supreme court of canada

Mandatory Victims’ Surcharge Quashed by Supreme Court

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Supreme Court of Canada, the highest court in Canada, has eliminated mandatory victim surcharges for convicted criminals.

The Supreme Court, in a 7-2 ruling, held that the surcharge amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The court stated that making the victim fine mandatory does not allow sentencing judges to consider mitigating factors, ignores the goal of rehabilitation, and undermines the intention of the government to address the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in prison.

WHAT IS THE MANDATORY VICTIM SURCHARGE?

The victim surcharge, which was established in 1988, is a monetary penalty that is automatically imposed on those convicted in Canada at the time of sentencing. Five years ago, the government removed the ability for judges to waive or lower this fine and made them mandatory in all cases.

The victim surcharge can be found under section 737 of the Criminal Code. The surcharge is calculated at 30% of any fine imposed. If no fine is imposed, the surcharge is $100 for lower-severity offences and $200 for more serious offences. If the offender has the financial means and the court considers it appropriate, the offender may be ordered to pay a higher amount.

The money collected from victim surcharges was intended to be used by the government to make offenders more accountable and help fund programs and services for victims of crime.

WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA?

Alex Boudreault (“Boudreault”), a Quebec man, pleaded guilty to several counts related to breaches of probation orders, breaking and entering, possession of stolen property, and assault with a weapon.

Boudreault, a high-school dropout who was unable to hold a steady job, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of $1,400 by a court in Quebec. At that time, Boudreault argued that the victim surcharge infringed his Charter rights guaranteeing him freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. These arguments were rejected by the court.

Boudreault appealed this ruling, which was dismissed by the Quebec Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Appeal agreed to hear Boudreault’s appeal, along with six other similar cases. In all seven cases, the offenders argued that they were living in poverty and suffered from physical and mental illnesses, struggled with addiction in some cases, and could not afford the victim surcharges.

The Crown argued that the fines were not unacceptable as the offenders could ask for more time to pay and that the money collected was put towards improving the lives of the victims. For example, in Ontario, these funds are used to support 39 sexual assault and rape centres and the Ontario Child Witness Project (designed to help children and adolescents who are called to testify as victims or witnesses in court).

The appellants argued that the surcharges were a violation of section 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which protects against cruel and unusual punishment. They argued that the surcharge was grossly disproportionate to the crime committed.

The majority of the Supreme Court agreed with the appellants and struck down the entire section of the Criminal Code pertaining to victim surcharges and it was “declared to be of no force and effect immediately”.

The judgment reads:

The surcharge constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violates s. 12 of the Charter, because its impact and effects create circumstances that are grossly disproportionate to what would otherwise be a fit sentence, outrage the standards of decency, and are both abhorrent and intolerable.

 Justice Sheilah Martin, writing for the majority decision, also stated:

Judges have been forced to impose a one-size-fits-all punishment which does not take into account the individual’s ability to pay. In this context, the resulting indeterminate punishment results in a grossly disproportionate public shaming of disadvantaged offenders.  It is what most Canadians would call an abhorrent and intolerable punishment.

Although this decision eliminates all fines owed by the seven offenders and no future victim surcharges can be imposed in any circumstances, it does not eliminate outstanding victim surcharge orders. Those offenders who owe these fines, must seek relief in the courts on an individual basis.

The Liberal government is now left to determine the future of the surcharge. There is currently drafted legislation awaiting passage by the Senate giving judges the discretion to waive or apply the victim surcharge. A spokesperson for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould has advised that she is reviewing the Supreme Court decision “to assess the appropriate next steps”.

We will continue to follow any developments or changes in the law as they become available, and will provide updates in this blog.

In the meantime, to speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about any charges laid against you or your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are available when you need us most.

Supreme Court Declines Bid for Appeal by Toronto Cop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The highest court in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada, has denied the request for leave to appeal made by Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo (“Forcillo”) of his 2016 conviction of attempted murder and six-year jail sentence.

We have previously blogged about both the trial court decision, in which the jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim (“Yatim”), and the Ontario appeal court decision, which upheld the trial court decision.

WHAT HAPPENED?

