BenchPress – Vol 44-1 - LawNow Magazine

BenchPress – Vol 44-1

Right to B.C. Provincial Court Trial in French

Bessette v British Columbia (Attorney General), 2019 SCC 31

Mr. Bessette was charged with a traffic offence in British Columbia under the province’s Motor Vehicle Act. He asked that his trial in the Provincial Court be held in French. Mr. Bessette argued that the Court should apply s. 530 of the Criminal Code. That provision gives an accused the right to have their trial in French or English.

Mr. Bessette made the following arguments:

  1. B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act does not say anything about the language of a trial;
  2. B.C.’s Offence Act, which sets out rules for the procedure of provincial offences trials, is also silent on the language of trial; and
  3. section 133 of the Offence Act says that the Criminal Code applies where there are gaps in the Act.

The Crown argued that an 18th-century law applied that adopted all English criminal laws. The Provincial Court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal all agreed with the Crown and decided Mr. Bessette’s application was premature. The courts said he could raise this issue on appeal if he was convicted.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Mr. Bessette had a right to a trial in French. The Court found that the Offence Act and its reference to the application of the Criminal Code overrode the old English law.

Sisters Challenge Brothers’ Unfair Inheritances

Grewal v Litt, 2019 BCSC 1154

In their wills, a B.C. couple gave each of their four daughters $150,000 while their two sons split the rest of the estate. The estate was valued between $9 million and $9.3 million.

Section 60 of B.C.’s Wills, Estates and Succession Act allows the court to change “a will that does not, in the court’s opinion, make adequate provision for the proper maintenance and support of the will-maker’s spouse or children”. B.C. law allows an independent adult child to challenge their parent’s will. Other provinces only allow dependents (including children, spouses or partners) to make a claim for maintenance and support.

The siblings all gave evidence of working hard on the family farm and being expected to loan their earnings back to the farm operations. The sisters gave evidence that their parents treated them poorly compared to their brothers. The sisters also gave evidence that they looked after their parents before the parents’ deaths in 2016, about a month and a half apart.

The sisters successfully argued that “they were discriminated against by [their parents] and effectively disinherited, based on the fact that they are daughters and on [their parents’] adherence to traditional Sikh culture and values, which favoured sons over daughter” (at para 9). The court varied the will to give each sister 15% of the estate and each brother 20% of the estate.

Ontario Professor Loses Settlement Payment

Acadia University v Acadia University Faculty Association, 2019 CanLII 47957 (ON LA)

Dr. Rick Mehta, Acadia University, and The Acadia University Faculty Association entered into Minutes of Settlement on April 1, 2019. The parties engaged in voluntary mediation following Dr. Mehta’s termination for cause from the University and the Association’s filing of grievances contesting the termination.

The Minutes included the following terms:

  • The issues between the parties were resolved “without any admission of liability or culpability by any of the parties.”
  • The parties agreed “to keep the terms of these Minutes strictly confidential except as required by law or to receive legal or financial advice.”
  • “If asked, the parties will indicate that the matters in dispute proceeded to mediation and were resolved, and they will confine their remarks to this statement. Stated somewhat differently, it is an absolute condition of these Minutes that no term of these Minutes will be publicly disclosed.”
  • The University agreed to pay Dr. Mehta an undisclosed amount.

After the settlement was finalized, Dr. Mehta began posting comments on his social media accounts. He wrote that he had “got the vindication [he] was seeking” and that the “NDA that [he] was required to sign by law is not for [his] protection.” He also suggested that he had received a payment of money.

Acadia University brought the matter to arbitration, claiming that Dr. Mehta had breached the settlement agreement. The University argued it should not be required to pay anything to Dr. Mehta. The sole arbitrator agreed.


Jessica Steingard
Jessica Steingard
Jessica Steingard, BCom, JD, is a staff lawyer at the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.

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