This is an extremely important ruling. Who knows maybe it will lead to the SCC revisiting that Irwin Toy decision.
Corporations cannot benefit from Charter protections against cruel and unusual punishment, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today in a unanimous decision with three sets of reasons.
In rejecting a Quebec building contractor’s Charter claim to have been the victim of such punishment, the Supreme Court found that section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — which provides that “Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” — applies only to living beings.
Quoting from Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Jacques Chamberland’s dissenting reasons in the case, “‘[o]ne would not say, it seems to me, that a group of workers who demolish a building using explosives (rather than going about it more gradually, brick by brick, plank by plank) are being cruel to the building,’” Justices Russell Brown and Malcolm Rowe wrote for the majority.
“’Nor would one say that a group of consumers who boycott a business’s products, creating a real risk that it will be driven into bankruptcy, are being cruel to the company that owns the business.’ … We therefore agree with Justice Chamberland … that the words ‘cruel and unusual treatment or punishment’ refer to human pain and suffering, both physical and mental.”