Legislative Background: An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as enacted (Bill C-75 in the 42nd Parliament)

Overview of Former Bill C-75

On March 29, 2018, the Government introduced Bill C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Former Bill C-75 (the Act), received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.

The Act:

  • modernizes and clarifies bail provisions;
  • provides an enhanced approach to administration of justice offences, including for youth;
  • abolishes peremptory challenges of jurors and modifies the process of challenging a juror for cause and of judicial stand-by;
  • restricts the availability of preliminary inquiries;
  • streamlines the classification of offences;
  • expands judicial case management powers;
  • enhances measures to better respond to intimate partner violence;
  • provides additional measures to reduce criminal justice system delays and to make the criminal law and the criminal justice system clearer and more efficient;
  • restores judicial discretion in imposing victim surcharges;
  • facilitates human trafficking prosecutions, and allows for the possibility of property forfeiture;
  • removes provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the SCC; and
  • makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

BailFootnote 34

(Principally clauses 210, 215, 225-227 and 235)

The bail system is intended to ensure that: (a) persons charged with a criminal offence will attend court to answer to the charge; (b) the accused will not pose a risk to public safety prior to their trial; and (c) confidence in the criminal justice system is maintained with respect to whether or not the accused is detained in the time period before their trial.Footnote 35 Where there are concerns that any of these objectives would be met if the accused were released after arrest, police can detain the accused and bring them before a justice, where they will have a right to a bail hearing to determine if they should be released. When releasing an accused, police or courts can impose certain conditions that accused are required to follow until the end of their trial. The challenges facing the criminal justice system, specifically regarding remand and the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons and accused from vulnerable groups who are traditionally disadvantaged in obtaining bail, call for a careful look at Canadian bail law. As noted earlier, Statistics Canada reported that 60% of adultsFootnote 36 in provincial/territorial correctional facilities and 59% of youthFootnote 37 in custody were denied bail and on remand.

The bail provisions in the Criminal Code had not been comprehensively amended since 1972, although they have been studied over the years, especially in light of the growing remand population. There have been many calls for reforms, including for comprehensive reform such as in the Senate Committee’s Report, Footnote 38 by the Steering CommitteeFootnote 39 and in resolutions for more discrete amendments from the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (Criminal Section) (e.g., Can-CBA 2012-0 on section 525 of the Criminal Code, and BC 2010-03 on subsection 516(2) of the Criminal Code (no-contact orders)). Many bail rules were unnecessarily complex and/or redundant, which added to criminal justice system delays, without necessarily contributing to public safety. In addition, unnecessary bail conditions were being imposed too frequently resulting in increased breaches and overburdening sureties.

The bail amendments in the Act have also been informed by the rights of accused persons under the Charter, namely the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause under section 11(e), as well as the right to liberty and the presumption of innocence. The SCC in Antic (2017)Footnote 40 recently affirmed that these rights require that an accused person not be denied bail without just cause and that any bail conditions placed on release be reasonable. The Honourable Wagner J. (now Chief Justice) writing for the Court, stated that the bail review judge’s errors in Antic were “symptomatic of a widespread inconsistency in the law of bail” and that “the bottom line so far has been that remand populations and denial of bail have increased dramatically in the Charter era”.Footnote 41 The Court emphasized a number of key principles and guidelines to apply in a contested bail hearing, including that releasing the accused without conditions should be the default position when granting release and that “release is favoured at the earliest reasonable opportunity on the least onerous grounds.”Footnote 42

The amendments in the Act modernize and streamline the bail regime, while ensuring public safety, and help to maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system.Footnote 43 Specifically, the amendments:

  1. streamline the process by increasing the types of conditions police can impose on accused, so as to divert unnecessary matters from the courts and reduce the need for a bail hearing when one is not warranted;
  2. provide guidance to police on imposing reasonable, relevant and necessary conditions that are related to the offence and consistent with the principles of bail;Footnote 44
  3. legislate a “principle of restraint” for police and courts to ensure that release at the earliest opportunity is favoured over detention, that bail conditions are reasonable, relevant to the offence and necessary to ensure public safety, and that sureties are imposed only when less onerous forms of release are inadequate (codifying AnticFootnote 45);
  4. require that circumstances of Indigenous accused and of accused from vulnerable populations are considered at bail, in order to address the disproportionate impacts that the bail system has on these populations;
  5. create a new process, the “judicial referral hearing”, to streamline certain administration of justice offences out of the traditional court system where no harm has been caused to victims; and,
  6. consolidate various forms of police and judicial pre-trial release to modernize and simplify the release process.

