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Safeguard orders: The Court of Appeal will decide if urgency means urgency

On September 16, 2015, the Court of Appeal – new Justice Marie-Josée Hogue – granted leave from a safeguard order that had been issued to prevent a company from soliciting another company’s clients in Industries V-Tech inc. (Industries Play-Tech inc.) v. Cast Steel Products (Canada) Ltd., 2015 QCCA 1471

The Plaintiffs had chosen not to present a provisional injunction, filing only a request for an interlocutory and permanent injunction. The day before the first date of presentation, they served their request for a safeguard order. The Defendants argued that it should not be granted, inter alia, because the urgency criteria was not met: they Plaintiffs had known about the alleged wrongdoing for months. That argument was dismissed by the first instance judge:

[1] Le premier juge a rejeté cet argument et, aux paragraphes 31 à 34 de son jugement, a exprimé clairement l’idée que la notion d’urgence aux fins de l’émission d’une ordonnance d’injonction provisoire et aux fins de l’émission d’une ordonnance de sauvegarde n’est pas la même. Pour lui l’urgence aux fins de l’émission d’une ordonnance de sauvegarde est le fait qu’il est nécessaire pour le tribunal d’agir afin de sauvegarder les droits de toutes les parties pendant qu’elles attendent d’être entendues au stade interlocutoire. Eu égard à la demande d’interroger Farès et d’obtenir des précisions sur certaines allégations, il s’est dit d’avis que rien n’exige que les personnes visées par une telle demande aient l’opportunité de « compléter » le dossier et, au contraire, que de leur reconnaître ce droit conduirait à un résultat absurde puisque de telles ordonnances sont justement émises en attendant que le dossier soit complet.

In deciding whether to grant leave, Justice Hogue noted that a safeguard order is one that is appealable with permission if the appropriate criteria are met:

[9] Cette ordonnance, qui expirera le 24 novembre 2015, est de la nature d’une injonction interlocutoire provisoire et elle peut techniquement faire l’objet d’un appel aux termes de l’article 29 C.p.c. puisqu’elle « ordonne que soit faite une chose à laquelle le jugement final ne pourra remédier. » Ceci n’est toutefois pas suffisant pour que la permission demandée soit dès lors accordée. Il faut en effet que les fins de la justice requièrent d’accorder la permission, tel que l’exige l’article 511 C.p.c. Or, généralement les fins de la justice requièrent rarement que la permission soit accordée puisque, notamment, de telles ordonnances sont émises pour une durée limitée et sont de caractère discrétionnaire.

Although leave is almost never granted for safeguard orders, she felt that this case was an exceptional one given “notamment en regard du critère de l’urgence à satisfaire dans le cadre d’une demande d’ordonnance de sauvegarde.” (para. 14)

Should this alternative idea of urgency be accepted by the Court of Appeal, it would be a departure from the existing caselaw that the criteria for a safeguard order and a provisional injunction (the regular injunction criteria, plus urgency) are the same. To find otherwise would, in my view, enable litigants to do indirectly what they cannot do directly, i.e. circumvent the urgency criteria by not filing a provisional injunction first and merely proceeding to a safeguard motion.

Of note, art. 754.2(3) CCP—which is the authority for safeguard orders in an injunction context in the present CCP and is in the injunction section—appears to have been replaced by the more general art. 49 CCP in the CCP that is about to come into force. It provides that a court may “at any time and in all matters, even on their own initiative, grant injunctions or issue orders to safeguard the parties’ rights for the period and subject to the conditions they determine.”

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