DeGrandpré Chait S.E.N.C.R.L/LLP
In 1994, a group of Native persons selling petroleum products filed a Motion for Declaratory Judgment and Suspension against the provincial and federal governments (the “Crown”). In short, the plaintiffs sought to declare as being inapplicable to them the fuel tax, QST and GST, by alleging them to be contrary to the Indian Act. Eighteen years later, arguing that the taxation issue cannot be disassociated from the fiduciary duties owed to them by the Crown, the plaintiffs seek to amend their motion under article 199 of the Code of Civil Procedure (the “CCP”) in order to add to it new allegations and conclusions. In Leclaire c. Québec (Sous-ministre du revenu) 2012 QCCA 1872, Justice Kasirer explains why such an amendment cannot be granted.
As the case management judge, Justice Louis Crête of the Superior Court refused to allow the amendments alleging the Crown’s breach of its fiduciary duties. On a motion for leave to appeal of the decision, plaintiffs had the burden of proving that Justice Crête erred in exercising the broad discretion a judge enjoys in managing proceedings under 4.2 CCP, the article espousing the CCP’s golden rule of proportionality. Justice Kasirer writes:
“ […] In his role as case management judge, he struck the allegations that, in his view, would transform the proceedings into a "vast" inquiry relating to a new cause of action, with a different evidentiary emphasis, undertaken some 18 years after the initial motion for declaratory motion was brought on the fiscal issue. He considered that this would violate article 199 C.C.P. and the principle of proportionality that he was bound to observe as a case management judge pursuant to article 4.2 C.C.P.”
With no decisive mention of the question’s fulfillment of the criteria under article 29 CCP and without pronouncing on the proposed amendments, their timeliness, value or legality under article 199 CCP, Justice Kasirer, finding no error in the way in which Justice Crête exercised his discretion on the amendment, refuses to grant leave, writing as follows:
“ Where a judge has explained carefully why the principle of proportionality and a sensible deployment of judicial resources weigh against allowing amendments, leave to appeal should be denied where no significant error has been demonstrated. This is consonant with cases where this Court has held that a judge’s view on proportionality, and in particular the usefulness and the timeliness of amendments, should not readily be disturbed.
 The clear reasons the judge gave for refusing the amendments, in particular in respect of the new cause of action brought some eighteen years after the initial motion was instituted, are thus deserving of deference on appeal. So too are his objections relating to the disproportionate time and effort the amendments would require for new evidence insufficiently connected to the existing action. All of this suggests strongly to me that the pursuit of justice pursuant to article 511 C.C.P. does not justify granting leave.”
The full text of the decision can be read here.