resources… Continue reading

City of Red Deer encouraged residents to participate in Food Bank Ninja Challenge

The City of Red Deer is encouraging residents to participate in a… Continue reading

Central Alberta naturalists fear pristine headwaters will be contaminated by coal mine

Chutes of the Ram constitute one of Earth’s ‘most beautiful’ spots

READER VIDEO: American White Pelicans spotted in Red Deer River

A Red Deer Advocate reader spotted a group of American White Pelicans… Continue reading

Protesters rally in Toronto against anti-black, Indigenous racism

TORONTO — Thousands of people are taking part in a rally on… Continue reading

Another COVID-19 case reported in northern New Brunswick on Saturday

CAMPBELLTON, N.B. — People from a city in northern New Brunswick lined… Continue reading

B.C. sees second day in a row with no COVID-19 deaths as schools ready to reopen

VICTORIA — British Columbia announced no new deaths from COVID-19 for the… Continue reading

UN sets pandemic voting rules for Canada’s Security Council campaign

OTTAWA — The United Nations has confirmed that the election for non-permanent… Continue reading

Police watchdog investigating death of Richmond man

RICHMOND, B.C. — British Columbia’s police watchdog has been called in to… Continue reading

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Tooting the importance of whistling

OK, so someone who tattles on another person is a whistleblower, and… Continue reading

Police see increase in speedy drivers on quieter streets during pandemic

Police across the country say they’ve been dealing with more complaints about loud, fast vehicles

Most Read