Mutual Legal Assistance Requests to Canada
Requests Made under Treaties/Conventions or By Designated Entities
The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act gives Canada the legal authority to obtain court orders on behalf of countries that are parties to mutual legal assistance agreements with Canada. These include bilateral treaties and multilateral conventions containing provisions for mutual legal assistance.
In addition, the statute gives Canada the legal basis on which to obtain court orders for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Court.
The types of court-ordered assistance available to Canada’s mutual legal assistance partners under the statute include:
- search and seizure;
- gathering physical or documentary materials;
- compelling witnesses to give statements or testimony, including by video or audio link,
- transferring sentenced persons to the requesting country, with their consent, to give evidence or to assist in an investigation;
- lending court exhibits;
- examining a place or site in Canada;
- enforcing foreign restraint, seizure and forfeiture orders; and
- enforcing criminal fines.
In general, to obtain court-ordered assistance under the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, the request must establish reasonable grounds to believe that,
- an offence has been committed; and
- evidence of the commission of the offence, or information that may reveal the whereabouts of a suspect, will be found in Canada.
This requires a clear connection between the foreign investigation and the Canadian evidence sought.
Requests Made by Non-Treaty Countries/Letters Rogatory
More limited types of assistance are available to countries that are not party to a mutual legal assistance agreement with Canada. Under the Canada Evidence Act, orders compelling witnesses to give evidence (including by video-link) and to produce records can be issued at the request of a foreign state. However, this avenue of cooperation requires that two essential conditions be met:
- The request must be made by a judge, court or tribunal in the requesting country (Letters Rogatory); and
- The criminal matter for which the assistance is sought must be pending before the foreign judge, court or tribunal.
In addition, to the extent possible, Canada will also execute non-treaty requests for assistance made by foreign police and prosecutors where the assistance needed may be provided on a voluntary basis (e.g. taking voluntary statements from persons; obtaining publicly available documents; or serving documents).
Finally, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act permits Canada to enter into a time-limited administrative arrangement with a non-treaty country to respond to a request for court-ordered assistance.
Foreign central authorities are encouraged to contact the IAG to determine whether a mutual legal assistance request is necessary to obtain assistance from Canada and, if yes, the legal and procedural requirements for granting the assistance sought. Foreign law enforcement authorities should contact their own central authority. For example, U.S. law enforcement authorities may contact the Office of International Affairs at the U.S. Department of Justice by calling (202)514-0000 and asking for an attorney on the Canada team.
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