Operation Dismantle Inc v The Queen (1985) 1 SCR 441: Review of perogative powers -- decision made by the Government of Canada to allow the United States to test cruise missiles; threat to the lives and security of Canadians by increasing the risk of nuclear conflict and thereby violates the right to life; Declaratory relief, an injunction and damages were sought -- the facts disclosed no reasonable cause of action
This appeal is from a judgment of the Federal Court of Appeal which allowed respondents' appeal from a judgment dismissing their motion to strike out the appellants' statement of claim. Appellants alleged that a decision made by the Government of Canada to allow the United States to test cruise missiles in Canada violated s. 7 of the Charter. The development of the cruise missile, it was argued, heightened the risk of nuclear war and the increased American military presence and interest in Canada as a result of the testing allegedly made Canada more likely to be a target for nuclear attack. Declaratory relief, an injunction and damages were sought.
Held: The appeal should be dismissed.
Per Dickson, Estey, McIntyre, Chouinard and Lamer JJ.: The appellants' statement of claim should be struck out and their cause of action dismissed. The statement of claim does not disclose facts which, if taken as true, would prove that the Canadian government's decision to permit the testing of the cruise missile in Canada could cause a violation or a threat of violation of their rights under s. 7 of the Charter.
The principal allegation of the statement of claim is that the testing of the cruise missile in Canada poses a threat to the lives and security of Canadians by increasing the risk of nuclear conflict and thereby violates the right to life, liberty and security of the person. This alleged violation of s. 7 turns upon an actual increase in the risk of nuclear war resulting from the federal cabinet's decision to permit the testing. This allegation is premised upon assumptions and hypotheses about how independent and sovereign nations, operating in an international arena of uncertainty and change, will react to the Canadian government's decision to permit the testing of the cruise. Since the foreign policy decisions of independent nations are not capable of prediction on the basis of evidence to any degree of certainty approaching probability, the nature of the reaction to the federal cabinet's decision to permit the testing can only be a matter of speculation. The appellants could never prove the causal link between the decision to permit the testing and the increase in the threat of nuclear conflict.
Cabinet decisions are reviewable by the courts under s. 32(1)(a) of the Charter and the executive branch of the Canadian government bears a general duty to act in accordance with the dictates of the Charter. The decision to permit the testing of the cruise missile cannot be considered contrary to the duties of the executive since the possible effects of this government action are matters of mere speculation. Section 7 could only give rise to a duty on the part of the executive to refrain from permitting the testing if it could be said that a deprivation of life or security of the person could be proven to result from the impugned government act.
Per Wilson J.: The government's decision to allow the testing of the U.S. cruise missile in Canada, even although an exercise of the royal prerogative, was reviewable by the courts under s. 32(1)(a) of the Charter. It was not insulated from review because it was a "political question" since the Court had a constitutional obligation under s. 24 of the Charter to decide whether any particular act of the executive violated or threatened to violate any right of the citizen. On a motion to strike out a statement of claim as disclosing no reasonable cause of action, the court must take the allegations of fact therein as proved. If such allegations raise a justiciable issue the court cannot abdicate its responsibility for review on the basis of anticipated problems of proof. This statement of claim was struck, notwithstanding the general hesitancy of the courts to strike, because the facts disclosed no reasonable cause of action (1) under s. 24(1) of the Charter (2) under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 or (3) under the common law power to grant declaratory relief. To succeed in their claim for relief under s. 24 of the Charter the plaintiffs would have to establish a violation or threat of violation of their right under s. 7 of the Charter. To obtain a declaration of unconstitutionality under s. 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, the plaintiffs would have to show that the government's decision to test the cruise missile in Canada was inconsistent with their right under s. 7. To obtain declaratory relief at common law, they would have to establish a violation or threatened violation of their right under s. 7.
The government's decision to test the cruise missile in Canada does not give rise to a violation or threatened violation of the plaintiffs' right under s. 7. Even an independent, substantive right to life, liberty and security of the person cannot be absolute. It must take account of the corresponding rights of others and of the right of the state to protect the collectivity as well as the individual against external threats. The central concern of the section is direct impingement by government upon the life, liberty and personal security of individual citizens. It does not extend to incidental effects of governmental action in the field of inter-state relations. There is at the very least a strong presumption that governmental action concerning the relation of the state with other states, and not directed at any member of the immediate political community, was never intended to be caught by s. 7 even although such action may incidentally increase the risk of death or injury that individuals generally have to face. Section 1 of the Charter was not called into operation here given the finding that the facts as alleged could not constitute a violation of s. 7. Since the application to amend the statement of claim was filed after the Crown instituted its appeal, the application was made "during the pendency of an appeal" to which the Rules of the Federal Court of Appeal applied. Appellants' right under Rule 421 had therefore expired and their only recourse was to proceed under Rule 1104.
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