Intimate Partner ViolenceFootnote 46

(Clauses 1(3), 93, 97, 225(3) & (6), 292.1, 293, 293.1, and 294)

Despite increased efforts over the last 30 years to address violence against intimate partners, victimization by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of police-reported violent crimes committed against women.Footnote 47 There is no specific offence of intimate partner violence in the Criminal Code, but rather, it spans a range of conduct and offences which can be committed against intimate partners, including assault (causing bodily harm, with a weapon, and aggravated assault), kidnapping and forcible confinement, sexual assault (causing bodily harm, with a weapon, and aggravated sexual assault), criminal harassment, uttering threats, and homicide. Between one-fifth to one-third of violent intimate partners reoffend, and the majority of this recidivism (61%) occurs within six months of the previous offence, with more than one-third (37%) occurring within three months.Footnote 48

The Act amends the Criminal Code to:

  1. define “intimate partner” for all Criminal Code purposes and clarify that it includes current or former spouse, common-law partner and dating partner;
  2. create a reverse onus at bail for accused charged with a violent offence involving an intimate partner, if they have a prior conviction for violence against an intimate partner;
  3. require courts to consider prior intimate partner violence convictions when determining whether to release the accused or impose bail conditions;
  4. clarify that strangulation constitutes an elevated form of assault and a more serious form of sexual assault;
  5. allow a higher maximum penalty in cases involving an offender who has a prior conviction of intimate partner violence;
  6. create a new section to direct a court to give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence when imposing a sentence for an intimate partner violence offence where the victim is vulnerable because of personal circumstances (such as a victim who is “Aboriginal and female”);Footnote 49
  7. make clear that current sentencing provisions, which treat abuse against a spouse or common law partner as an aggravating factor, apply to both current and former spouses/common law partners, dating partners, and members of the victim or the offender’s family; and,
  8. create a new section to direct a court imposing a sentence for an intimate partner violence offence to consider the increased vulnerability of female persons who are victims, giving particular attention to the circumstances of “Aboriginal female victims.”Footnote 50

In addition to supporting the Government’s 2015 electoral commitments to enhance victim safety and to toughen the criminal law response to domestic assault, it is expected that these amendments will standardize practices to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system, while respecting the rights of the accused and maintaining public safety. These changes further assist in improving bail court efficiencies and help better protect victims of intimate partner violence.

Administration of Justice OffencesFootnote 51

(Clauses 212 and 234)

Administration of justice offences (AOJOs) are offences committed against the integrity of the criminal justice system. The most common AOJOs include failing to comply with bail conditions (i.e., disobeying a curfew, drinking alcohol), failing to appear in court and breaches of probation (e.g., failing to report to a probation officer). Over the years, the number of individuals charged with AOJOs has been increasing, despite a consistent decrease in the volume and severity of crime in Canada: in 2014, police reported that the rate of persons charged with an AOJO increased by 8% since 2004 (compared to 20% decrease in rate of persons charged with other Criminal Code offences).Footnote 52

Throughout the criminal justice process, from arrest to sentencing, AOJOs affect profoundly the efficient functioning of Canada’s justice system. AOJOs represent about one-in-ten incidents reported by the police, while four-in-ten cases in adult criminal courts include at least one AOJO, most of which result in a guilty verdict and a jail sentenceFootnote 53 AOJOs have contributed to an increase in pre-trial detention, and also to the overrepresentation of Indigenous persons and of individuals from vulnerable populations in the criminal justice system.

In addition to responding to the Senate Committee’s recommendation regarding administration of justice offencesFootnote 54 and the recommendations made by the Steering Committee,Footnote 55 the measures included in the Act change the way certain AOJOs are processed in the criminal justice system, and, as a result, reduce their consequential pressures. The amendments provide decision-makers with an opportunity to consider the personal circumstances and attributes of the accused persons when dealing with these types of offences. Moreover, they promote consistency in law enforcement approaches across Canada, reduce the increasing number of AOJO charges, ensure respect for the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and maintain public safety.

The approach, similar to the approach taken in New South Wales (Australia) under its Bail ActFootnote 56 provides a process to help the police and courts deal more effectively with certain AOJOs, such as failures to comply with conditions of release and failures to appear in court. When the failure has not caused harm to a victim, including physical, psychological or financial harm (e.g., property damage or economic loss), the police and Crown Attorneys could direct AOJOs to a judicial referral hearing as an alternative to charging the accused with an AOJO. At the judicial referral hearing, the judge or justice will review any existing conditions of release and could decide to take no action, release the accused on new conditions or detain the accused, depending on the particular circumstances of the accused (e.g., mental health issues, existence of neurocognitive disorders such as FASD, addictions, homelessness) and of the offence.

