Supreme Court to look at requirements for pursuing public interest cases

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen at sunset in Ottawa on September 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

OTTAWA - The Supreme Court of Canada will help decide the question of whether a judge should hear a matter of public interest even if there are no individual plaintiffs.

The top court's decision to hear the matter flows from an action commenced five years ago by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, which challenged the constitutionality of mental-health legislation in British Columbia that allows non-consensual psychiatric care.

Two individual co-plaintiffs discontinued their claims, but the council hoped to continue in court without them.

A judge ruled the action should be dismissed on the basis that the council lacked public interest standing to pursue the challenge on its own.

However, the B.C. Court of Appeal found the council's claim was a comprehensive challenge to specific legislation that directly affects all members of an identifiable group in a serious, specific and broadly based manner, regardless of individual experiences.

The Appeal Court ruled there should be a fresh hearing in the B.C. Supreme Court on the question of public interest standing, which prompted the attorney general to appeal to the Supreme Court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.

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