Marketing & Communications

Dramatis Personae in legal decisions

Now that the Master’s is done (surreal!) and I’ve had a few months of watching dumb horror movies, reading comics and playing various flavours of Magic: The Gathering online, I’m starting to poke at self-directed legal research again.

I’m starting with picking up my rejected original premise for my Master’s — puffery is fascinating, by God, and I will not be deterred from poking at it with a big dumb stick even if no serious legal academic on the planet thinks it’s worth doing.

But — as somebody who is eminently easily distracted — I almost immediately got detoured into interesting turns of phrases in some of the cases I was reading in CanLII where puffery is mentioned.

One of these,

Alcamo v. Walt, 2022 ONSC 1913 (CanLII)1 is a riveting read in and of itself. But I was immediately struck by the use of the phrase Dramatis Personae, which I’d never seen in a legal decision before, to establish the various parties in the case. A quick search of CanLII later, and there are only 49 decisions in the database (which only reaches back to the early 2000s, but still, it’s 18+ years and 3,000,000+ decisions) that use that specific string.

What are they, and who are they by? There’s only a trickle before 2008, and then they start occurring more frequently…


Fantl v. Transamerica Life Canada, 2008 CanLII 17304 (ON SC)2
Perell J


Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director) v. Z.G., 2010 ABPC 7 (CanLII)3
A.H. Lefever

Steinhoff (Re), 2010 IIROC 8 (CanLII)4
Getz, Lay, Treatro

Galustian v. Skylink Group of Companies Inc., 2010 ONCA 645 (CanLII)5
Watt JA


R. v. Bayani, 2011 ONSC 5225 (CanLII)6
R. Clark J


T.F. (Re), 2012 ABPC 5 (CanLII)7
Steven E. Lipton

McSherry v. Zimmer GMBH, 2012 ONSC 4113 (CanLII)8
Perell J

Arora v. Whirlpool Canada LP, 2012 ONSC 4642 (CanLII)9
Perell J


Sekhon v. Aerocar Limousine Services Co-Operative Ltd., 2013 ONSC 542 (CanLII)10
Perell J

D.J. (Re), 2013 ABPC 99 (CanLII)11
Steven E. Lipton


R v Fast, 2014 SKQB 84 (CanLII)12
Danyliuk J
“This case is about unscrupulous business practices, criminal schemes to make money, greed, and human nature.” — hot dang I like it when the justices get a little Grishamy in their headnotes.

Fontaine v. Canada (Attorney General), 2014 ONSC 4585 (CanLII)13
Perell J


R v. Beauchamp, 2015 ONCA 260 (CanLII)14
Cronk, Blair and Watt JJ.A.


Pev International Research & Development Incorporated (Re), 2016 NSUARB 88 (CanLII)15
Roberta J. Clarke, Q.C., Member

Kowalyshyn v Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, Inc., 2016 ONSC 3819 (CanLII)16
Perell J

Dhudwal v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2016 FC 1124 (CanLII)17
Mr. Justice Harrington


907687 Ontario Inc. (International Institute of Travel) v. 1472359 Ontario Ltd (IBT College of Business Travel & Tourism Technology), 2017 FC 969 (CanLII)18
Fothergill J


4075447 Canada Inc v Pacrim Developments Inc, 2018 ABQB 358 (CanLII)19
Robertson AR QC

Hallman Construction Ltd. v Cambridge (City), 2018 CanLII 70303 (ON LPAT) [Local Planning Appeal Tribunal]20
Swinkin, Douglas – Tribunal members


Fortress Carlyle Peter St. Inc. v. Ricki’s Construction and Painting Inc, 2019 ONSC 1507 (CanLII)21
Perell J

Signature Realty Inc. o/a Royal Lepage Signature Realty v. Fallico, 2020 ONSC 1117 (CanLII)22
Perell J

Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v. L.G., 2020 ONCJ 297 (CanLII)23
Kukurin J


Peters v. SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., 2021 ONSC 5021 (CanLII)24
Perell J

Barkley v. Tier 1 Capital Management Inc., 2022 ONSC 175 (CanLII)25
Perell J


Fehr v. Gribilas, 2022 ONSC 275 (CanLII)26
Perell J

Riha v. A. Wilford Professional Corporation, 2022 ONSC 1110 (CanLII)27
Perell J

Alcamo v. Walt, 2022 ONSC 1913 (CanLII)28
Perell J

Park Lawn Corp. v. Kahu Capital Partners Ltd., 2022 ONSC 3341 (CanLII)29
Perell J

Raponi v. Olympia Trust Company, 2022 ONSC 4481 (CanLII)30
Perell J

The attentive reader will notice a trend — Perell J, whose Alcamo decision got me on this groove in the first place, holds the strong plurality for the use of the phrase. It also seems to come up in Alberta more than anywhere else after Ontario (on review, it looks like almost all ON, several AB and a single SK use).

On Perell J’s frequent use, it occurred to me that I’m not a lawyer and will not be one; I’ll never appear before Justice Perell in court as a lawyer (and hopefully not in other contexts). I’m not a full-time legal academic. I’m just a curious person with a lot of intersecting interests in law. So I don’t really have to worry about my reputation or what he thinks of me.

So I emailed him to ask why this turn of phrase? Because I find it accessible, engaging, and even narratively strong. But it also feels a bit flip, and even cynical, to position the people on both sides of a legal dispute as “actors”. It’s a curious phrase, and it made me curious.

If he writes back, and is inclined to give me permission to share his thoughts on the use of the phrase, I’ll update here. If not, so it goes — a passing observation.

Update: he wrote back! About two days after I emailed, actually.

A really nice note from Justice Perell but without permission to reproduce, so to paraphrase, it’s not intended to be cheeky, but a recognition that litigation is inherently dramatic as something grounded in dispute, with dramatis personae a useful term of art to introduce not only litigants but all others involved in the story.

It was gratifying, and a bit thrilling, to hear back. Dramatis personae!

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By mattshepherd

I love storytelling, and helping organizations share their truth with the world. From non-profit media outlets to for-profit boutique agencies to one of Canada's great universities, I've been connecting institutions and stakeholders for a while, and enjoying both the journey and seeing great ideas find great audiences.