The shooting death of Yatim on July 27, 2013 was recorded on video by a bystander showing Forcillo shooting Yatim in two separate intervals. Forcillo shot Yatim as he stood on the steps of an empty Dundas streetcar, and then resumed firing 5.5 seconds later as Yatim lay on the ground, apparently dying.

The police were called upon after Yatim exposed himself and handled a small knife on a streetcar, prompting both passengers and the driver to flee the streetcar.

Although a jury acquitted Forcillo of second-degree murder for firing the initial fatal shots, he was held guilty of attempted murder for pausing for 5.5 seconds and deciding to fire at Yatim six more times.

Forcillo was sentenced to six years in jail for firing the second set of shots which were found to be “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and an “egregious breach of trust”. Forcillo proceeded to appeal his conviction and sentence, and was granted bail while awaiting his appeal.

In November, 2017, while Forcillo awaited the appeal of his conviction he was placed on house arrest bail and was living with his estranged wife, who was also his surety. During this time, SIU investigators went to his fiancee’s home to assess the apartment’s suitability. Forcillo answered the door and tried to explain that his presence at the home was only temporary. However, a lease agreement of the rental unit was found to be signed by Forcillo and his fiancée, and his name was found on the intercom directory in the apartment lobby. Forcillo was charged with failing to comply with his recognizance.

Forcillo’s bail was revoked and he was sent to prison to await the appeal of his conviction and sentence. During this time, new charges were laid against him alleging that he committed perjury by making a “false statement under oath in an affidavit” and obstructing justice by attempting to cause a judge of the Court of Appeal to act on an affidavit made under oath that contained omissions, misleading, and or false statement.

The charges for obstruction and breach of bail conditions were withdrawn after Forcillo pleaded guilty to perjury. Forcillo was sentenced by Justice Sandra Bacchus to six months in prison, on top of his existing 6 year jail term.

In April, 2018, Forcillo’s case was heard before the highest court in Ontario where his lawyers argued, in part, that the shooting should not have been divided into two separate charges as it was one continuous event. The Ontario Court of Appeal found that there were differences between the two volleys of shots by Forcillo, and therefore upheld Forcillo’s conviction and sentence.

Forcillo applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. This was Forcillo’s last available remedy to overturn his conviction and jail sentence. The Supreme Court of Canada only hears approximately 11% of all cases that submit applications to be heard by the highest level of court in Canada. The court does not provide any reasons as to why cases are rejected at this level.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Forcillo officially resigned from Toronto Police Service on September 4, 2018.  He becomes eligible for day parole in July 2019 and eligible for full parole as of January 2020.

Forcillo’s criminal case has now ended with the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear his appeal, however, his legal battles are not yet over. There is still a coroner’s inquest to be held, a date for which has not yet been set. Also, Yatim’s parents have filed separate civil lawsuits against Forcillo.

Sergeant Dusan Pravica (“Pravica”), who arrived on the scene seconds after Yatim was shot, is also facing one count of misconduct under Ontario’s Police Services Act and awaits a hearing before the Toronto Police Disciplinary Tribunal. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director completed an investigation following Yatim’s death (and a complaint filed by Yatim’s father) and concluded that Pravica used unnecessary force, failed to assess the totality of the circumstances, and acted in haste when he Tasered Yatim as he lay on the ground. Pravica gave evidence at Forcillo’s trial that Yatim was still clutching a knife as he approached him and he felt that Yatim still posed a threat.

We will continue to follow Pravica’s case and await the results of the hearing before the Toronto Police Disciplinary Tribunal, and will report any developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Supreme Court Upholds First Degree Murder Convictions for Death of 6-Year-Old

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has upheld the first-degree murder convictions of Spencer Jordan (“Jordan”) and Marie Magoon (“Magoon”), who were charged in the death of six-year-old Meika Jordan (“Meika”).

Defence lawyers requested that the SCC reverse a decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which upgraded Jordan and Magoon’s second-degree murder convictions after ruling that Meika had been confined prior to her death (a condition that automatically increases the severity of a murder offence).

