(Still) a 'Real and Substantial' Mess: The Law of Jurisdiction in Canada
71 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2013 Last revised: 3 Oct 2015
Date Written: April 9, 2013
In April 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released the most important decision on personal jurisdiction in over twenty years. The Van Breda decision was intended to clarify, once and for all, the application of the "real and substantial connection" test to ex juris defendants. The Supreme Court in Van Breda adopted an approach to the real and substantial connection test that relied on the plaintiff fitting himself within one of four presumptive factors in order to establish jurisdiction: (a) The defendant is domiciled or resident in the province; (b) The defendant carries on business in the province; (c) The tort was committed in the province; (d) A contract connected with the dispute was made in the province. The Court also left open the possibility of creating additional presumptive factors in the future. The presumptive factors approach was intended to re-orient the jurisdictional test toward objective factual connections between the forum and the cause of action and to establish a simple and predictable framework for courts to use in making jurisdictional determinations. In this Article, I comprehensively examine the new presumptive factors approach to jurisdiction adopted by the Supreme Court in Van Breda with a view to exposing its shortcomings. I argue that this approach to jurisdiction - while simple and predictable on its face - will actually complicate jurisdictional determinations for the foreseeable future. Litigants will try to find creative ways to fit themselves within one of these four factors. And courts will spend years unpacking and defining the contours of the four presumptive factors. I also argue that the Court in Van Breda failed to provide meaningful guidance on how all pieces of the jurisdictional puzzle fit together. Among the outstanding questions: How does the real and substantial connection test work in non-tort cases? How do the traditional jurisdictional bases of consent and presence fit into the jurisdictional mix? Can the forum of necessity doctrine be reconciled with the real and substantial connection test? How does the test apply to the enforcement of foreign judgments? The Court simply left these hard questions until later. In short, while the Court in Van Breda was on the right track, it got derailed - which may ultimately mean another twenty years until the outstanding jurisdictional issues are sorted out.
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