Empress of the Universe

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

I am grateful and proud of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

My husband had a court date today for a driving offence. To say that he was nervous is a serious understatement. For at least the past six months, not a day has gone by that he hasn't thought about this day looming before him. But that's understandable -- he's never been in court for anything, not even a parking ticket. And, of course, nothing quite makes you feel like a criminal than having to enter a court building.

It's amazing to me that people complain about our courts and our police. After an afternoon people-watching at the courthouse in downtown Toronto today, I am convinced those complainers are the same ones who appear before the judge in ripped jeans, belly piercings exposed, sideways baseball caps, unshaven, leather jackets, designer bball-shoes, laces trailing behind. We're not talking about the poor, disadvantaged or underprivileged here. I stood outside the courthouse for some time watching the traffic come and go. We're talking about the hip hop boys who pull up in the low-riding Acuras with the bass blaring so loud there are sonic booms in their wake. Or the hair-flipping "Ginas" who show up with their girly-girl entourages driving Daddy's BMW.

Hubby's driving offence took place on June 1, 2005. His agent, an articling 20-something law student working for X-Copper, made an application before the court under the Charter that guarantees all Canadians the right to due process within a reasonable time of the original offence. In the case of traffic violations, that reasonable timeframe has been deemed to be eight-to-ten months, allowing for court back-logs and delays. It has been over 16 months since the original charge was laid. In fact, it inspired me to read the Charter in its entirety and there it is, right near the top:

Schedule B

Constitution Act, 1982
Enacted as Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.) 1982, c. 11, which came into force on April 17, 1982


Canadian charter of rights and freedoms

Section 11 reads:

11. Any person charged with an offence has the right

a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;
b) to be tried within a reasonable time;
c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;
d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;
f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;
h) if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again; and
i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

After checking a few legal points (did the justice of the peace have jurisdiction to rule on this application? yes.), "Your Worship" asked the Crown Attorney to comment on this delay (I have no reply, Your Worship.) The charge was dismissed.

I am quite proud of this Charter. The preamble states:

Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law:

and Section 1 guarantees:

1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

I am also grateful that we did not have to invoke Section 12:

12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

and, of course, it was not necessary use the "notwithstanding clause."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey - good news for Lju. I'm sure that this will take a load off, eh?


10:02 PM  

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