Under the original second-degree murder convictions, Jordan and Magoon had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for a minimum of 17 years. The upgraded first-degree murder convictions carry an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On November 14, 2011, Meika died after spending the weekend at the home of her father, Jordan, and stepmother, Magoon. The six-year-old was tortured for days leading up to her death by being forced to run stairs, dragged up and down the stairs by her ankles, repeatedly hit and even burned. She suffered damage to her internal organs and a subdural hematoma and cerebral swelling caused by at least five blows to her head. No medical attention was sought until Meika was in complete cardiac and respiratory failure. Jordan and Magoon told police that Meika had fallen down the stairs, however, the medical evidence supported a pattern of frequent and intentional violence.

Jordan and Magoon were charged with first degree murder and convicted of second degree murder at trial in 2015. They appealed their convictions and the Crown prosecutors appealed the first degree murder acquittals. The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the accuseds’ appeals, but allowed the Crown appeals. The Appeal Court held that the accused unlawfully confined Meika rendering them liable for first degree murder under section 231(5) of the Criminal Code of Canada (“CC”).

The SCC refused to hear an appeal to have the convictions entirely quashed, but did hear arguments on the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision to upgrade the charge from second-degree murder to first-degree murder.

The nine SCC justices took less than 10 minutes to come to the decision to dismiss all appeals in November, 2017. The SCC found that the Court of Appeal did not err in substituting verdicts of guilty of murder in the first degree. The written reasons for the ruling were released on April 13, 2018.

MURDER IN THE FIRST DEGREE

The crime of murder is deemed as the most vicious of crimes in Canadian society. This is reflected in the harshness of the sanctions and punishments for this crime.

In Canada, there are two divisions of murder and one of manslaughter. First degree murder is planned and deliberate (with a few exceptions), whereas second degree murder is defined as murder that is not first degree (not premeditated). Manslaughter is defined as a homicide committed without the intention to cause death.

First degree murder bears an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Once on parole, offenders remain on parole for the rest of their life and must report to a parole officer and are subject to conditions of their parole. If any of the conditions of parole are broken, they are sent directly back to prison without a hearing.

WHAT IS FIRST DEGREE MURDER UNDER SECTION 231(5) OF THE CRIMINAL CODE?

There are some homicides automatically deemed first degree murder, even if they were not intentional or planned. These include assassination of a police officer or prison employee on duty (section 231(4) of the CC) or murder committed in conjunction with one of the following offences (section 231 (5) of the CC):

  • hijacking;
  • sexual assault;
  • sexual assault with a weapon;
  • aggravated sexual assault;
  • kidnapping;
  • forcible confinement;
  • hostage taking;
  • terrorism;
  • intimidation;
  • criminal harassment; or
  • any offence committed on behalf of a criminal organization.

The section of the CC that was applied in Meika’s case was section 231(5)(e), which reads as follows:

(5)       Irrespective of whether a murder is planned and deliberate on the part of any person, murder is first degree murder in respect of a person when the death is caused by that person while committing or attempting to commit an offence under one of the following sections:

            (e) section 279 (kidnapping and forcible confinement);

The case of R. v. Pritchard explained Parliament’s intention to “treat murders committed in connection with crimes of domination as particularly blameworthy and deserving of more severe punishment”.

The applicable test to be applied in determining guilt of first degree murder under section 231(5)(e) of the CC was set out in R. v. Harbottle. The Crown must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  1. the accused was guilty of the underlying crime of domination or of attempting to commit that crime;
  2. the accused was guilty of the murder of the victim;
  3. the accused participated in the murder in such a manner that he/she was a substantial cause of the death of the victim;
  4. there was no intervening act of another which resulted in the accused no longer being substantially connected to the death of the victim; and
  5. the crimes of domination and murder were part of the same transaction.

In Meika’s case, the SCC found that although there were no physical restraints used, Meika was physically restrained and restricted to remain in her bedroom or the basement. Furthermore, given the parent child relationship there is less of a requirement for physical restraints due to the unequal relationship that exists. “[D]isciplining a child by restricting his or her ability to move about freely (by physical or psychological means), contrary to the child’s wishes, which exceeds the outer bounds of punishment that a parent or guardian could lawfully administer, constitutes unlawful confinement.” Therefore, the SCC found that the Harbottle test was met.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Supreme Court of Canada Finds That Some Texts Are Considered Private

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We have previously blogged about the topic of whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages. The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) ruled last week that Canadians can expect the text messages that they send to remain private even after they reach their destination (i.e. depending on the circumstances, there may be a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages even after they have been sent to another person).

