This case concerned the ability of courts to award advance costs to claimants who would otherwise be unable to litigate their public interest claims.
LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada, in coalition with:
- The Council of Canadians with Disabilities
- The Charter Committee on Poverty Issues
- The Poverty and Human Rights Law Centre
Gilles Caron was charged with a minor traffic offence. He argued that the proceedings were invalid because the court documents were only in English, and he had the right to use French. Mr. Caron applied to the court to receive funding for his case, after the trial went longer than expected. He received funding, and that decision was upheld on appeal. The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Coalition argued that, in deciding whether or not it was “in the interests of justice” to award advance costs, courts needed to keep in mind:
- A contemporary understanding of the rule of law;
- Substantive equality;
- Equal access to justice; and
- The legal principles underlying Canada’s international human rights obligations
Systemic barriers to the court process reinforce the subordination of poor litigants who are members of historically marginalized groups, such as women, people with disabilities, racial minorities and Indigenous persons. The interests of justice required that legal claims seeking to advance the full social and political participation of marginalized and minority groups fall within the class of “exceptional” cases which deserved advance costs.
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the jurisdiction of the lower courts to award advance costs on the facts in this case.
LEAF is grateful to Gwen Brodsky and Melina Buckley, counsel in this case, as well as Patricia Wilson, Ottawa agent for the Coalition.
Download the factum here.
Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.
Our records are imperfect, but we are doing our best to update them – if you were involved with LEAF on this case but your name is not reflected here, please email us at [email protected].