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Dec 8, 2016

Supreme Court of Canada Rules in Favour of City of Windsor

Christopher J. Williams

The Supreme Court of Canada today issued its decision in a dispute between the City of Windsor and the Canadian Transit Company (“CTC”). The case, argued on April 21, 2016, was an appeal relating to the jurisdiction of the Federal Court to decide matters involving the applicability of municipal by-laws raised in an application brought by the CTC.

The City, represented by Chris Williams, Courtney Raphael and Jody Johnson, had successfully brought a motion to strike the CTC’s application on the basis that the Federal Court lacked the jurisdiction to consider the applicability of municipal by-laws in these circumstances. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the City and allowed its appeal. As stated by the Supreme Court of Canada, the application of municipal by-laws to Federal undertakings is to be decided by the Superior Courts and not the Federal Court.

The decision of the Supreme Court of Canada is important because it confirms that that the Superior Court is the proper venue for determining the applicability of municipal by-laws.  As well, this decision confirms the appropriate role to be played by the Federal Court of Canada in these matters. This decision is not only important for the City of Windsor, but for all municipalities across Canada.

As background to the case, the City issued repair orders against 114 properties owned by the CTC, which owns and operates the Ambassador Bridge. The CTC and its parent company, Detroit International Bridge, acquired the properties to facilitate the maintenance and expansion of the Ambassador Bridge including their desired second span. The CTC filed an administrative law application to the Federal Court – Trial Division claiming that the properties so acquired for international bridge purposes are a part of a federal undertaking, and, therefore, not subject to municipal by-laws.

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