In a 5-2 ruling, the SCC in R. v. Marakah set aside the firearms convictions of a man whose incriminating text messages were found on the phone of an alleged accomplice by Toronto police.

WHAT HAPPENED?

An Ontario man, Nour Marakah, sent text messages regarding illegal transactions in firearms to his accomplice, Andrew Winchester. The police obtained and executed warrants for both Marakah’s and Winchester’s homes. While conducting the search, the police found Marakah’s Blackberry and Winchester’s iPhone and proceeded to search both devices, which revealed the incriminating text messages. These messages were then used as evidence to charge Marakah.

At trial, Marakah argued that the messages should not be admitted as evidence against him because they were obtained in violation of his rights against unreasonable search or seizure under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (“Charter”).

The Ontario application judge found that the warrant for Marakah’s home had been invalid and that the text messages recovered from his own Blackberry could not be used against him. However, the court admitted the text messages from Winchester’s iPhone as evidence. Based on these messages, Marakah was convicted of multiple firearms offences.

The Court ultimately found that while someone who sends a text message has a reasonable expectation of privacy, this expectation ends when the message reaches the intended recipient.

Marakah appealed to the Court of Appeal, where he was unsuccessful. The majority of the Court agreed that Marakah could have no expectation of privacy in the text messages retrieved from Winchester’s iPhone, and therefore could not make a case against their admissibility. Marakah appealed further to the SCC.

SUPREME COURT OF CANADA RULING

The SCC allowed Marakah’s appeal, set aside the convictions and entered acquittals on all charges against him.

The Court found that Marakah had a reasonable expectation of privacy concerning his text messages. Therefore, the texts used as evidence to convict him had violated his guaranteed right to be protected against unreasonable search or seizure under the Charter.

In this case, Marakah was found to be the author of the text messages that he expected to remain private.  He had asked the recipient of the messages, Winchester, on numerous occasions to delete the messages. Marakah’s conviction was thrown out because the search was unreasonable and violated his right under section 8 of the Charter.

Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin, writing for the majority, stated,

I conclude that depending on the totality of the circumstances, text messages that have been sent and received may in some cases be protected under s. 8 and that, in this case, Mr. Marakah had standing to argue that the text messages at issue enjoy s. 8 protection.

The SCC did set out a four-step test to determine if and when one can reasonably expect privacy:

  1. What was the subject matter of the alleged search?
  2. Did the claimant (i.e. the person claiming privacy) have a direct interest in the subject matter?
  3. Did the claimant have a subjective expectation of privacy in the subject matter?
  4. If so, was the claimant’s subjective expectation of privacy objectively reasonable?

The SCC found that Marakah had standing to challenge the search based upon the following:

  1. The subject matter of the search was the electronic conversation between Marakah and Winchester;
  2. Marakah had a direct interest in the subject matter;
  3. Marakah subjectively expected the subject matter to be private;
  4. Marakah’s expectation was objectively reasonable.

The Court concluded that without the incorrectly admitted text message evidence, which was found to be inadmissible, Marakah would have been acquitted.

CAUTION BY THE SUPREME COURT OF CANADA

The SCC did caution that the expectation of privacy is not automatic and depends upon the facts of each case and that the outcome may be different in other circumstances. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin noted,

This is not to say, however, that every communication occurring through an electronic medium will attract a reasonable expectation of privacy and hence grant an accused standing to make arguments regarding s. 8 protection. This case does not concern, for example, messages posted on social media, conversations occurring in crowded Internet chat rooms, or comments posted on online message boards.

Therefore, we must expect that the law will adapt to changes and developments in technology and communication over time.   As these changes take place in the law, we will continue to provide updates through this blog.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer about charges laid against you or your legal rights, call Affleck & Barrison at 905-404-1947 or contact us online. We offer a free consultation and are available to help you 24/7.

 

 

New Brunswick Appeal Court Overturns Murder Conviction

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

New Brunswick’s highest court recently quashed Dennis Oland’s second-degree murder conviction in the death of his father, stating that the jury had sufficient evidence to reasonably convict Dennis Oland of murder, but had been improperly instructed on what was needed to arrive at that conclusion.

