Section Update - January 2019

  • January 04, 2019

I am writing to update all CBA Criminal Justice Section members about our recent 30th annual meeting with Justice Canada officials, which took place on October 24, 2018. Section members Eric Gottardi, Tony Paisana, Jayme Williams and myself, along with Gaylene Schellenberg from the CBA Advocacy department, spent the day speaking with various Justice Canada lawyers responsible for several current criminal law files. Not surprisingly, a good part of the day was spent discussing Bill C-75, the Criminal Omnibus Bill, and in particular, we focused on preliminary inquiries, police routine evidence, the use of agents and jury reform.

On the issue of preliminary inquiries, it seemed that our views were known but unlikely to result in change to what is proposed in the Bill. Our compromise proposal in the Section’s submission on Bill C-75 had been considered, but rejected. On a more positive note, there was a better response to our submissions on routine police evidence. Justice lawyers asked for further feedback from us on that issue, and on the impact of the changes in the Bill around the use of agents and law students. This openness to some of our proposed changes was also borne out by the subsequent debate and changes made to the Bill by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We had appeared before the Committee with our submission in September, represented by Tony Paisana and Kathryn Pentz, QC. The MPs on the Committee appeared to have carefully considered our entire submission, rather than only the executive summary, and were appreciative of our analysis. In fact, we were one of the only groups that had grappled with the entire Bill, as opposed to just a particular portion of it. In the Committee’s report back to the House, a Liberal MP mentioned the CBA brief specifically.

The elimination of peremptory challenges was also on the agenda at the meeting with Justice Canada. Although broader political issues are at play, there may be some more room for change. We had the impression that our comments about the practical implications of the proposals, in particular trial judges’ stand aside power, raised some interesting considerations for the officials. More comprehensive jury reform seems to be planned, so there may be more room for Section advocacy on this issue in the future.

We also received an update from Justice Canada on the new cannabis legislation. The legislation includes a ticketing regime - for example, where an individual might be caught with more than 30 grams of marijuana but less than 50 grams, a ticket might be imposed. It seems that despite the best laid plans, provinces and territories are not yet on board with that regime and no jurisdiction is yet doing the ticketing. It remains to be seen if criminal charges will be laid in these cases, or if the jurisdictions will eventually come on board.

Finally, there was no news on any plans to change mandatory minimum sentences, but a more comprehensive look at sentencing may be planned, with change unlikely until after the upcoming election.

If you would like to get involved with the Section, there are opportunities to do so and I invite you to take a look at the information below and tell us how you would like to participate.


Ian Carter
Chair of CBA Criminal Justice Section


Interested in federal law reform activities and want to contribute to CBA policy on criminal law matters? This may include helping draft Section submissions, highlighting those positions to media or parliamentary committees, responding to government consultations and discussion papers, and working with volunteers from other CBA Sections on areas of common interest. There are lots of opportunities for anyone interested in criminal justice policy to get involved and the Section needs more volunteers to help with this important work!

Please contact Gaylene Schellenberg for more information on what is currently on our agenda.