Justice Paul Bychok, a Nunavut judge, has questioned the applicability of the trial time limits set by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Jordan and permitted four trial of a Nunavut man on trial for rape and indecent assault to continue.
In R v Jordan, the Supreme Court of Canada established an upper limit for trial length. Provincial court trials longer than 18 months, and superior court trials longer than 30 months, are presumed to have been unreasonably delayed, and therefore constitute a violation of the accused’s right to be tried within a reasonable time under s. 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any delays attributable to or waived by the defence do not count towards this time limit. Further, the prosecution can rebut the presumed violation if they can establish the delay was the result some exceptional circumstance, including delays because of a case’s complexity or resulting from unforeseeable and unavoidable events. The Supreme Court set this ceiling out of concern that the ballooning length of criminal trials was undermining public confidence in the criminal justice system.
In the case before Justice Bychok, four-and-a-half years have passed since charges were laid against Lukasie Anugaa and the scheduled trial start date. The delays were in part a result of two mistrials. Mr. Anugaa has petitioned the court to throw out his case. His application was dismissed. According to Nunatsiaq News, Justice Bychok dismissed the application because the national approach set out in R v Jordan does not take Nunavut’s special circumstances into account, and further, that R v Jordan permits court delays where they are reasonably understandable or unavoidable. The justice intends to say more on the issue in his written decision.
Nunavut has only seen four applications for stays of proceedings related to court delays following the R v Jordan decision. The courts have rejected two applications and granted one. One application is still pending as of July. In other jurisdictions the number of such stays are much higher. As of July 2017, approximately 1,766 applications have been filed for charges to be stayed because of unreasonable delays across Canada since the R v Jordan decision.
This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.