Error by Original Trial Judge

In a 41-page decision written by Chief Justice Ernest Drapeau on behalf of a three-judge panel, the Chief Justice stated that the original trial judge had erred in his instructions to the jury on an issue of “significant importance.”

The ultimate verdict was not unreasonable, but the case was not one “where the evidence pointing to guilt is so overwhelming that the outcome would necessarily have been the same, with or without the [trial judge’s] error,”

Chief Justice Drapeau stated that:

No accused is entitled to a perfectly instructed jury. However, the appellant, like all who elect to be tried by judge and jury, had the right to a properly instructed jury

Key Piece of Evidence: Hugo Boss Jacket

The error pertains to a key piece of evidence that had been used against Oland: a brown Hugo Boss sports jacket. Oland had told police that he had been wearing a navy-blue blazer when he visited his father at his office (where he was later found bludgeoned to death). Oland was the last known person to have seen his father alive. It later emerged that Oland had actually been wearing a brown Hugo Boss sports jacket when he visited his father.

A brown sport jacket was seized from Oland’s bedroom closet a week after his father’s death. Forensic evidence shoes that the jacket (which had been dry cleaned) had four small bloodstains matching his father’s DNA on it.

The original trial judge had informed the jurors that if they found Oland’s statement about which jacket he was wearing was an “intentional lie” related to the commission of the murder, they could consider this evidence, along with all other evidence in the case, in making their ultimate decision.

Chief Justice Drapeau stated that these instructions were “erroneous in law” and prejudicial to the defence.

The Appeal Court believes that there was “independent” evidence at the trial to suggest that Oland’s “false statement” to St. John police about what jacket he had been wearing the night his father was murdered was “concocted”.

The Court stated that the jury could have reasonably concluded that Oland’s story that he had been wearing a navy-blue blazer when he visited his father, instead of the brown sports jacket that he had actually been wearing was “a lie and not an honest mistake as he alleged”. In addition, there had been evidence from which the jury could have inferred that Oland was involved in the delivery of the blood-stained sport jacket to the dry cleaners.

The jury should have been told that it cannot rely on a deliberately false statement as a piece of circumstantial evidence in favour of the prosecution unless there was independent evidence that the statement had been made up. In addition, any such independent evidence should have been pointed out to the jury.

Chief Justice Drapeau stated that he expects the issue will be “fully debated” at Oland’s retrial, and that the burden of presenting any independent evidence will be on the prosecutors.

Request for Supreme Court of Canada Review

The court’s written reasons in support of their decision to quash the guilty verdict were not released until January 11. Prior to the release of the written decision, prosecutors had announced that they plan to ask the Supreme Court to Canada to review the decision to quash.

In order to obtain leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, prosecutors must successfully argue that the legal issues involved are of national importance and that they are worthy of review by the highest court in the land.

Waiting for the appeal court’s written decisions may help the prosecutors with their application for leave to appeal.  Generally, parties have 60 days from the date of a decision to file an application for leave. In this instance, that 60-day period lapsed on December 23, 2016. However, both prosecutors and Oland’s defense team had filed a joint request earlier in December seeking an extension. It remains to be seen what will happen with the status of the application.

Retrial

A retrial will not be scheduled until the Supreme Court decides whether it will agree to the extension requested by the prosecution and defense, and hear the appeal.

The Court is expected to make a decision as soon as April. If a new trial proceeds, it likely will not be heard until 2018. In the interim, Oland is out on bail.

We will continue to follow developments in this matter and will blog updates as they become available.

If you have questions about your rights, contact the skilled Oshawa defense lawyers at Affleck Barrison online or at 905 404 1947. For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services and a free confidential consultation. We are available when you need us most.

Unconstitutional Delay

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In a recent decision delivered by Justice Michael Moldaver, a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada sided with the dissenting opinion of Justice Brian O’Ferrall of the Alberta Court of Appeal criticizing the Crown for its failed prosecution and for institutional and logistical delays which could have been avoided.

The defendant, Shane Rayshawn Vassell, waited three years for a three-day trial. During that time, Mr. Vassell did whatever he could to move his case to trial. His defence counsel applied for a stay of proceedings under section 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms due to the delay, which was denied. The appeal was also dismissed.

