Peter v. Beblow (1993), 150 N.R. 1 (SCC)

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Catherine Peter (appellant) v. William Beblow (respondent)

(No. 22258)

Indexed As: Peter v. Beblow

Supreme Court of Canada

La Forest, L’Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka,

Gonthier, Cory, Iacobucci

and McLachlin, JJ.

March 25, 1993.


Peter and Beblow lived in a common law relationship for 12 years. Peter did all the domestic work, looked after their children, worked part-time and paid a small portion of groceries and household supplies. Peter was never paid for her services. Peter brought an action claiming unjust enrich­ment, seeking imposition of a constructive trust in her favour respecting the home in which they lived or, alternatively, monetary damages as compensation for the labour and services she provided.

The British Columbia Supreme Court allowed the action and awarded Peter the full interest in the home. There was an enrichment, a correspon­ding deprivation and the lack of any juristic reason for the en­richment. The court also stated that there was a clear causal connec­tion between the contribution found­ing the unjust enrichment and the property to be subject to the con­structive trust. Beblow appealed.

The British Columbia Court of Appeal, in a judgment reported 50 B.C.L.R.(2d) 266, allowed the appeal. The court stated that there was an unjust enrichment, but there was no corresponding deprivation and no causal link to or proprietary interest in the property. Peter appealed.

The Supreme Court of Canada allowed the appeal, set aside the order of the Court of Appeal and restored the order of the trial judge that Peter receive the entire interest in the home.

Restitution – Topic 61

Unjust enrichment – General – The Supreme Court of Canada stated that in actions for unjust enrichment “there is no logical reason to distinguish domestic services from other contributions. … The notion that household and childcare ser­vices are not worthy of recognition by the court fails to recognize the fact that these services are of great value, not only to the family, but to the other spouse” – See paragraph 16.

Restitution – Topic 62

Unjust enrichment – What constitutes – Peter and Beblow lived in a common law relationship for 12 years – Peter did the domestic work, looked after their children, worked part-time and paid a portion of groceries and household expenses – Peter was never paid for her services – The Supreme Court of Canada held that the plaintiff established an unjust enrichment giving rise to restitution – Her services benefited Beblow in that he received household services without compensation, which enhanced his ability to pay off his mortgage and other assets – The services constituted a corresponding detriment to Peter, as she received no compensation – Finally, there was no obligation existing between the parties which would justify the unjust enrichment and, accordingly, no juristic reason for the enrichment – See paragraph 6.

Restitution – Topic 64

Unjust enrichment – Juristic reason for enrichment – The plaintiff brought an action for unjust enrichment on the basis of services provided over a 12 year com­mon law marriage – The Supreme Court of Canada stated that issues such as whether the services provided as a wife and stepmother and out of natural love and affection could give rise to an action for unjust enrichment should be considered under the head “absence of juristic reason for the enrichment” – The court discussed what matters should be considered in a “family matter” in determining whether there was any juristic reason for the en­richment – The fundamental concern was the legitimate expectation of the parties – See paragraphs 7 to 10.

Restitution – Topic 66

Unjust enrichment – Conditions precedent – The Supreme Court of Canada stated that unjust enrichment required proof of (1) an enrichment, (2) a corresponding deprivation and (3) the absence of a jur­istic reason for the enrichment – See para­graph 3.

Restitution – Topic 123

Unjust enrichment – Remedies – Con­structive trust – The Supreme Court of Canada stated that the remedy of construc­tive trust arises, in family and commercial cases, where monetary damages are inad­equate and where there is a link between the contribution that founds the action and the property in which the constructive trust is claimed – A minor or indirect contribu­tion is insufficient – The court stated that the value of the trust is determined by the “value survived” approach, being the por­tion of the value of the property attribu­table to the claimant’s efforts – For a monetary award, the “value received” approach was appropriate – See paragraphs 26 to 31.

