Quebec Maritime Services Inc., et al. v. Attorney General of Quebec, et al.

(Quebec) (Criminal) (By Leave)

(Sealing order) (Certain information not available to the public)


Constitutional law — Interjurisdictional immunity — Impairment — Federal paramountcy — Conflict of purposes — Provincial offences — Licences — Application of provincial statute to marine security activities — Whether Private Security Act applies to marine security activities relating to public security, like those of applicants — Whether Private Security Act is inapplicable to applicants pursuant to doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity because it impairs applicants’ marine security activities, which fall within core of maritime jurisdiction — Whether Private Security Act is inoperative in relation to applicants pursuant to doctrine of federal paramountcy because there is conflict of purposes between Private Security Act and federal scheme — Private Security Act, CQLR, c. S-3.5.


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The applicant Michel Fillion is an employee of the applicant Quebec Maritime Services Inc. (“QMS”), a company working in the international shipping industry. The company performs loading operations for transatlantic vessels. Mr. Fillion’s main task is to oversee and control access to the port facility when a transatlantic vessel is docked. Further to observations made by two investigators from the Bureau de la sécurité privée (“BSP”), the respondent the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (“DCPP”) issued statements of offence to the applicants. Mr. Fillion was charged with contravening s. 116 of the Private Security Act, CQLR, c. S-3.5 (“PSA”), which provides that any person who carries on a private security activity without holding an agent licence (s. 16) is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine. QMS was also charged with contravening s. 117 PSA by employing Mr. Fillion. At trial, the applicants argued that the PSA’s provisions were constitutionally inapplicable to them.

The Court of Québec declared ss. 16, 116 and 117 PSA inapplicable and inoperative in relation to QMS and Mr. Fillion in the context of this case, having regard to the offences charged, pursuant to the constitutional doctrines of interjurisdictional immunity and federal paramountcy. The court therefore acquitted them of the offences charged. The trial judge held, among other things, that the application of the PSA to QMS’s operations significantly intruded on marine transportation security. He was also of the view that there was a conflict of purposes between the PSA and the federal scheme. The Superior Court allowed the appeal brought by the DCPP and the Attorney General of Québec, set aside the trial judgment, convicted QMS and Mr. Fillion of the offences with which they were charged and ordered them to pay the minimum fines. In its view, the trial judge had misinterpreted the doctrines of interjurisdictional immunity and federal paramountcy, which could not apply in this case. A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal with legal costs. It found, in particular, that the applicants had not shown any actual impairment, or any potential impairment that was certain to occur in the future, of a vital part of the federal legislative power and that the PSA did not frustrate the purpose of the federal legislation. The constitutional doctrines could not apply. Ruel J.A., dissenting, was instead of the view that if the PSA was applicable to QMS’s activities, its provisions would impair the core of the federal navigation and shipping power.

Lower Court Rulings

September 9, 2019
Court of Quebec

2019 QCCQ 5447, C.Q. 200-61-207790-179, C.Q. 200-61-213512-187
Sections 16, 116 and 117 of Private Security Act declared inapplicable and inoperative in relation to defendants; acquittals entered
November 5, 2020
Superior Court of Quebec

2020 QCCS 3952, C.Q. 200-61-207790-179, C.Q. 200-61-213512-187, C.S. 200-36-002891-190
Appeal allowed; convictions entered; orders for payment of fines made
April 19, 2023
Court of Appeal of Quebec (Québec)

200-10-003812-208, 2023 QCCA 325
Appeal dismissed