Canadian Cancer Society applauds decision allowing British American Tobacco and other foreign companies to be held to account

Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear appeal by foreign tobacco companies in Ontario medicare cost recovery lawsuit

TORONTO, Dec. 19, 2013 /CNW/ - The Supreme Court of Canada today refused to hear an appeal by foreign tobacco companies seeking to be removed as defendants in Ontario's $50 billion medicare cost recovery lawsuit against the tobacco industry. The foreign companies were attempting to overturn a May 30, 2013, judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal that had dismissed their motion to be removed from the lawsuit.

"This decision is significant in terms of a victory for the Ontario government and a defeat for the tobacco industry," says Rob Cunningham, lawyer and Senior Policy Analyst, Canadian Cancer Society. "Foreign parent tobacco companies such as British American Tobacco must be held to account before the courts for their role in causing an epidemic of disease and death."

"It is essential that these giant foreign parent tobacco companies be defendants," adds Cunningham. "The companies have internal documents that provide valuable evidence of what tobacco companies knew regarding the effects of tobacco use on health, and when they knew it. The companies also have very deep pockets that would allow the Ontario Government to collect far more in damages than could be obtained from the Canadian subsidiaries alone."

Today's judgment continues a trend. Courts in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec and New Brunswick have also rejected attempts by foreign companies to be removed as defendants. In the British Columbia and New Brunswick cases, the Supreme Court of Canada also refused to hear appeals sought by the tobacco industry. In Saskatchewan, the Court of Queen's Bench dismissed the tobacco industry motion. In Quebec, the Quebec Superior Court dismissed the tobacco industry motion, and the Quebec Court of Appeal refused to hear an appeal.

The main issue at stake in the medicare cost recovery lawsuit is if the tobacco industry will be held liable to pay damages for tobacco-related health care costs. A trial date for this lawsuit has not been set in Ontario or other provinces.

In addition to today's legal victory, the government recently introduced Bill 131, which will ban flavoured tobacco products, require patios to be smoke-free, prohibit tobacco sales on university/college campuses, and implement other measures in Ontario.

"We applaud the Ontario Government not only for its ongoing medicare cost recovery lawsuit but also for bringing forward strengthened amendments to the Smoke-free Ontario Act," says Rowena Pinto, VP, Public Affairs, Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division. "On the momentum of this important step forward on cost recovery, we urge all political parties to support adoption as soon as possible of this important bill to reduce youth smoking."

About the Canadian Cancer Society
The Canadian Cancer Society is a national community-based organization of volunteers whose mission is the eradication of cancer and the enhancement of the quality of life of people living with cancer. When you want to know more about cancer, visit our website, www.cancer.ca or call our toll-free, bilingual Cancer Information Service at 1-888-939-3333.

SOURCE Canadian Cancer Society (Ontario Division)

For further information:

Media contacts:

Rob Cunningham
Senior Policy Analyst
Canadian Cancer Society
613-565-2522 ext. 4981
rcunningham@cancer.ca 

Christine Koserski
Communications Specialist
Canadian Cancer Society, Ontario Division
416-323-7030
ckoserski@ontario.cancer.ca