Hearings

On September 14 and 15, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear two appeals and you are invited to participate. Thanks to the Superior Court of Quebec, the two hearings will be heard in the biggest room at the courthouse.  


Cases

Quebec City courthouse
Hearing at the Palais de justice de Québec

His Majesty the King v. Pascal Breault

Hearing of September 14, 2022 (Webcast of hearing) | On Appeal from the Court of Appeal of Quebec (Appeal Reserved)

The Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether police must have an approved testing device with them when they order someone to provide a breath sample.

Early in the afternoon of April 2, 2017, police were looking for someone reported to be driving an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) while drunk. They stopped Pascal Breault, who was walking away from a parked ATV at a campsite near Quebec City. The officers wanted to take a breath sample from Mr. Breault, but they did not have an approved screening device (ASD) to do so. They radioed nearby officers to obtain a device.

While still waiting for the device, police ordered Mr. Breault to provide a breath sample. Mr. Breault repeatedly refused, so the officers placed him under arrest. The testing device had not yet arrived. It never did because the officers eventually cancelled their request and charged Mr. Breault with failing to comply with a demand by police to take a breath test.

The law

The Criminal Code says police can demand someone provide a breath sample immediately if that person is suspected of drinking and driving within the last three hours. The test must be done using an ASD. When a person blows into the device, the ASD provides officers with a reading that determines if there is sufficient alcohol in someone’s body to warrant a full breathalyzer test. Anyone who refuses to take the test with the ASD without a reasonable excuse commits an offence.

The lower courts

A municipal court in Quebec found Mr. Breault guilty, and Quebec’s Superior Court dismissed his appeal. He then turned to the Quebec Court of Appeal, which allowed his appeal and acquitted him of the charge. The Court of Appeal said police must have an ASD with them when they order someone to take a breath test, so the person can immediately comply with the order. The Crown appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Questions for the Supreme Court

This case raises important issues, such as whether police officers must have an ASD with them when they order someone to provide a breath sample, or whether police can keep someone waiting while they get the device.

Impact and Interveners

The Court’s decision could affect policing decisions across Canada. For this reason, various organizations have applied to be “interveners” in this case. Interveners are people or groups who get permission from the Court to provide context on legal questions, although the case does not affect them directly. They submit their arguments in writing. Some are also allowed to make their arguments at the hearing. Interveners offer judges different perspectives to consider when making their decisions.

More information (case #39680): Case information | Factums (written arguments from both sides)
Lower court rulings: Trial (Quebec City Municipal Court) (in French only) | Appeal (Quebec Superior Court) (in French only) | Appeal (Quebec Court of Appeal)

PDF version

This Case Pre-Brief was prepared by communications staff of the Supreme Court of Canada to help the public better understand Court’s work. It does not form part of the Court’s reasons for judgment and is not for use in legal proceedings.

Janick Murray-Hall v. Attorney General of Quebec

Hearing of September 15, 2022 (Webcast of hearing) | On Appeal from the Court of Appeal of Quebec (Appeal Reserved)

The Supreme Court of Canada will decide whether Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis plants for personal use is constitutional.

In 2019, Janick Murray-Hall challenged Quebec’s ban on owning and growing cannabis plants for personal use. Mr. Murray-Hall claims the Quebec law is unconstitutional and contradicts the federal cannabis law. He is arguing the case on behalf of everyone in that province who might be fined for owning and growing cannabis plants.

The law

In 2018, the federal government enacted a law about cannabis. It says people cannot own or grow more than four cannabis plants at home. Provinces and territories then enacted their own laws to regulate practical issues such as how cannabis can be sold and stored. In Quebec, the government enacted a law banning people from owning and growing cannabis plants for personal use. If caught, people could be fined between $250 and $750.

The lower courts

Mr. Murray-Hall brought his case to Quebec’s Superior Court. He argued that the Quebec government did not have the authority to ban cannabis plants. He said that only the federal government has that power as a matter of criminal law, which is federal jurisdiction under section 91(27) of Canada’s Constitution. Alternatively, Mr. Murray-Hall argued the Quebec ban should be declared of no force or effect because the federal law should prevail over the provincial law.

The judge agreed and declared the Quebec ban unconstitutional. The Attorney General of Quebec appealed that decision on behalf of the province.

The Court of Appeal of Quebec disagreed and ruled the ban was constitutional, because it pertains to matters of provincial jurisdiction under two other sections of the Constitution: section 92(13), which allows provinces to make laws related to property and civil rights; and section 92(16), which permits them to make laws of a local or private nature within a province. That outcome meant Quebeckers could not own or grow cannabis plants.

Questions for the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court will decide whether Quebec’s ban on growing cannabis plants for personal use is constitutional. The case also raises important legal questions for the entire country, such as whether these federal and provincial laws are compatible with one another, or whether one prevails.

