Association de médiation familiale du Québec v. Bouvier (2021 SCC 54)
On December 17, 2021, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered a landmark decision in family law, dismissing an appeal brought by the Association de médiation familiale du Québec (Family Mediation Association of Quebec) against the Respondent Michel Bouvier (“Respondent Bouvier”). This decision concerns the application of the exception to settlement privilege that allows a party to prove the existence of an agreement (the “Exception”) reached in a family mediation context.
The Judgment confirmed that discussions during family mediation and the summary of mediated agreements are not subject to a rule of absolute confidentiality. The Exception is not automatically set aside in a family mediation context, which would interfere with the main objective of the process, namely to promote settlements. The majority’s decision will preserve the public’s confidence in the effectiveness of family mediation process in Québec.
One particularity of the Supreme Court’s decision is that Miller Thomson’s client was exceptionally awarded on a solicitor-client basis up to a fixed amount. The majority took into consideration the fact that the Respondent Bouvier had to defend himself against a third party’s intervention, and he did not have to personally bear the cost of their “test case”, which went far beyond the facts of his original dispute.
Joanne Biron, Emily Kissel, Michaël Plante and Emmanuelle Gascon of Miller Thomson’s Montreal family law team successfully represented the Respondent Bouvier in the case.
The judgment can be reviewed on the Supreme Court of Canada’s site.