Friday, 21 May 2021

Canada: contract, voluntary associations and judicial intervention - the view of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court delivered its judgment today in Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada St. Mary Cathedral v. Aga 2021 SCC 22. Judgment was delivered by Rowe J. (Wagner C.J. and Abella, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Côté, Brown, Martin and Kasirer JJ. concurring). A case summary is available here. To quote Rowe J. (at para, [49]): 
.... courts can only intervene in the affairs of a voluntary association to vindicate a legal right, such as a right in property or contract. Membership in a voluntary association is not automatically contractual. Even a written constitution does not suffice. Membership is contractual only where the conditions for contract formation are met, including an objective intention to create legal relations. Such an intention is more likely to exist where property or employment are at stake. It is less likely to exist in religious contexts, where individuals may intend for their mutual obligations to be spiritually but not legally binding. A voluntary association will be constituted by a web of contracts among the members only where the conditions for contract formation are met".

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