The Right to be Tried Without Undue Delay.

AuthorDavison, Charles

Since the turn of the century, there are many --too numerous to count--"important cases" in the field of criminal law. Some have dealt with procedure, some with the substantive law, and some with enhancing and protecting the basic rights of Canadians. However, as shall be seen, the case which I have selected as "the most important" deals with all these aspects. What makes this case important are the significant "ripple effects" we have experienced and continue to experience as a result of this ruling.

The Runners Up

Before turning to this "most important" decision, however, I want to mention some of the "runners up".

First on the list is the 2009 Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v Grant. In this case, the Court revisited the 1987 test for excluding evidence when the police or other state actors violate the rights of an accused person. The Court sought to reinvigorate, and clarify, the factors a judge should consider in making this decision. It directed judges to look at the nature of the rights-infringing conduct, and to decide whether this is state behavior which the court should tolerate or whether it is misconduct of a sort the court must clearly condemn and disassociate itself from. The decision reemphasized the importance of ensuring state actors respect the rights of the individuals with whom they are in contact.

Another is the 2012 decision in R v Ipeetee. In this case, the Supreme Court returned to the question of the proper sentencing of Aboriginal offenders in Canada. In 1999, the Court rendered a decision (the famous Gladue ruling) telling judges how to interpret and apply a Criminal Code provision requiring that the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders be taken into account in sentencing. The Criminal Code provision and Gladue were intended to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal persons in our prisons. However, in the years after 1999, the rates of Indigenous imprisonment only increased. In Ipeelee the Court re-emphasized, and provided further direction to the lower courts, about when and how to take into account the background circumstances of both the individual offender and their community in general during sentencing. (Sadly, the imprisonment of Aboriginal persons in this country continues at the same, or higher, rates as before either of these rulings.)

Finally, in 2015, the Supreme Court responded to the Harper Conservatives' efforts to impose mandatory minimum sentences for many offences where none had...

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