1.1: What these rules do
9.2: Preparation of judgments and orders
9.4: Signing judgments and orders
10.52: Declaration of civil contempt

Case Summary

The Defendant applied for Civil Contempt after the Plaintiff breached a Case Management Order. In response, the Plaintiff cross-applied to vacate the Order. Madam Justice Hollins dismissed the Plaintiffs’ application to vacate the Order and granted the Defendant’s Civil Contempt Application.

In dismissing the Application to vacate the Order, Hollins J. emphasized that Rule 9.2(2)(b) does not entitle a party to approve or refuse every Court Order in an Action. Only parties that appear in Court can approve the form of an Order or direct the Clerk of the Court to sign an Order without approval of the parties under Rule 9.4(2)(c). Typically, the Court invokes Rule 9.4(2)(c) when it believes that a self-represented litigant will refuse to approve an Order or will seek to improperly delay an Action.

A Judge may declare a person to be in civil contempt of Court under Rule 10.52(3)(a)(i) if, without reasonable excuse, that person has failed to comply with a Court Order. The Applicant has the burden of proving that the Respondent is in contempt of the Order. Since imprisonment is one of the remedies available for contempt, civil contempt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Hollins J. relied on Builders Energy Services Ltd v Paddock, 2009 ABCA 153 to outline the well-established test for civil contempt: (1) the Order states clearly and unequivocally what should not be done; (2) the Respondent had actual knowledge of the Order; and (3) the Respondent intentionally did what the Order directed should not be done. The Applicant must prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. On the facts, Hollins J. found the Respondents to have “blatantly, repeatedly and unequivocally” breached the Order. The Respondents had no reasonable excuse for breaching the Order and were found in contempt of Court.

Rule 10.53 sets out the range of remedies once a finding of contempt has been made, including imprisonment, fines, cost awards or stays of future court proceedings. Hollins J. relied on Oommen v Capital Housing Corp, 2015 ABQB 283 (affirmed 2017 ABCA 143), where Veit J. outlined the factors that should be considered when fashioning a suitable remedy. The factors are similar to the ones employed in criminal law sentences. Accordingly, the remedy for civil contempt needs to be proportionate to the level of wrongdoing, in line with similar cases, and serve as a deterrent of future contemptuous conduct.

Justice Hollins imposed a $1,000 fine on the Plaintiffs and awarded the Defendant full-indemnity Solicitor-Client Costs on both Motions.

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