Restitution – Topic 123

Unjust enrichment – Remedies – Con­structive trust – The defendant was unjust­ly enriched by the claimant’s domestic services over a 12 year common law rela­tionship – A monetary judgment was inadequate; it would not likely be paid – The defendant’s only major asset was a $23,200 house, to which the claimant’s contributions were directed – The Supreme Court of Canada, applying the “value survived” approach to assessing the value of the trust, stated that the value of the house reflected a fair approximation of the claimant’s efforts towards the family assets – Accordingly, the trial judge did not err in awarding the claimant the full interest in the house – See paragraphs 33 to 38.

Cases Noticed:

White et al. v. Central Trust Co. et al. (1984), 54 N.B.R.(2d) 293; 140 A.P.R. 293; 7 D.L.R.(4th) 236 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 2].

International Corona Resources Ltd. v. LAC Minerals Ltd., [1989] 2 S.C.R. 574; 101 N.R. 239; 36 O.A.C. 57; 61 D.L.R.(4th) 14; 69 O.R.(2d) 287; 35 E.T.R. 1, refd to. [para. 3].

Becker v. Pettkus, [1980] 2 S.C.R. 834; 34 N.R. 384; 117 D.L.R.(3d) 257; 19 R.F.L.(2d) 165; 8 E.T.R. 143, refd to. [para. 3].

Sorochan v. Sorochan, [1986] 2 S.C.R. 38; 69 N.R. 81; 74 A.R. 67; [1986] 5 W.W.R. 289; 2 R.F.L.(2d) 225; 46 Alta. L.R.(2d) 97, refd to. [para. 8].

Peel (Regional Municipality) v. Ontario, [1992] 3 S.C.R. 762; 144 N.R. 1; 59 O.A.C. 81, refd to. [para. 8].

Grant v. Edwards, [1986] 2 All E.R. 426 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 15].

Kshywieski v. Kunka Estate, [1986] 3 W.W.R. 472; 39 Man.R.(2d) 8; 50 R.F.L.(2d) 421 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 15].

Hougen v. Monnington (1991), 9 B.C.A.C. 222; 19 W.A.C. 222; 37 R.F.L.(3d) 279 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 15].

Prentice v. Lang (1987), 10 R.F.L.(3d) 364 (B.C.S.C.), refd to. [para. 15].

Moge v. Moge, [1992] 3 S.C.R. 813; 145 N.R. 1; 81 Man.R.(2d) 161; 30 W.A.C. 161, refd to. [para. 16].

Rawluk v. Rawluk, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 70; 103 N.R. 321; 38 O.A.C. 81; 23 R.F.L.(3d) 337; 65 D.L.R.(4th) 161; 36 E.T.R. 1; 71 O.R.(2d) 480, refd to. [para. 19].

Syncrude Canada Ltd. et al. v. Hunter Engineering Co. and Allis-Chambers Canada Ltd. et al., [1989] 1 S.C.R. 426; 92 N.R. 1, refd to. [para. 24].

Davidson v. Worthing (1986), 9 B.C.L.R.(2d) 202; 6 R.F.L.(3d) 113, refd to. [para. 30].

Murdoch v. Murdoch, [1975] 1 S.C.R. 423; 13 R.F.L. 185; 41 D.L.R.(3d) 367, refd to. [para. 63].

Everson v. Rich (1988), 71 Sask.R. 133; 16 R.F.L.(3d) 337; 53 D.L.R.(4th) 470 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 72].

Canadian Aero Service Ltd. v. O’Malley, [1974] S.C.R. 592; 40 D.L.R.(3d) 371, refd to. [para. 74].

Murray v. Roty (1983), 41 O.R.(2d) 705; 147 D.L.R.(3d) 438; 34 R.F.L.(2d) 404 (C.A.), refd to. [para. 89].

Hussey v. Palmer, [1972] 1 W.L.R. 1286; [1972] 3 All E.R. 744, refd to. [para. 91].

Lawrence v. Lindsey (1982), 38 A.R. 462; 21 Alta. L.R.(2d) 141; 28 R.F.L.(2d) 356 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 91].

