The biggest news of the month came right at the end: an announcement from federal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould of Bill C-75, an omnibus crime bill that proposes sweeping changes to the criminal justice system. Beyond the elimination of preliminary inquiries and peremptory challenges, there are a number of changes that are very regressive and worrisome, including having police testimony admitted by way of affidavit and increasing the maximum penalty of summary offences. See an overview, with commentary by defence lawyers Frank Addario and John Struthers, or this clip with University of Ottawa prof Carissima Mathen.
What the bill failed to address was mandatory minimum sentences. This articles from Sean Fine of the Globe and Mail explores how the courts have been left to deal with constitutional challenges to mandatory minimums in a haphazard fashion, resulting in uneven sentencing laws throughout the country.
While the proposed provisions relating to peremptory challenges were spurred by the Gerald Stanley trial, the changes may result in less diverse juries, according to Ottawa lawyers Solomon Friedman and Michael Spratt. Still, there has been some success in the Ottawa Indigenous People’s Court.
The Supreme Court released its decision in R v. Carson, which dealt with the trialof Ben Carson, one of Stephen Harper’s top aids. The Court found Carson guilty of influence peddling for having used his political position to push First Nations communities to buy water purification systems, ruling that the phrase “relating to any matter of government business” captured the activity in issue.
In R v. D.A Justice O’Marra of the Ontario Court of Justice ruled that the appropriate delay in youth cases should be 12 months, as opposed to 18 months for adults. Brock Jones provides a quick overview of the case on his blog, which states that the shorter timeline then established in R v. Jordan is appropriate for youth given the Youth Criminal Justice Act’s recognition of the necessity of promptness and speed given a young person’s perception of time.
The issue of the exclusion of evidence in impaired driving cases was addressed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R v. Jennings. The Court addressed the divergent lines of authority in Ontario with respect to the seriousness of the impact on the accused of breach. It ultimately rejected the line of cases following R v. Au-Yeung, which allow for teh court to take into consideration the entire detention, not just the taking of the samples itself, finding that breath samples constitute a minimally intrusive search.