Supreme Court Affirms Protection for Private Records: R v Quesnelle

This summer in R v Quesnelle, 2014 SCC 46, the Supreme Court of Canada held that police occurrence reports that relate to complainants or witnesses in sexual offence cases, and that are not directly related to charges an accused is facing, are subject to the Mills regime. As such, these records may only be released if they are “likely relevant” and disclosure is in the “interests of justice.”

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[filed: Criminal Law]

R v Conception: The Last Word Between Courts and Hospitals for Unfit Accused

Part XX.1 of Canada’s Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46 [the Code], fundamentally altered the way a criminally accused person with a mental illness engages with the criminal justice system. This comprehensive new structure was a response to cases like R v Swain, 1991 1 SCR 933, in which Parliament recognized the need for a new statutory regime sensitive to the legal interests of the mentally ill accused and the safety of the public.

R v Conception, 2014 SCC 60 [Conception] brings one portion of Part XX.1 into sharp focus. When an accused is found unfit to stand trial because of mental illness (UST), Part XX.1 includes provisions for procedures designed to render the accused fit for trial. Among those provisions are sections 672.58 and 672.62(1) of the Code. The former allows a court to make a “treatment disposition”—an order that an accused undergo psychiatric treatment, with or without her consent, for a period less than 60 days. The latter section, 672.62(1), adds a caveat to the former: no treatment disposition can be made without the consent of the person in charge of the designated hospital or the person who is assigned responsibility for the accused’s treatment.

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[filed: Charter Constitutional Law Criminal Law]

Assessing Mens Rea in Cases of Child Abandonment: R v ADH

In R v ADH, [2013] 2 SCR 269, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) articulated its position on the requisite fault element for the offence of child abandonment. While the SCC unanimously held that the accused in the case should be acquitted, it was split (5:2) on whether mens rea should be assessed subjectively or objectively.

The majority determined that a subjective standard is applicable. In what follows, I will focus on several salient points of dissent, in the hopes of offering insight into judicial reasoning around the issue of mens rea as it applies to child abandonment.

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[filed: Criminal Law]

Confidentiality and the Ontario Sex Offender Registry: CSCS v IPC

In Ontario (Community Safety and Correctional Services) v Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2014 SCC 31 [CSCS v IPC], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) was asked to interpret the interaction between the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSO 1990, c F31 [FIPPA] and Christopher’s Law (Sex Offender Registry), 2000, SO 2000, c 1 [Christopher’s Law]. This post will discuss two issues from the decision:

  • Whether information contained in Ontario’s Sex Offender Registry (“Registry”), created by Christopher’s Law, can be accessed through the FIPPA; and
  • The test that must be satisfied to trigger the law enforcement exemptions within the FIPPA.

In its decision, the SCC held that the Registry’s confidentiality will not be strictly protected.

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[filed: Access to Information]

R v Sipos: When to Exercise Curative Powers

In R v Sipos, 2014 SCC 47 [Sipos, SCC], the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) unanimously concluded that the new evidence presented by James Peter Sipos to the Ontario Court of Appeal (ONCA) did not place the appeal “in that exceptional category in which the evidence is sufficiently compelling that it demands appellate intervention” (Sipos, SCC at para 49). As such, Cromwell J. dismissed the appeal and upheld the dangerous offender designation (para 50).

In upholding the decision of the trial judge (Lofchik J.), the SCC made important assertions about the curative powers of appellate courts and the role of fresh evidence in dangerous offender appeals.

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[filed: Criminal Law]

Public Law Promissory Estoppel Clarified: Immeubles Jacques Robitaille Inc v Quebec

Earlier this year, Justice Wagner provided a concise and well-reasoned answer to an interesting question: Having operated a business for a decade in violation of a zoning bylaw, does a company have an acquired right of non-compliance? In Immeubles Jacques Robitaille inc v Québec (City), 2014 SCC 34, Wagner J. found that a business is not able to rely on a municipality’s actions (or inaction) to defend itself against a charge that it operated in contravention of a bylaw.

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[filed: Municipal Law]

Workplace Safety Is Paramount: Dionne v Commission scolaire des Patriotes

A pregnant woman should not have to choose between her health (or the health of her fetus) and work, the Supreme Court declared in Dionne v Commission scolaire des Patriotes, 2014 SCC 33. In the unanimous ruling from five judges, the court also sent the message that provincial tribunals must take care that their decisions do not undermine the purpose of the legislation they are making rulings for.

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[filed: Administrative Law Labour and Employment]

State Surveillance Powers Made Available to Plaintiffs in a Class Action: Imperial Oil v Jacques

In a decision released on October 17, 2014, Imperial Oil v Jacques, 2014 SCC 66, a majority of the Supreme Court upheld a Quebec motion court’s ruling that allowed plaintiffs in a class action to access relevant government surveillance materials during civil discovery proceedings. The class action arose after an investigation of gasoline price-fixing in Quebec led to criminal charges against numerous companies and individuals. Following the investigation, a group of plaintiffs represented by Simon Jacques launched a class action to recover the undue profits from Alimentation Couche-Tard and from Imperial Oil, operator of Esso gas stations.

To help make their case at the preliminary stages, the plaintiffs requested access to relevant wiretap evidence collected by the Competition Bureau of Canada (“Competition Bureau”) during its investigation of price fixing. The Supreme Court’s decision affirmed the motion court’s order requiring the requested disclosure to be made. This decision is certain to embolden future plaintiffs but also to leave both defendants and investigators uncertain about the scope of required disclosure.

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[filed: Access to Information Class proceedings Commercial Law Evidence Law]

A Lesson in Surety Cooperation: Can-Win (Toronto) Limited v Moncayo

The recent Ontario Court of Appeal (“ONCA”) split decision in Can-Win Leasing (Toronto) Limited v Moncayo, 2014 ONCA 689, barred Can-Win Leasing’s claim for equitable contribution against Mr. Moncayo. In doing so, the ONCA clarified when a surety, after voluntarily repaying a guarantee they shared with other parties, can demand contribution from a co-surety. Together, this case sends a message to sureties that share guarantees: work together.

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[filed: Commercial Law Restitution and Unjust Enrichment]

Threats of Violence, Personal Injury Offences, and Dangerous Offender Applications: R v Steele

In R v Steele, 2014 SCC 61 [Steele SCC], the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) grappled with the issue of whether the mere threat of violence is enough to satisfy the legal criteria of a Serious Personal Injury Offence (“SPIO”), which is a pre-condition for the Crown to pursue a dangerous offender application.

One of the most serious criminal consequences one can face in Canada is being entered into the dangerous and long-term offender system. Those that are deemed to pose an ongoing threat to the public can face indeterminate detention and long-term supervision.

Entry into the system requires that two conditions be satisfied. First, the offender must have been convicted of an SPIO as defined in section 752 of the Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46 (the “Code”). Second, there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the offender might be found to be a dangerous offender under section 753 of the Code or a long-term offender pursuant to section 753.1. The SPIO requirement, therefore, plays an important gatekeeper role.

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[filed: Criminal Law]