Chase Manhattan Bank N.A. v. Israel-British Bank (London) Ltd., [1979] 3 All E.R. 1025; [1981] Ch. 105, refd to. [para. 96].

Herman v. Smith (1984), 56 A.R. 74; 34 Alta. L.R.(2d) 90; 42 R.F.L.(2d) 154 (Q.B.), refd to. [para. 104].

Statutes Noticed:

Divorce Act, R.S.C. 1985 (2nd Supp.), c. 3, generally [para. 17].

Authors and Works Noticed:

Farquhar, Keith B., Causal Connection in Constructive Trust After Sorochan v. Sorochan (1989), 7 Can. J. of Family Law 337, p. 343 [para. 15].

Farquhar, Keith B., Causal Connection in Constructive Trusts (1986-88), 8 Est. & Tr. Q. 161, generally [para. 93].

Goff and Jones, The Law of Restitution (3rd Ed. 1984), p. 80 [para. 96].

Hovius, Berend, and Youdan, Timothy G., The Law of Family Property (1991), pp. 136ff [para. 30]; 146 [para. 98]; 147 [para. 100].

McLeod, James, Annotation to Everson v. Rich (1988), 16 R.F.L.(3d) 338, gen­erally [para. 73].

McLeod, James, Annotation to Kshywieski v. Kunka (1986), 50 R.F.L.(2d) 421, p. 422 [para. 85].

Narev, Ian, Unjust Enrichment and De Facto Relationships (1991), 6 Auckland U.L. Rev. 504, generally [para. 93].

Neave, M., Three Approaches to Family Property Disputes–Intention/Belief, Unjust Enrichment and Uncon­scionability, in Equity, Fiduciaries and Trusts (T.G. Youdan ed.) (1989), pp. 251 [para. 15]; 253 [para. 15]; 254 [para. 78].

Palmer, George E., The Law of Restitution (1978), vol. 1, p. 16 [para. 4].

Scane, Ralph E., Relationships ‘Tanta­mount to Spousal’, Unjust Enrichment and Constructive Trusts (1991), 70 Can. Bar Rev. 260, generally [para. 93].

Scott, Austin Wakeman, The Law of Trusts (4th Ed. 1989), vol. 5, p. 304 [para. 62].

Simon, J.E.S., With All My Worldly Goods (1964), p. 32 [para. 16].

Welstead, Mary, Domestic Contribution and Constructive Trusts: The Canadian Perspective, [1987] Denning L.J. 151, p. 161 [para. 17].

Youdan, Timothy G., Equity, Fiduciaries and Trusts (1989), pp. 251 [para. 15]; 253 [para. 15]; 254 [para. 78].


G. William Wagner and R.C. Bernhardt, for the appellant;

Nuala J. Hillis and Jessie MacNeil, for the respondent.

Solicitors of Record:

Nixon, Wenger, Vernon, Vancouver, Brit­ish Columbia, for the appellant;

Schroeder, Pidgeon & Company, Vancouver, British Columbia, for the respondent.

This appeal was heard on November 12, 1992, before La Forest, L’Heureux-Dubé, Sopinka, Gonthier, Cory, McLachlin and Iacobucci, JJ., of the Supreme Court of Canada.

On March 25, 1993, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada was delivered in both official languages and the following opinions were filed:

McLachlin, J. (La Forest, Sopinka and Iacobucci, JJ., concurring) – see para­graphs 1 to 39;

Cory, J. (L’Heureux-Dubé and Gonthier, JJ., concurring) – see paragraphs 40 to 106.


Peter v. Beblow

[1993] 1 SCR 980

Supreme Court of Canada
Reading Time:
43 minutes
Cory, Gonthier, Iacobucci, McLachlin 

McLachlin, J.
: I have had the advantage of reading the reasons of Justice Cory. While I agree with his conclusion and with much of his analysis, my reasons differ in some respects on two matters critical to this appeal: the issues raised by the requirement of the absence of juristic reason for an enrichment and the nature and application of the remedy of constructive trust.

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