Impact and Interveners

This decision could affect cannabis laws in other provinces. For this reason, the provincial attorneys general can intervene in this case. However, any other interested people or groups must apply to the Court to become interveners. Interveners provide context on the legal questions, although the case does not affect them directly. They submit their arguments in writing. Some are also allowed to make their arguments at the hearing. Interveners offer judges different perspectives to consider when making their decisions.

More information (case #39906): Case information | Factums (written arguments from both sides)
Lower court rulings: Trial (Quebec Superior Court) | Appeal (Quebec Court of Appeal) (in French only)

PDF version

This Case Pre-Brief was prepared by communications staff of the Supreme Court of Canada to help the public better understand Court’s work. It does not form part of the Court’s reasons for judgment and is not for use in legal proceedings.


How hearings are conducted at the Supreme Court of Canada

When the judges enter the courtroom, everyone should stand. Judges sit at the bench, facing the courtroom in order of seniority based on the date they were appointed to the Supreme Court. If you are facing the bench, appellants sit on the left hand side of the court, while respondents sit on the right. Interveners sit on either side, behind the appellants and respondents.

A section of the public gallery is reserved for journalists.

The hearing officially starts when Chief Justice Richard Wagner introduces all lawyers by name. Usually, the Court will then hear from:

  • the lawyer for the appellant
  • intervenors who each have five minutes to express their concerns about the legal issue
  • counsel for the respondent
  • more intervenors
  • a final, short reply from the appellant

The judges will have already read everyone’s written arguments, and may interrupt to ask questions.

When the hearing is suspended or adjourned, everyone should stand again as the judges leave the courtroom. Everyone must leave the courtroom once the hearing is over.

Judges or lawyers may speak in either English or French during the hearing. There will be interpretation devices available in the courtroom and overflow room so you can follow in the language of your choice.

At the end of the hearing, members of the court may decide from the Bench where they make an immediate oral decision. However it is more common for the Court to reserve its decision and provide it at a later date in writing.

Definitions

Appellant: the individual, company, government or organization that requested the appeal of a lower court decision

Intervener: parties such as public interest groups and government representatives who present different points of view on the legal questions and issues before the Court

Respondent: the party opposing the appellant

Reserve: appeals that haven’t been decided yet


Instructions for entering the Palais de justice de Québec

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear two cases in Courtroom 4.01 on the fourth floor of the Quebec City courthouse.  

His Majesty the King v. Pascal Breault will be heard September 14, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.

Janick Murray-Hall v. Attorney General of Quebec is scheduled for September 15, 2022 at 9:30 a.m.

The courthouse opens at 7:30 a.m., Monday to Friday. You may access the building at the main entrance on Jean-Lesage Boulevard (east side of the building).
Please note that there is a parking lot (for a fee) adjacent to the courthouse. It connects to the building.

Palais de justice de Québec, Marc-André-Bédard Building, 300 Jean-Lesage Blvd, Quebec, Quebec, G1K 8K6


Security Screening Measures

Get there early to give yourself plenty of time to get through security screening (like airport security). Follow the signs in this regard. The security screening will start at 8:00 a.m. Your personal belongings contained in bags (limited to clutch or wallet purse style bags) will be submitted to a visual inspection. Please bring only what is necessary. Any other bags will not be authorized and no storage will be available.


Seating in the Public Gallery of the Courtroom

Seats will be available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis with a ticket. Tickets will be available at your arrival to the Palais de justice, after getting through security screening.

We expect the courtroom will be busy. To accommodate as many people as possible, there will be an overflow room available where people can watch the hearings on a video screen.

To make sure as many people can see the hearings in person as possible, there may be a rotation system.

Members of the public can leave the courtroom at any time they wish. To avoid causing a disturbance, it may be best to wait until there is a seating rotation or a court break.


Official photography and video

Official photographers will take photos during the hearings. Please note that you may be photographed. Photos may be used on the Court’s social media and publications. They may also be shared with media for publication.

The hearings will be filmed, webcast, and archived on the Supreme Court website.


Use of electronic devices and photography by members of the public in the Courtroom

Members of the public attending a hearing must turn off all electronic devices, while they are in the Courtroom unless it is necessary for accessibility purposes. No one may take photographs or make any audio or video recording of a hearing, and no one may disseminate such photographs or recordings, in whole or in part.

The Senior Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Québec has given permission to take pictures inside the courtroom (and post them online) before and after the hearing. Absolutely no photos can be taken once the judges are in the room or during the hearing


Did you know?

Three of the nine judges of the Court have to be from the province of Québec. Traditionally, there are also three judges from Ontario, two from the West, and one from Atlantic Canada.

The three judges from the province of Québec currently sitting at the Supreme Court of Canada are:

The SCC’s current Registrar, Ms. Chantal Carbonneau is from the province of Québec.

Although masks or face coverings are no longer mandatory in most public places, it is recommended to wear them during the hearings and the meetings with the judges.