A Nice Summary

Courts sometimes provide a summary of the law that is so concise and clear that they are of enormous assistance to regulators. In The Law Society of Upper Canada v. Hatzitrifonos, 2017 ONSC 6759, one can find such a summary. The regulator obtained an injunction against Mr. Hatzitrifonos from practising law. He ignored it. The regulator brought a civil contempt motion. The Court summarized the test as follows [citations omitted]:

It is well established that there is a three-part test for a finding of contempt of court, as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in Carey v. Laiken:

  1. The order that was breached must clearly and unequivocally state what should or should not be done;
  2. The party who disobeyed the order must have had actual knowledge of it; and
  3. The party alleged in breach intentionally did the act the order prohibits or intentionally failed to do the act the order compels.

The elements of the contempt must be proven on the basis of the criminal law standard, namely, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Moreover, the contempt power is discretionary and should be utilized as an enforcement power of last rather than first resort. At the same time, the party subject to the court order must comply with both “the letter and the spirit of the order”; a party cannot hide behind a restrictive or literal interpretation of an order in order to circumvent it, as this would make a mockery of the order and the administration of justice. Moreover, it is not necessary to prove that a person deliberately intended to breach a court order. It is sufficient if the person in question intentionally performed the act which is in fact prohibited by the order.

The Court also gave this description as to the importance of ensuring compliance with its orders [citation again omitted]:

It has long been observed that the judiciary controls no purse and commands no army; its power comes from words alone. It is precisely for this reason that it is critical that the decisions and orders of the courts be generally respected and observed. The deliberate flouting of court orders, if tolerated or permitted, will inevitably erode the public respect accorded to court decisions, thereby undermining an independent judiciary and the rule of law itself.

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