Hello everybody. It has been 3 weeks since I posted. Viviane (Mrs. Library Boy) and I have been away on our belated summer vacation.
We were in Belgium (my father's place of birth), Munich (where we stayed with a friend of Viviane's, a German language professor at the Goethe Institute), and finally in Paris for 3 very full days of long walks, gallery visits, expeditions to pastry shops and lunches/suppers with relatives, family friends and professional contacts.
Thursday evening, we had supper with Viviane's uncle Gabriel Garran
, a leading French theatre director who has had a fascinating life and who has known many of the greats of the French theatre world: Jean Vilar
, creator of the Théâtre national populaire and the founder of the Avignon Festival, Patrice Chéreau
, Ariane Mnouchkine
, etc. Gabriel is still very active and Gallimard, one of the big French publishers, will soon publish his play based on the correspondance of novelist, war hero and diplomat Romain Gary
(ex-husband of Jean Seberg) and theatre/cinema giant Louis Jouvet
On Friday in Paris, we had lunch with Stéphane Cottin
, head of the registry and of IT services at France's Conseil constitutionnel
, and one of his colleagues. The Conseil is located in the Palais Royal, next door to the Comédie française theatre and a stone's throw from the Louvre. We had a fairly wide-ranging conversation, going over some of the differences in civil and common law philosophies, the role of judicial precedent in our respective systems, the impact of politics on the courts in France, the controversial new Justice Minister Rachida Dati
some have called France's "Iron Lady", etc. And of course, we talked about President Sarkozy and the rumours of his imminent divorce from his wife Cécilia
(who doesn't love gossip?).
One interesting difference between France and Canada, a difference that astounded me, is the fact that French citizens do not have access to various judicial or administrative recourses that Canadians take for granted, most notably class action lawsuits. If I understand correctly, President Sarkozy has set up commissions to examine various legal reforms, including something that would resemble class actions à la Canada. But we are light years ahead of many of our European colleagues when it comes to helping the "little guy", as the Globe and Mail
reported yesterday in an article entitled Class action is turning little-guy lawsuits into giants
"In the decade or two that class actions have existed in Canada - beginning on a date that varies according to province - they have gone from being a rare curiosity to a staple of many law firms".
"Estimates of how many class actions are in motion vary. While a Canadian Bar Association website lists 80 that were launched in the first eight months of this year alone, the full number is likely to be significantly higher (...)"
"Class-action warfare has gone on over veterans' pensions, mad-cow disease and numerous stock swindles, such as the Bre-X gold mine scam. In the past month alone, class actions have been launched against toy makers (over lead paint used on their products); telephone companies (to recoup more than $20-billion in surcharges on monthly cellphone bills) and auto companies (for charging Canadian customers far more than their American counterparts for the same vehicle)".
Friday evening, we were invited to have supper at the home of a friend of my father, a woman who practices law in Paris. I learned to my surprise that she had been consulted by Kraft in the case of Euro-Excellence Inc. v. Kraft Canada Inc.
that was decided on earlier this year by the Supreme Court of Canada. Small world. Getting even smaller.
Labels: class actions, courts, France, lawsuits