The Court restored a sanction of dismissal against a municipal police officer who pleaded guilty to several criminal offences. The police officer’s criminal conduct was subject to separate sanctions provided for in the Cities and Towns Act and the Police Act. The majority of the Court held that the sanctions under the Police Act and the Cities and Towns Act overlapped and came into conflict. The Court held that in the case of conflict, the provisions in the Police Act should prevail over the provisions in the Cities and Towns Act as those provisions are more recent and more specific than those in the Cities and Towns Act.

Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Arbitration Board – Police – Disciplinary proceedings – Penalties and suspensions – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Statutory interpretation – Conflict of legislation

Lévis (City) v. Fraternité des policiers de Lévis Inc., [2007] S.C.J. No. 14, Supreme Court of Canada, March 22, 2007, McLachlin C.J. and Bastarache, Binnie, Deschamps, Fish, Abella and Charron JJ.

The police officer in question pled guilty to a variety of criminal offences, including domestic violence offences, firearms offences, and failing to obey a Court order. Section 119 of the Police Act (“PA”) requires that a police officer convicted of a criminal offence be dismissed, subject to the possible application of an exception. As a municipal employee, the police officer was subject to the Cities and Towns Act (the “CTA”), which requires a mandatory 5-year disqualification without exception for any employee convicted of criminal offences. Following an internal investigation, the Municipality dismissed the police officer. The police officer’s union filed a grievance, whereby an Arbitrator held that the police officer’s family troubles, psychological problems and alcohol abuse had led him to commit the offences and that those constituted “specific circumstances” that allowed for a sanction other than dismissal under the PA. The Arbitrator ordered that the police officer be reinstated. The Superior Court set aside the arbitration award, but the award was restored by the Court of Appeal.

The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada held that, in a case of conflict, s. 119 of the PA should prevail over s. 116(6) of the CTA, because s. 119 satisfies the requirements of the presumptions developed to aid in determining the legislature’s intent in that it is both more recent and more specific in comparison to s. 116(6). The majority of the Court went on to determine that review of the Arbitrator’s award must be assessed on mixed law and fact. In referring to the facts, the Court found that the context was one of domestic violence, firearms offences, and the breach of a Court order. The role of a police officer in the administration of justice, as well as the maintenance of public confidence in the judicial system, required the Arbitrator to take into account the gravity of these offences and the effect they would have on public confidence. The majority upheld the dismissal of the police officer. The minority of the Court found that the two acts did not come into conflict; however, agreed with the Majority that the Arbitrator’s decision was unsustainable.

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