Mandatory Minimum

Canadians Charged with Importing $30M of Drugs into Australia

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Three cruise ship passengers from Quebec potentially face life in prison in Australia, after authorities discovered approximately $30.5 million worth of cocaine in their luggage.

The ship, the MS Sea Princess, sailed from London, England in early July. The cruise made a number of stops, including New York, Bermuda, Colombia, Chile, and New Zealand. Australia was the cruise’s final destination. The trio were arrested when their ship docked in Sydney.

Two of those charged, women in their 20’s, had posted a steady stream of photos of their journey on social media. The third individual was a man in his 60’s.

All three had been identified by border agencies as “high-risk travellers”. The arrest was the result of an exchange of information between several organizations, including the Canadian Border Service Agency and the U.S Department of Homeland Security.

The three Canadians did not enter pleas when charged. They will remain in custody in Australia until their next court appearance in October.

Drug Charges in Canada

What would happen if this cruise’s final destination had been Canada, and the cocaine had been bound for the Canadian market?

A number of drugs, including cocaine, are illegal in Canada. Drugs are categorized into complex schedules under the Controlled Drug & Substances Act. There are hundreds of drugs classified within each of these schedules. They range from heroin, cocaine, and morphine (Schedule I), to marijuana and cannabis resin (Schedule II), and LSD and amphetamines (Schedule III).

Other illegal substances falling variously into these schedules include: hashish, hash oil, crack, mescaline, psilocybin, barbituates, and anabolic steroids. As mentioned in a previous post, the status of marijuana may be changing, however it currently remains illegal for recreational or non-medical use.

There are a number of drug offences in Canada, including possession, drug trafficking, and drug importing/exporting.


In Canada, possession of illegal drugs and other controlled substances is punishable under both the Controlled Drug and Substances Act as well as the Criminal Code of Canada. Convictions can result in prison time, and/or heavy fines.

Possession can be proven where it can be shown that an accused had knowledge and control of the drug.

The severity of any possession charges laid will vary depending on the type and quantity of the substance involved, and the purposes for which you were in possession of it.

Drug Trafficking

The definition of drug trafficking in Canada is very broad, and includes: offering to sell, selling, giving, or transferring. Sentencing for trafficking can be harsh, particularly for a Schedule I drug, such as cocaine. Many trafficking charges carry mandatory minimum jail sentences. The maximum sentence for trafficking of cocaine (or another Schedule I drug) is life imprisonment.

Drug Importing

The Controlled Drug and Substances Act prohibits importing of Schedule I, Schedule II, and Schedule III substances, including cocaine, into Canada. Anyone who is found guilty of importing more than one kilogram of a Schedule I substance into Canada faces a minimum sentence of two years’ imprisonment, and can face up to life in prison.

Other Things to Know About Drug Offences in Canada

The majority of criminal offences in Canada are prosecuted by a provincial Crown Attorney at a local office. However, drug prosecutions are conducted by the Public Prosecutions Service of Canada, with prosecutors who have specialized and significant experience with drug cases.

Beyond just the spectre of imprisonment, including life imprisonment, a drug conviction can have a significant impact on your life. All drug convictions, even minor ones, go on your criminal record. This can, in turn, affect your travel outside of Canada, or your employment prospects going forward.

If you have any questions about drug charges or any other criminal defence matter, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Canadian Degrassi High Actor Arrested on Child Pornography Charges

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

A former Degrassi High actor and three Ontario women are facing multiple charges, including possessing child pornography, sexual assault, and bestiality.

Jason (Byrd) Dickens, his wife, Dylan Anne McEwen, and two other women were recently arrested following a months long probe by police. Police stated that they initially received a tip about a man uploading inappropriate images online in January 2016. This led to a search warrant in late April, at which time police discovered several devices containing videos and images.

Police believe that Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen actively sought out victims online and in person, going by several user names including: RetroDeviant, Byrd_Dawg and Sir Dirk (Mr. Dickens), and Doll, Dirty Doll (Ms. McEwen). Mr. Dickens and Ms. McEwen will appear in Toronto court on Sept. 1.

Police also believe that between January 2000 and January 2006, Mr. Dickens and another woman sexually abused a child and distributed child pornography online. The woman is charged with 10 child sexual exploitation offences, and Mr. Dickens faces six more charges in that case.

Additionally, police allege that Mr. Dickens met a third woman from Thunder Bay, who also faces one charge of making child pornography.

Police are concerned that the individuals may have had contact with “like-minded individuals” and there may be more victims.

Potential Consequences

It is unclear what the outcome of these charges will be. However, child pornography charges are taken very seriously by prosecutors and police.

Child pornography is defined as any media (photo, film, other) that depicts sexual activity with, or that displays the sexual regions of, a person under the age of 18 (Criminal Code of Canada, s. 163.1(1)).  It is a crime to make, publish, or print child pornography. It is also a separate offence to distribute, to possess or to access child pornography, including sharing on or downloading files from the internet.

In 2012, Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, imposed higher mandatory minimum penalties for making, distributing, possessing and accessing child pornography. Sentences for any individuals charged under s. 163.1 of the Criminal Code all carry mandatory minimum sentences, and no discharges, suspended sentences, or fines are available. Penalties include jail time, and a sex offender registration, which can remain on your record for your whole life.

Protecting Children from Child Pornography

Safeguards for those under 18 have been increasing in recent years. In 2011, the government passed Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. The legislation is intended to keep pace with technology used to distribute and access such content. It requires Internet service providers (ISP’s) and others (for instance, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, etc) to report any incident of child pornography.

Under this legislation, anyone can inform an ISP or other entity that a website, hostpage, or email contains child pornography. The ISP or other entity must then report the address of the site, page, or email as soon as possible to a designated organization or the police.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about your rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.