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Tag: retroactive laws

BC Court of Appeal Reverses UBC Parking Fine Class Action Lawsuit

In 2009 Mr. Justice Goepel of the BC Supreme Court held that the University of British Columbia did not have the legal authority to issue and collect parking fines over the years and awarded judgement in favour of a class action lawsuit seeking to have the money repaid by UBC.
UBC appealed this decision.  Before the BC Court of Appeal had a chance to review the matter the BC Government passed a retroactive law which in essence stated that UBC had the power to issue the fines.    (Click here for some background information on this).
With the retroactive law on the books the matter then proceeded to BC’s highest Court and they were asked to determine if this law was valid and if so what effect it would have on the class action.   In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal held that this law was valid and as a result the trial judgement was set aside.
The highlights of the Court’s reasons were as follows (for the sake of easy reading and at the risk of oversimplification ‘intra vires’ means something UBC had the power to do and ‘ultra vires’ means something that UBC did not have the power to do):
[26] Thus, on the general issue of interpretation, we conclude the Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act, 2009 applies to the circumstances before the court. This Act makes intra vires that which was conceded to be ultra vires at trial. Further because the foundation for the order declaring the class members entitled to restitution has been replaced, and because s. 16(2)(c) prohibits restitution of the fines or penalties referred to in the Supreme Court of British Columbia order, the declaration of entitlement to restitution cannot stand in light of the new legislation…

[32] We consider it is clear in Canada that the Legislature may enact legislation that has the effect of retroactively altering the law applicable to a dispute. While a Legislature may not interfere with the Court’s adjudicative role, it may amend the law which the court is required to apply in its adjudication. The difference between amending the law and interfering with the adjudicative function is fundamental to the proper roles of the legislature and courts in our parliamentary democracy.

[33] It follows we see no reason to “read down” the amending and transitional provisions to accommodate the concept of judicial independence…

39] The appeal is allowed and the order of the judge is set aside, to be replaced with a declaration answering common issue 1 in the negative, the Parking Regulations are intra vires the University. Given the answer to that question, there is no need to answer questions 2 and 3 (dealing with the rights in contract and proprietary rights of the University), or the other questions that depended upon a positive answer to question 1.