Corporations Cannot Suffer Cruel and Unusual Treatment or Punishment

Who would have thought that a corporation could have their Charter rights infringed and suffer cruel and unusual treatment or punishment? In case you did, the Supreme Court has put an end to any such possibility. Last week, the SCC rendered its decision in Quebec (Attorney General) v. 9147-0732 Québec inc.

Davies, which acted the intervener Association des avocats de la défense de Montréal (Montréal Criminal Lawyers’ Association) in the Supreme Court of Canada, has a good summary of the decision.

In three separate sets of reasons, the Supreme Court overturned the majority opinion of the Québec Court of Appeal and concluded that corporations cannot benefit from the constitutional protection against cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. In the view of the plurality, the purpose of section 12 of the Charter was to safeguard human dignity. Insisting on the ordinary and literal meaning of the word “cruel,” they held that the expression “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment” referred to human pain and suffering, both physical and mental. Being unable to experience such pain and suffering, corporations cannot, in their view, claim relief under section 12 of the Charter, either in their personal name or on behalf of the individuals involved in their activities.

Go here to read Davies’ case summary and distillation of the potential impact of SCC’s decision.