The Quebec government is forging ahead with the deployment of a series of specialized sexual and domestic violence court pilot projects in spite of forceful opposition by the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec, the tribunal that will manage and operate the new endeavour.
Barely a month after a Quebec coroner recommended that people convicted of murdering their partners be compelled to wear electronic tracking devices when released from prison, the provincial government announced that some conjugal violence offenders could be ordered to wear tracking bracelets beginning next spring.
Police officers who demand drivers to provide breath samples must have an approved screening device with them to be able to immediately conduct the test, ruled a full bench of the Quebec Court of Appeal, upending its own previous guidance that allowed delays depending on the circumstances.
The long-awaited ruling sets clear obligations for police officers, falls in line with Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence that asserts that delays cannot be justified for practical reasons given that the right to counsel is temporarily suspended, and is widely expected to have an sizeable impact on impending cases, according to criminal lawyers.
Under that provision, a judge has the power to order the taking of DNA samples from a person who’s been convicted of certain offences, so-called “designated offences.” It also allows a judge to issue a warrant to obtain DNA samples from a person suspected or accused of a designated offence.
A new divisional court dealing with conjugal and sexual complaints is expected to be launched by the beginning of 2022 by the Court of Quebec, potentially setting the stage for a legal battle against the Quebec government over judicial independence and the administration of justice.
The Quebec government tabled in mid-September a bill that will create a “specialized” tribunal that is expected to take a different approach to dealing with victims of domestic and sexual violence by moving away from the traditional criminal justice framework and have judicial institutions work in collaboration with specially trained jurists and specialized police units in tandem with social and community services to cultivate a victim-centred approach.
An unusually public clash between the Quebec Justice Minister and the Chief Justice of the Court of Quebec has materialized over competing visions on how to deal with conjugal and sexual violence cases, with little signs of abating.
The simmering skirmish between the executive and the judiciary erupted in the open shortly after Chief Justice Lucie Rondeau announced on Sept 28th the creation of a new division within the Court of Quebec to deal with conjugal and sexual violence offences, two weeks after the Quebec government tabled a bill that would move away from the traditional criminal justice framework to deal with gender-based violence and create a “specialized” court to deal with these offences.
A man who subjected his ex-wife to nine years of domestic violence was ordered by Quebec Superior Court to pay her nearly $47,000 in damages, the second time in less than a month that a Quebec court ordered an abusive spouse to pay damages for the violence they inflicted.
In a decision welcomed by family law experts and advocates against family violence who believe it is the harbinger of an emerging trend, Quebec Superior Court Justice Gregory Moore held that recent amendments to the federal Divorce Act (Act) “underline the sensibility that the the courts and parties must demonstrate faced with this challenge” to society. Justice Moore awarded more than $1,900 in damages, $30,000 in non-pecuniary damages and $15,000 in punitive damages.
“This is a developing trend because society in general rejects family violence, because there is heightened awareness by the courts over the issue of family violence, and because domestic violence is no longer viewed by the courts as being only a ground for granting divorce but as a possible cause of physical and psychological harm that must be compensated,” said Michel Tétrault, a family law expert who has written “Droit de la famille.”
The Quebec Court of Appeal, exasperated by provincial government inaction, delivered a rare but stinging rebuke over recurring systemic unmitigated delays in securing trial transcripts that disproportionately affect English-speaking appellants which “regrettably” puts into question the proper administration of criminal justice in Quebec.
Calling for a paradigm change in approach, the Quebec Court of Appeal issued clear and explicit guidance over the preparation and production of trial transcripts as litigants in criminal proceedings should “not be left without judicial remedies” when they face unreasonable appellate delays resulting from the “state’s inaction.”
Barely two weeks after the federal ombudsman for crime victims called on Parliament to overhaul Canada’s victims bill of right, asserting that it has fallen far short of delivering the “real rights it promised,” the Quebec government introduced a bill that will revamp its crime victims legislation to expand the number of people it will cover, making it the most generous in the country.
Canadian judges have demonstrated very little awareness over the heightened risks of domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that should prompt judges to attend comprehensive legal training over what the United Nations has described as the “shadow pandemic,” according to human rights and legal aid experts.
A Quebec man accused of tax evasion by provincial tax authorities won an “important” legal battle after the Court of Quebec applied the landmark Jordan ruling and ordered a stay of proceedings and charges.
The decision affirms that the principles set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Jordan, 2016 SCC 27,  1 applies to white collar crimes, clarifies the notion of “complexity of the case,” underlines that the prosecution must analyze the evidence and develop a “concrete management and trial plan” before laying charges, and it may even prompt Revenu Quebec to review its procedures, according to tax lawyers. The ruling also suggests that the Covid-19 pandemic is not in itself sufficient grounds to justify delay, without examining other factors.