Deferring away Liberty: Prisoner’s rights and the difficulty in using the Charter

Case law focusing on prisoner’s rights has created substantive rights for inmates while they remain behind bars.  The advent of the Charter undoubtedly impacted prisoner’s rights jurisprudence, but to what extent? One could probably create a list of the rights that prisoner’s have gained post-Charter, but there remains a reliance on pre-Charter jurisprudence to establish the necessity of including the protection of the civil and human rights of prisoner’s.

It is my hope that bringing old case law into contemporary discussions on prisoner’s rights works to establish the rigidity of the Court’s position on it’s dedication to protecting rights for prisoners but also to contextualize the development of deference to correctional authorities which stems from a pre-Charter era.  This is significant because the Charter, if given the weight it deserves, should be a match against deference. Read the rest of this entry »

Supreme Court Rules “Mr. Big” Confessions Presumptively Inadmissible

Thursday’s Supreme Court decision on the admissibility of confessions from “Mr. Big” operations could prompt the review of dozens of convictions, the CBC reports.

The Supreme Court’s decision in R v Hart examined the use of “Mr. Big” sting operations, in which undercover police officers pose as criminals in order to elicit a confession from a suspect. The Court expressed concerns about the credibility of these types of confessions, and ruled that these confessions should be treated as “presumptively inadmissible”, with the onus now falling on the Crown to prove that they are reliable and should be admitted.

The CBC reports that Phillip Campbell, a lawyer for the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario believes that a number of people who have been convicted based on these confessions will have a good chance at appealing their convictions.

Read the CCLA’s statement on the decision here.

Read the CCLA’s factum in R v Hart here.

Report on Toronto Police Use of Lethal Force calls for ‘zero deaths’ police culture

On July 24th, a comprehensive report carried out by former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci on how Toronto police should deal with people in crisis was released, reports the Globe and Mail . The report proposes 84 in-depth recommendations for the Toronto Police use-of-force model. Police Chief Bill Blair ordered the report last August after the killing of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim, who was shot by a police officer on an empty streetcar. The chief described it as a hugely important document and said it will be implemented. The National Post’s Jennifer Hough provides six things you should know about the Iacobucci report’s recommendations.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) welcomes Justice Iacobucci’s Report, and commends Chief Bill Blair for calling for this independent Review and for the renewed commitment he made today to implement the Report’s recommendations. The CCLA will be monitoring follow-up to ensure the recommendations are implemented. To read a full copy of CCLA’s March 29th recommendations to the Independent Review of the Use of Lethal Force by the Toronto Police Service, visit

P.E.I. rate of jailing before trial Canada’s lowest

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association released a report last week titled “Set up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pre-trial Detention,” which questions the extensive rise in pre-trial custody populations and identifies the extreme personal and financial costs of current practices in Canadian bail courts. The report reveals that more than half of the inmates in provincial jails across the country are simply awaiting trial or a determination of their bail, and have not been convicted of anything. However, the study shows that P.E.I., with fewer than 20 per cent of inmates awaiting trial, has the lowest remand rate in the country.

Charles Thompson, a justice of the peace who conducts bail hearings in Charlottetown, believes the rest of Canada can take some lessons from P.E.I.’s justice system, the CBC reports.

Download the CCLA’s full report, Set Up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pre-trial Detention.

Read the CCLA’s quick bail and pre-trial detention fact sheets:


Wheelchair user says basic human rights are being ignored in N.S.

After suffering from Encephalitis, Halifax-resident Denise Fitzgerald became wheelchair-bound and was released from the hospital this past January, writes Global News . It was this experience that caused her to notice the accessibility issues in Halifax. Finding accessible apartments, medical offices, stores, restaurants in Halifax is a challenge, according to Fitzgerald.

Nova Scotia has the highest per capita percentage of self-identifying persons with disabilities, writes Global News. The Minister of Community Services, Joanne Bernard, who responsible for the Disabled Persons Commission, said that last month an advisory panel was created to look at accessibility legislation. The goal of the advisory panel is to design accessibility legislation what will be introduced in 2016.


Human Rights Tribunal awards couple $30,000 after harassment by neighbour

The Montreal Gazette reports that a Quebec woman was ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal to pay $30,000 for hateful racial harassment toward her next-door neighbours. The couple may unfortunately never receive any of the award, as the respondent has disappeared, making it a judgment by default.