Mr. Vassell argued that any delay that was not his own fault is the Crown’s fault and that the Crown, as the state, should be held responsible for the institutional failings of the state. Justice O’Ferrall in his dissent, agreed with Mr. Vassell, finding that the trial judge had mischaracterized the nature of the delay. Justice O’Ferrall also noted that the Crown must bear some responsibility for delay where it results from a failure to apprehend the parameters of the case in a timely fashion.

In a concisely-worded decision, the Supreme Court noted that “courts must be careful not to miss the forest for the trees”. Mr. Vassel attempted to move his case to trial and much of the delay was caused by his six co-accused and their lawyers. Although the Crown was entitled to prosecute all seven accused jointly, the Court noted that it was also required to remain vigilant that this decision not compromise the rights of the accused persons.  The Court found that a more proactive stance on the Crown’s part was required in these circumstances.

The Supreme Court set aside Mr. Vassell’s conviction and entered a stay of proceedings.

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

To read the full Supreme Court decision, click here.

To read the Alberta Court of Appeal decision containing Justice O’Ferrall’s dissent, click here.

RCMP Want Warrantless Access to Your Online Info

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In June 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that police are not entitled to warrantless access to online subscriber info. In the unanimous decision, the Court held that police must obtain a judge’s authorization in order to access customer information linked to online activities (R v Spencer). As a result, telecommunications service providers now demand court approval for most requests from law enforcement authorities for basic identifying information. This process now requires that police file time-consuming paperwork which has reduced the number of cases that can be pursued by police.

Earlier this week, at a security conference in Ottawa, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said police need warrantless access to Internet subscriber information to keep pace with child predators and other online criminal activity. He stated that it was time Canadians had a public conversation about how to prevent online exploitation. It’s an old argument: police always want fewer obstacles between their work and the people they pursue. But experts warn that expanding voluntary and warrantless disclosure raises serious constitutional questions.

Commissioner Paulson’s request for a public conversation is odd, given that the debate has already been held. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision last year, two parliamentary committees examined this issue. There was a great deal of editorial debate in the press about privacy concern and significant public outcry about former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s plans to increasing electronic surveillance.

According to the commissioner, children are being “hurt at a pace and frequency that is alarming.” Most people would agree that police should certainly be working to reduce the the exploitation of children online. However, critics feel that the RCMP is using this issue as a scare tactic designed to frighten people into giving up their privacy so the RCMP can have greater powers of surveillance over Canada’s citizens. Warrants are a critical safeguard that ensure that innocent Canadians are not targeted and their rights are not infringed. It is the responsibility of police to maintain law and order, online and in real life, but that doesn’t mean that they should have limitless power. Removing the privacy safeguards of millions of Canadians because the police claim new procedure takes too long does not solve the problem.

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

Sources:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/paulson-rcmp-subscriber-info-warrantless-access-1.3337028

http://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/openmediaca/2015/11/rcmp-pushing-warrantless-access-to-our-subscriber-info-again

On the Brink of Marijuana Legalization

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

With the election of the Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau just a few short weeks ago, Canada is now on the brink of legalizing marijuana. After decades of prohibition, Canadians are finally discussing the implementation of a national, regulated system for the sale of marijuana. The question of how to implement the legalization of marijuana is a big one, with many considerations. According to the Liberal party platform, one of the first steps on the path to legalization will be to establish a provincial, territorial and federal task force to hear from experts in the public health, substance abuse and law enforcement fields. Trudeau has not yet revealed how he plans to fulfill his election promise.

At present, the use of medical marijuana is already permitted by law. Last June the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously held that patients who qualify for medical marijuana have the right to obtain not just dried buds but any form of cannabis they find useful. Today, federally licenced producers produce and sell medical cannabis under rigorous safety and quality standards. The Liberals now intend to create a licenced and regulated marijuana system serving the recreational market, eliminating penalties for the possession of marijuana.

The Liberal party election platform also promised to create “new, stronger laws, to punish more severely” people who sell cannabis to minors, or to people operating outside of their as yet undefined new system. Given that outgoing Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was already responsible for introducing mandatory minimum sentences for cannabis offences, it is unclear just what kinds of “more severe” punishments the Liberals have in mind.

