Appearance and evidence: Is the proof in the pudding?


Chancellor Day Hall NCDH 202, 3644 rue Peel, Montreal, QC, H3A 1W9, CA

The Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law welcomes Bertrand Stoffel, University of Zurich, for a Civil Law Workshop, under the theme « Les apparences en droit civil ».


Appearance plays a major role in civil evidence. Certainly, the judge may sometimes rely on science to prove facts. Often however, the judge will have to base her judgment on what appears to her as true or false.

In private law, proof is the demonstration of an alleged fact. It is the process that will lead the judge to the intimate conviction of the existence of the fact. But what, then, are the criteria for the establishment of such demonstration? To a large extent, the judge will rely on her own experience to establish the existence of a fact. She will review documents, hear statements, and inspect locations. All this will put the fact in evidence: It will make it appear as true or false.

The evidence—or appearance—of a fact will always be provisional. That is to say, no matter how many pieces of evidence are available, one can never be sure that this is exactly how the fact happened. Indeed, to the observer, the fact evidenced will remain an isolated fact. Moreover, the appearance of that fact will be that which the observer, in his own position and with his own experience, will perceive.

This workshop will explore how proof in private law can be a matter of appearance and how it relies on observation and probability. Reliance on observation is not without problems. Observation will disturb the facts, suppressing some of them and putting others in front. In the same vein, the judge will need to base her findings on her experience of life in order to establish the probability of a fact, thus linking proof with considerable uncertainty and subjectivity.

About the Civil Law Workshops

In order to promote fundamental research in private law, the Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law initiated the “Civil Law Workshop” series, bringing together jurists from Québec and beyond to work on related research topics. With their cross-disciplinary focus, the “Civil Law Workshops” contribute to enriching and stimulating fundamental research in private law.

The 2012-2014 series of civil law workshops presented by the Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law explore « Les apparences en droit civil ».

The workshops are presented with financial assistance from Justice Canada’s Support Fund for Access to Justice in Both Official Languages.

Registration is not required.