Canada: Divisional Court Applies Supreme Court’s Guidance On Preferability And Certifies Claim Against Religious Boarding School

Last Updated: April 1 2014
Article by Gillian Hnatiw

In Cavanaugh v. Grenville Christian College ("Cavanaugh"), a group of former students from an Anglican boarding school have alleged that they were subjected to systemic physical and psychological abuse to promote and indoctrinate them into the teachings and practices of the Community of Jesus.  They commenced a class action on behalf of all former students of the school who, they alleged, were subject to similar abuse and sought damages for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of mental suffering.

The Certification Motion – Denial at First Instance

At first instance, Justice Perell declined to certify the class proceeding on the grounds that a class action was not the preferred procedure.  He pointed to the fact that much of the evidence from the common issues trial would have to be repeated during individual trials in order for each class member to prove causation and their individual damages. Instead, Justice Perell directed that the action commenced by the five representative plaintiffs could continue as a joinder of their claims.  He further directed that other former students could commence individual claims to be managed in a process similar to that employed in Hudson v. Austin, wherein the decision dismissing the certification motion was suspended for 6 months to allow plaintiff's counsel to prepare a revised litigation plan and enable members of the putative class to opt to participate in a case managed group of related individual actions (as described in greater detail "When Class Proceedings and Case Management Intersect"). The plaintiffs were then ordered to pay costs of certification in the amount of $300,000.

The Appeal – Certification Granted

On February 24, 2014, the Divisional Court released its decision overturning Justice Perell's ruling (Cavanaugh, 2014 CanLII 7350 (ON SCDC)).  Writing for a unanimous Court, Justice Rady held that Justice Perell had erred both in his analysis of the preferable procedure and in unilaterally imposing an alternative procedure for managing present and future claims.

First, the court found that Justice Perell erred by focusing on the volume of common issues versus individual issues, which led him to conclude that the former would be overwhelmed by the latter.  In so doing, he failed to consider the other criteria relevant to the preferability criteria as discussed by the Supreme Court in its recent decision in AIC Limited v. Fischer, (see, "The Supreme Court Holds that Preferability May Hinge on Substantive Access to Justice"). 

In AIC Limited, the Supreme Court noted that the preferability analysis must be conducted through the lens of the three principled goals of class proceedings and set out five questions to be answered in determining the access to justice issue:

  • What are the barriers to justice?
  • What is the potential of the class proceeding to address those barriers?
  • What are the alternatives?
  • To what extent do the alternatives address the barriers to justice?
  • How do the two proceedings compare?  

Justice Perell did not have the benefit of the decision in AIC Limited when he decided the certification motion and thus did not address these questions when analysing the preferability issue. In now considering them, the Divisional Court found that there was a powerful economic barrier to access to justice in the case and pointed to the $300,000 costs award on the certification motion as evidence of the fact that "most individuals cannot afford to pursue litigation on this scale".  The Divisional Court also found that a class proceeding would enable the litigation to advance in a significant way and the discovery process to be streamlined through the resolution of the common issues.  Experts would testify once, thus promoting judicial economy and access to justice, and the risk of inconsistent outcomes would be avoided.  A class action would also resolve important common issues including the history of the school, duties owed to the class members, and practices and policies of the school, all of which would advance and streamline the trials of the individual claims.

The Divisional Court also addressed Justice Perell's concern that not every class member suffered the same, or even any, of the abuse alleged.  In dismissing this concern, the Divisional Court simply noted that individuals whose claims did not fit into the framework of systemic abuse would have the option of opting out.

Secondly, the Divisional Court found that Justice Perell had erred by imposing a "class management" procedure which was not advanced by the defendants and on which neither party made submissions.  A judge ought not to grant relief for which no request was made and no submissions heard.

Looking Forward

Cavanaugh has now been certified and will proceed to litigation on its merits.  The original costs order, cited as evidence of the significant economic barrier to access to justice, was also amended and the defendants/respondents ordered to pay the plaintiffs $150,000 in costs on the original motion and $35,000 for costs of the appeal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions