Conférence des juges de paix magistrats du Québec v. Quebec (Attorney General)

2016 SCC 39

This case stems from the Quebec governments reform to the justices of the peace regime in2004 and the creation of the presiding justices of the peace (“PJPs”). Under s.27 and s. 30 the amending Act, sitting justices that were transferred to the new regime received the same remuneration as before, and newly appointed justices received lower remunerations. Section 32 of the amending Act prohibited committee review of remunerations before 2007. None of the provisions affecting remunerations allowed for retroactive committee review.

In 2008, the Conférence des juges de paix magistrats du Québec and members of the PJP challenged ss. 27, 30 and 32 of the Act as infringing the financial security guarantee of judicial independence. In addition, the PJPs argued that s. 178 of the Courts of Justice Act (“CJA”), which mandates their participation in the public service Pension Plan of Management Personnel, also infringes the financial security guarantee. Both the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal, in turn, found no violation of judicial independence because the provisions were part of a reform resulting in the creation of a new judicial office.

The SCC disagreed,stating that an independent review of the initial remunerations of judges appointed to newly created offices is always necessary to ensure that the constitutional minimum required to ensure integrity of the new office is met.

The SCC allowed the appeal in part, declaring that sections 27, 30, and 32 of the amending Act infringed on s. 11(d) of the Charter and the preamble to the Constitution Act,because they did not provide for retroactive committee review within a “reasonable time”. The SCC defined “reasonable time” as the time it takes to set up a committee process as soon as some judges have been appointed into the new office, and stated that there were no compelling reasons why a review could notproceed before 2007, adding that the reasonable time period should be measured in months, not years.

With regards to s.178 of the CJA , the SCC cited the 1997 reference in stating that the pension plan, as part of the overall numerations, met the constitutional threshold required for the office of a judge such that the PJPs are not perceived as susceptible to political pressure through economic manipulation. Writing for the majority, Karakatsanis, Wagner and Côté JJ emphasized that judicial independence exists for the benefit of the public, and does not serve as a means of labour arbitration to ensure better remuneration for judges.

SCC Reasons for Judgment


Date Document
2015/10/20 Appellant – Conférence des juges de paix magistrats du Québec, et al.
2015/12/08 Respondent- Attorney General of Quebec
Respondent – Minister of Justice of Quebec
2015/12/23 Intervener – Attorney General of Canada
2016/01/04 Intervener – Attorney General of Ontario
2015/12/29 Intervener – Conférence des juges de la Cour du Québec
2016/01/05 Intervener – Association of Justices of the Peace of Ontario