It was a busy month for criminal law in Canada, particularly at the Supreme Court. Here are some of the highlights:
The Supreme Court of Canada’s Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin announced that she will be retiring early after spending 36 years on the bench. The announcement has prompted many tributes and reflections of her time as Chief Justice. This article where she speaks to the Globe and Mail’s Kirk Makin provides some interesting insights into her legacy.
Ontario has announced that it will call an inquiry into the safety and security practices of nursing homes, following the deaths of eight seniors at the hands of Elizabeth Wettlaufer in her capacity as a nurse. Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to murder, admitting that she fatally injected her patients with insulin. Anne London-Weinstein, defence lawyer and president of the Defence Counsel Association of Ottawa discusses the case and the inquiry here.
The inquest into Andrew Loku’s death took place over the month, revealing many details that were not released in the Special Investigations Unit report. Loku was killed by Toronto police officers nearly two years ago in July of 2015 and on June 30, 2017 a 5 person jury ruled that the case was a homicide. They came up with 39 recommendations, many of which focus on anti-black racism and implicit bias, as well as de-escalation and use of tasers.
In R. v Cody, the court reaffirmed its decision in the R. v. Jordan case, which imposed limits on the acceptable delay in getting a matter to trial. In Cody, the Court reviewed the framework that had been established with respect to s. 11(b), examining the role of illegitimate defence conduct. It found that such conduct should be deducted from the total delay. This post from University of Calgary’s Drew Yewchuk summarizes the decision, while defence lawyer Annamaria Enenajor argues that the Supreme Court’s invitation to carefully scrutinize defence conduct could cause a chilling effect on zealous advocacy.
In R. v. Antic, the Supreme Court examined the bail practices throughout the country, calling for a consistent application of the principles of bail. Specifically, it reminded lower courts to use the ‘ladder approach’ in deciding the least onerous form of bail. This post from Lisa Silver’s ‘Ideablawg’ frames the decision as a call to action to be mindful of the principles of justice that underpin our democracy, especially in light of Canada’s 150th.
Finally, in R. v. Bradshaw, the Supreme Court examined the rules of evidence surrounding hearsay, in a case where the Crown had sought to use a video re-enacted statement at trial. The Court recognized that such hearsay is presumptively inadmissible, and tightened up the use of the ‘principled exception’ rule in the threshold needed for corroborative evidence. The case may make it harder for Crown’s to introduce hearsay, as argued here by Richard Fowler, who acted for the accused.