Through the judgment, the Quebec Human Rights tribunal wants to send a clear message about racial discrimination and its harmful effect to victims and society. The couple that brought the claim say the neighbour constantly yelled racial slurs at them, even in front of their young daughter. The accused neighbour was seen to own a gun and also made death threats against them. The couple also filed a criminal complaint, in which their neighbour was sentenced to six months of community service. They were ultimately forced to move because of the threats and harassment. According to the executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race relations, who helped bring the claim to the Tribunal, this decision sets an important precedent that demonstrates “this kind of hateful, violent, racial harassment will … be treated harshly.”

First Nations Blockade Opening of St Martian Channel

The National Post reports that Interlake First Nations communities have established a blockade on Lake St. Martin to prevent reopening of an emergency channel. Protesters contend that opening the emergency channel will damage the fishing industry in the region while the province argues that the channel will help reduce flooding in southern Manitoba. The blockade has led the Manitoban government to threaten legal action and officials have already contacted the RCMP for assistance.

Notably the protests have occurred in the context of a recent Supreme Court decision on Aboriginal land title rights. In Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, where ownership rights have not been signed away in treaties, “… the court recognized the existence of aboriginal title on a particular site…” and defined Aboriginal title as”… control [over...]  ancestral lands and the right to use them for modern economic purposes, without destroying those lands for future generations.” The court also recognized that in some instances governments would be able to intrude on these land rights where Aboriginal interests are reconciled with wider public purposes.

For more information, please refer to the Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia decision here.

Debate about doctors’ right to refuse treatment for religious reasons re-ignited

The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons is conducting a policy review that is renewing the debate surrounding whether doctors should be allowed to refuse treatment due to their religious beliefs, writes the Ottawa Citizen. Currently, there are three doctors that work at an Ottawa CareMedics walk-in clinic that refuse to prescribe birth control because of their religious views, outlining their position by distributing flyers to patients.

The Ottawa Citizen explains that, under the currently policy, “doctors have the right to refuse treatments and procedures for religious or moral reasons as long as they communicate their position clearly, advise patients of all potential options, advise patients they can see another physician and treat patients with respect.”

The policy review is part of a routine human rights code check. The College is asking the public and doctors for their opinions and feedback on the issue. It will also have consultations with other groups, including the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The new policy will be published by the end of the year.

On the College’s website, the response to the poll question, “Do you think a physician should be allowed to refuse to provide a patient with a treatment or procedure because it conflicts with the physician’s religious or moral beliefs?” has been met with 70% of people answering no.

New Brunswick: Hospital Privacy Breach Report Set For Release

CBC News reports that New Brunswick’s privacy commissioner, Anne Bertrand, is expected to release a report on Thursday into a privacy breach at the Dr.-Georges-L-Dumont University Hospital Centre where a doctor accessed patient files without authorization. In March, The Vitalité Health Network confirmed that it had informed 142 women that a doctor at the Dumont hospital looked at their medical records.

A CBC News investigation discovered the doctor is Fernando Rojas, a radiation oncologist, at the hospital in Moncton. Many of the files Rojas accessed were of young adult women in their early 20s and 30s, who he had worked with or had met. Rojas accessed the records over a two-year period ending in November of 2012 and during that time he looked at addresses, dates of birth, diagnosis, types of tests the patients underwent and their results.

Anne Bertrand, the province’s privacy commissioner, has spent months investigating the file by using details provided by those affected and by the health authority. Bertrand will try to answer the question about why Rojas looked at the files. All of the women who spoke to CBC News revealed that they had met the doctor at least once. Some of the women work or worked at the hospital, while others served at a restaurant where he was a regular customer. None of the women were his patients. All of the women were shocked by the news and want to know why Rojas wanted to look at their personal records. Rojas has been off the job for several months and Vitalité will not comment on his current status and why he’s not working at the hospital.


Manitoban Mayorial Candidate is Target of Racism

After a debate in St Boniface, CBC News reports that Robert-Falcon Ouellette, a 37 year old Aboriginal Program Director  at the University of Manitoba, received racist comments on his Facebook page because he had argued entirely in French.  St Boniface is an area of the Winnipeg city that is the centre of the Franco-Manitoban community and Ouellette had spoken French to honour the hosts of the debate. But as a result of the decision, he received abusive messages criticizing his Aboriginal and French background.

For Oulette, this has not been the first time he has faced prejudice. He acknowledged that despite his many years of education and service to his country, there would still be some who cared more about his background than his campaign platform. Other candidates, including Dan Vandal, a Métis, had also faced racism while campaigning. Despite these incidents, many believe that the prejudice is not representative of the city and are hopeful about the prospects of electing a mayor from a diverse background.

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