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June 2018 Criminal Law Round-up

News:

A report was released this month, authored by Justice Toscano Rocamo of the Superior Court in Ottawa, outlining who makes up juries in Ottawa. The result, unsurprisingly, is that juries are overwhelmingly white and earning high incomes. Ottawa defence lawyer Solomon Friedman commented on the study, saying that it is time to revamp how we select jury pools, including moving away from municipal property rolls. 

The federal government's bill legalizing the recreational use of cannabis passed in the senate, with legal marijuana to be available in October.

Along with the changes to cannabis, Bill C-46 passed, which will mean that impaired driving laws will now include random breath testing. This change is significant to the way that impaired driving works in Canada now, and the Senate had voted to remove this provision. However, it was re-instated by the Liberals, and it will remain to be seen if it will withhold a Charter challenge, something defence laywers have warned against. This article summarizes some of the concerns brought forward by the Criminal Lawyer's Association, or you can read the full submissions here.

Cases:

The legal saga of Groia v. Law Society of Upper Canada finally came to a close this month, as the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the lawyer for Bre-X executive John Felderhof did not act inappropriately during that trial. The court found that allegations made against the Crown in that case were held in good faith and did not meet the test for incivility.  (I would recommend having a listen to Sean Robichaud's podcast 'Of Counsel' where he interviews Joe Groia. It's definitely worth a listen.)

In another lengthy case, the Supreme Court ruled in Ewert v. Canada regarding the classification of Indigenous people in federal prisons. The Court found that there is cultural bias in how Correctional Services Canada assesses and classifies offenders, and that there is a need to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in federal prisons. For a deep dive into the facts behind this case and the ramifications, check out Amy Matychuks's blog post from ABLawg . 

The case of R v. Suter was released by the Supreme Court this month. In a bizarre set of facts, the accused was originally sentenced to 4 months jail after pleading guilty to refusing to provide a breath demand following a fatal car crash. Despite this poor advice, and the fact that he was later abducted by vigilantes and had his thumb cut off with garden shears for his role in the death, the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned the sentence and imposed a 26 month sentence. The Supreme Court reduced the total sentence to the 10 and a half months that had been served. The Court dealt with the implications of collateral consequences (i.e. vigilante justice) and the mistake of law (advice from lawyer), stating that these could have some impact on sentencing. Defence lawyer Kyla Lee comments on the case on her blog, specifically linking it to the new random breath sample regime. 

Finally, the legal saga of Winston Blackmore has come to an end, as he and James Oler plead guilty to polygamy and were sentenced to house arrest. Blackmore, the leader of the polygamous community in Bountiful BC was prosecuted for having 2 dozen wives. On the blog Robson Crim, Rebecca Bromwich discusses the constitutionality of continuing to criminalize polygamy in the context of family law, particularly as family structures and relationships evolve.

And a few more things to note!

Congrats to Emond Publishing for winning the Hugh Lawford award for excellence in legal publishing. Well deserved for their Criminal Law Series, which is an excellent resource for practitioners. (As I've previously mentioned, these books have become a staple in my practice)  

Also, check out Naomi Sayers' site thegoodcharacter.com where she tells the story of going through the process of a good character investigation as part of the licensing applcation to the Law Society of Ontario. (Not all applicants go through an investigation.) Naomi's story shows how the process is at odds with the Law Society's commitments to Indigenous applicants, and includes calls to action to ensure that the LSO's good character requirements and processes are in line with its commitment to social justice, equity and diversity. 

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