$85,000 claims limit in Quebec court unconstitutional, says Supreme Court of Canada

The statue representing justice looks out from the Supreme Court of Canada over the Parliamentary precinct in Ottawa, Thursday March 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

The section of the law that allows Quebec courts to decide disputes worth up to $85,000 is unconstitutional because the maximum amount is too high, ruled the Supreme Court of Canada Wednesday.

In a split decision, the country's highest court stated the article in Quebec's Code of Civil Procedure, which raised the threshold from $70,000 to $85,000 in 2016, is unconstitutional.

This new monetary threshold is 'too high,' the majority judges noted, adding when the Quebec government increased the maximum threshold for civil claims, it exceeded the limits of section 96 of the Canadian Constitution.

Before then, claims over $70,000 had to be submitted to the Quebec Superior Court, whose judges are appointed by Ottawa.

These judges are the ones who asked that the new $85,000 limit be declared unconstitutional, arguing that it denies Quebec litigants the right to apply to the Superior Court for civil claims where the value in dispute is less than $85,000.

They insist this prevents them from modifying the law, when necessary, when it comes to such claims.

The Quebec Court of Appeal agreed and the Supreme Court upheld the decision.

Justice Rosalie Abella dissented, while Chief Justice Richard Wagner and Justice Malcolm Rowe dissented "in part."

Judges who sit on the Court of Quebec are chosen by the provincial government.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 30, 2021. 

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