As March roared both in and out like a lion, the world of criminal law in Canada saw some important legislative changes and Supreme Court decisions, among other news-worthy cases.
The federal Justice Minister announced a bill that would eliminate unconstitutional sections of the Code, colourfully referred to as ‘zombie laws.‘ While some critics argued that this is re-opening the debate on abortion (one provision to be removed), Minister Wilson-Raybould emphasized that this is the first step in a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system. Zombie laws became front page news after a judge wrongly applied an unconstitutional section of the Code in the Travis Vader murder trial, as discussed in last September’s round-up. I appeared on CTV to discuss the issue, and how these provisions should have been removed long ago.
The Liberal party also announced that it would legalize marijuana by July of 2018, but would download the responsibility of regulation to the provinces.
Ottawa headlines were dominated this month by the news of Ottawa Police Service officer Daniel Montsion being charged with manslaughter after the death of Abdirahman Abdi last July. The news has spurred an internal audit of the assault gloves that the officer was wearing, and further controversy has erupted over other police officers wearing bracelets in support of Montsion.
In R v. Paterson, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a warrantless search based on an individuals’ admission of possession of marijuana was not lawful.The Court emphasized that a home has a high degree of privacy, and that if the circumstances of the situation were not serious enough to go and get a warrant, then they were not serious enough for a warrantless search. Sean Fine of the Globe and Mail provides a good overview and analysis of the case here.
The Supreme Court also considered the case of R v. Oland on the issue of bail. The court examined the public interest criterion of section 679(3)(c) of the Criminal Code, which includes public safety and public confidence in the administration of justice. Ultimately, the court found that the appeal court has erred in denying Mr. Oland bail.
An Ottawa teenager was found not guilty of a number of charges after a judge found that he was unlawfully arrested and punched by an officer. His lawyer, Leo Russomano, successfully argued that his client’s Charter rights were repeatedly violated throughout the interaction.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Michael Spratt to co-host an episode of his aware winning podcast “The Docket.” Have a listen to hear us discussing NCR rulings, delays in the courts and the issue of phones in the jail.