Legalization of cannabis should also include an amnesty for past cannabis convictions, so that those criminal records are erased from the system. The prohibition against marijuana has caused untold harm to the lives of many Canadians. Erasing all possession convictions and granting immediate pardons would be a step in the right direction. For trafficking or cultivation charges, there should be a process in place to allow people to have those criminal records erased, provide no violent or other significant crimes were also committed.

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

Is Canada Prepared for Physician-Assisted Death?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In February of this year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the provisions in the Criminal Code prohibiting physician-assisted death in Carter v Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5. The historic decision was written by all nine Supreme Court Justices signifying the institutional and national importance of the decision. The Supreme Court held that the ban on physician-assisted death contravenes Canadians’ right to “life, liberty and security of the person” as outlined in section 7  of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by forcing patients to endure intolerable suffering against their wishes and denying them autonomy over their bodies.

The Supreme Court was clear that the ruling only applies to competent adults who clearly consent to the termination of life and who have a grievous and irremediable condition that causes enduring, intolerable suffering. The Supreme Court gave the federal and provincial governments one year to draft appropriate legislation during which time the ban will continue to stand.  The Supreme Court also held that physicians who oppose the decision on ethical grounds cannot be compelled to assist in a patient’s death.

Since then, little has been done to consult with the public and to draft new legislation. According to a poll published in August, 2015,  77 per cent of Canadians support physician-assisted death for terminally ill patients. The Conservative government, however, is not in favour of the ruling, and waited until July to appoint a committee to consult Canadians, also stipulating that it could not consult during an election campaign.

Despite the having received significant media coverage in recent weeks, physician-assisted death has remained largely absent from the federal party leaders’ election platforms and the leaders have had little to say about the issue. In last week’s French-language debate, the question of doctor-assisted death was raised but the responses provided by the federal leaders were brief and somewhat vague. Regardless of which party wins the federal election on October 19, it seems unlikely, given the time constraints, that the February 6, 2016 deadline for implementing the legislative changes required by the Supreme Court’s ruling will be met. Although the ban on physician-assisted death will be lifted even if the government does not pass legislation, the potential for abuse demands that a comprehensive regime, which takes into the account the complexities of practical application, be implemented as soon as possible. Creating and implementing such a  regime will not be easy and should not be left to the last minute.

If you have any questions about this decision, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

To read the full decision in  Carter v Canada (Attorney General) click here.

Sources:

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/08/28/77-of-canadians-support-assisted-suicide-poll-shows.html

http://news.nationalpost.com/health/medical-leaders-grapple-with-new-euthanasia-dilemma-what-should-be-on-the-death-certificate

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/supreme-court-says-yes-to-doctor-assisted-suicide-in-specific-cases-1.2947487

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/court-has-ruled-on-assisted-death-but-canada-is-not-prepared/article26167297/

http://www.dyingwithdignity.ca/

 

The Current State of Canada’s Prostitution Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In December 2013, in the infamous Bedford case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the federal government time to draft new legislation. Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was born and came into effect late last year.

With the introduction of Bill C-36, the buying, but not the selling of sex was explicitly outlawed for the first time in Canada. The legislation also gave the police the power to prosecute people who advertise sex work and people who exploit or otherwise make money off sex workers.  Sex workers can still advertise their own sexual services, as the bill contains an exemption for sex workers themselves.

The government’s stated goal of the legislation was to reduce the demand for prostitution by “discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible”. The intent of the legislation is to make it more difficult for johns and pimps while protecting sex workers. Since the legislation has been enacted, the Toronto Police Service has begun a large-scale crackdown on human trafficking.

The legislation is not without controversy. Amnesty International has long been calling for the decriminalization of sex work involving consenting adults. The human rights group argues that criminalization of any sort makes it more likely that the rights of sex workers will be violated because the practices are pushed underground.

But other groups say that abolishing laws against prostitution lead to more violations of the rights of women and girls, and lead to human trafficking and child rape. Proponents of decriminalization argue that sex workers can be distinguished between women and children who are sold into sexual slavery and that there is a significant difference between coercive and consensual prostitution.

It is believed that Mali Jean, a Quebec man charged in Saskatchewan, was the first person to be charged under the new law on charges dated July 27, 2015.

 For more information and to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Sources:

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/barely-illegal-new-prostitution-laws-may-drive-sex-work-underground-but-can-it-stop-it

Man charged in Saskatoon under new federal prostitution laws