Attorney General of Québec v. Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association
(Quebec) (Civil) (By Leave)
Constitutional law - Division of powers - Constitutional law ? Division of powers ? Provincial regulation of online gambling ? Whether Court of Appeal erred in finding that s. 260.35 of Consumer Protection Act is constitutionally invalid ? Whether doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity renders s. 260.35 of Consumer Protection Act inapplicable ? Whether doctrine of federal paramountcy renders s. 260.35 of Consumer Protection Act of no force or effect ? Constitution Act, 1867, s. 91, introductory paragraph, s. 91(27) and s. 92(9), (10)(a) and (c), (13), (14), (15) and (16) ? Consumer Protection Act, CQLR, c. P 40.1, s. 260.35 (not in force).
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The respondent, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, applied for a declaration of constitutional invalidity in respect of s. 12 of the Act respecting mainly the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speech of 26 March 2015, S.Q. 2016, c. 7 (Budget Act), which was passed on May 17, 2016 and assented to the next day. Section 12 of the Budget Act amended the Consumer Protection Act, CQLR, c. P 40.1 (CPA), by adding five new sections to it (ss. 260.33 to 260.37) under Title III.4, “Online Gambling”. The purpose of the five new sections, which are not in force, is to filter illegal online gambling sites. This involves drawing up a list of online gambling sites not authorized under the laws of Quebec and then sending the list to Internet service providers, which are required under s. 260.35 to block access to the sites, subject to the penalty provided for in s. 277 of the CPA, as amended by s. 13 of the Budget Act. It seems that these amendments to the CPA resulted from the recommendations made in the Nadeau report released in December 2014. That report arose from the work of an online gambling committee established by the Quebec government on July 9, 2010. The committee’s mandate was (1) to analyze the social impact of the development of this type of gambling in Quebec, (2) to propose strategies to prevent pathological gambling, and (3) to analyze regulatory, technical, economic and legal measures to counter illegal gambling. The committee was created at the same time that the government authorized Loto-Québec, the state-owned enterprise responsible for gambling, to develop online gambling offerings in order to channel existing online gambling activity to a secure site to be operated by it. In December 2010, Loto Québec launched the Espacejeux.com site. However, that initiative was not able to halt the explosion of online gambling sites run by private operators in violation of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C 46. The Superior Court declared s. 260.35 of the CPA to be constitutionally invalid. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.
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