A review of Legal Aid Ontario was released this month, showing that the deficit will require more cuts to legal services to low income people in Ontario. This editorial from the Toronto Star hits the nail on the head, arguing that despite the uncertainty of need and difficulty securing funding, low income people should not be left to fend for themselves.
While our federal government is slated to tackle mandatory minimum sentences, a change that is long overdue, according to advocate Eric Gottardi, the U.S attorney General, Jeff Sessions is planning to up their use. In a move that would move away from Obama’s criminal justice reform and return to a law and order mentality. (If you want to remind yourself of how a tough on crime regime can harm people, particularly racialized communities, you can read my post on the movie 13th.)
Of course, many communities in the States are pushing back on these policies. One inspiring story of resistance came on Mother’s Day, where local racial justice organizations worked to have mothers released on bail in a program called Mama’s Bail Out Day.
Back in Canada, the podcast Canadaland had a fascinating episode called “How Your Rap Lyrics Can Land You In Prison’ about the use of rap lyrics in Canadian trials. The panel of guests looked at the 2015 case of R v. Campbell, where the trial judge had to consider the evidence of a rap video released by the accused, and whether the lyrics amounted to a confession. You can read an in-depth analysis of the case by University of Windsor prof David Tanovich.
In Quebec (Criminal and Penal Prosecutions) v. Jodoin, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a defence lawyer who delayed a trial was required to pay costs. The Court explained that the threshold in criminal proceedings for costs is high, but found, by a narrow margin, that the conduct of the defence lawyer in bringing a number of recusal motions was serious enough to warrant him being punished for his behaviour. Defence lawyer Frank Addario commented that the case could have a chilling effect on defence lawyers, who have an ethical obligation to vigorously defend their clients.
After many months and days of court time, Anita Krajnc of the famed Toronto ‘Pig trial’ was acquitted of the charge of mischief for feeding water to pigs who were on their way to slaughter. The judge found that Kranjnc had not interfered with the owner’s lawful use of the pigs, who went to slaughter in any events. The case, which was well attended and publicized by animal rights activists, has also raised questions as to the appropriate use of Crown resources and court time in this era of trial delays.
The Alberta Court of Appeal struck down that province’s regulations of driver’s licence suspension pursuant to impaired driving charges. In Sahaluk v. Alberta Currently, people who are accused of impaired driving lose their licence until their matter is finished, leaving some to be without a licence until their trial is concluded, even if they are ultimately found not guilty. The province has a year to revise its legislation. (In Ontario, there is a 90 day administrative licence suspension, and then a person can resume driving until they are convicted of the offence and a driving prohibition is imposed.