This new procedure does not impact current police powers relating to making a decision on whether or not to lay charges. It instead enhances police and prosecutorial discretion by allowing them to compel an accused to appear at a judicial referral hearing as an alternative to laying charges, when it is considered appropriate under the circumstances and when it is believed that the alleged breach should still be brought to the attention of a judge or justice. It provides another tool for police, prosecutors and courts to deal more effectively with these AOJOs (i.e., failures to comply with conditions of release, and failures to appear in court or as required) that do not involve harm to victims (including physical, emotional and financial harm).

Since a judicial referral hearing involves the review of the conditions imposed after an accused was charged with an earlier offence, as opposed to considering the guilt or innocence of the accused in relation to an alleged AOJO, the AOJO itself does not appear on a criminal record following such a hearing. No finding of guilt or innocence is made at the judicial referral hearing and any charges that may have been laid regarding that specific AOJO are dismissed by the judge or the justice once a decision is made with respect to the release status of the accused.

If an accused does not attend their judicial referral hearing, they could not be charged with the offence of failure to appear: the police officer has the choice of dropping the matter, offering the accused another hearing, or charging the accused for the breach that was to be addressed through the judicial referral hearing.

Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA)Footnote 57

(Clauses 361-363, 367-369 and 371-375)

Since coming into force in 2003, the YCJA has significantly reduced the overall use of the formal court system and custody for youth. Under the YCJA, the majority of youth accused of an offence are dealt with by means other than a charge, and the youth incarceration rate has declined 54% since 2003/2004.Footnote 58

That said, 85% of youth accused of AOJOs are formally charged,Footnote 59 and AOJOs represent 20% of youth court cases, and 35% of cases resulting in custody.Footnote 60 These high rates of charging and custody for AOJOs remain an area of concern and contribute both to delays and to the overrepresentation of vulnerable young people and Indigenous youth in the youth criminal justice system. The amendments included in the Act strengthen aspects of the current YCJA approach so that fewer youth are prosecuted and incarcerated for AOJOs.

Too often young people, particularly vulnerable young people, are subject to myriad conditions, many of which relate more to their social welfare needs than to criminal justice purposes. Conditions such as curfews, or the requirement to obey parents or obey the rules of the young person’s house where they reside, often lead to breach charges for behaviour that is not otherwise criminal. The Act now limits the imposition of conditions on young persons to those that are reasonable in the circumstances and required for criminal justice purposes. The Act also prohibits police officers and judges from detaining young persons in custody, or imposing conditions of release (in an undertaking or a release order), as a substitute for appropriate child protection, mental health or other social measures.

With respect to options for responding to AOJOs, the Act sets out the circumstances in which extrajudicial measures, which are alternatives to charges, are presumed to be adequate to hold a young person accountable for breaches of conditions and failures to appear at the bail stage, and for breaches of community-based youth sentences. Furthermore, the Act identifies the circumstances in which the new Criminal Code judicial referral hearings at the bail stage and the existing YCJA provisions relating to reviews of community sentences should be used as alternatives to charges.

Currently under the YCJA, a young person who fails to comply with a community-based youth sentence can be brought back before the youth court for a review, and the youth court judge can make changes to the original sentence. These reviews provide an opportunity to address circumstances of non-compliance without resorting to further charges and prosecution. The amendments included in the Act provide the court with authority to impose additional conditions, without consent of the young person, to better protect against any risk of harm to the public or to help the young person to comply with the original sentence, in circumstances where the review is held because a young person has breached, without reasonable excuse, a probation order or an intensive support or supervision order.

Finally, while the YCJA sentencing options and maximum sentence lengths are unchanged under the Act, the criteria for custodial sentences has been modified so that AOJOs are less likely to lead to custody for youth.

Preliminary InquiriesFootnote 61

(Clauses 238-242)

Part XVIII of the Criminal Code sets out the purpose of, and procedural rules regulating the conduct of, the preliminary inquiry. The SCC clearly established in R v S.J.L. (2009)Footnote 62 that there is no constitutional right to a preliminary inquiry and that the failure to allow cross-examination is not in itself a violation of the Charter, as long as the prosecution’s evidence and a summary of the witness’ statement are disclosed. The use of preliminary inquiries varies across the country and, in some instances, is complemented or even replaced by an out-of-court discovery process in various court locations in Ontario and Quebec.

Although preliminary inquiries are associated with a very small proportion of the total number of completed cases in Canadian criminal courts (approximately 3% of all completed cases, a proportion that has slowly decreased over the last 10 years),Footnote 63 restricting the availability of this procedure to offences liable to a maximum of 14 years or more of imprisonmentFootnote 64 greatly reduces their number,Footnote 65 while maintaining its availability for more serious offences. This reduction frees up court time and resources in provincial courts, while alleviating the burden on some witnesses and victims by preventing them from having to testify twice in those cases.

In 2016/2017, Statistics Canada reported a total of 47,250 charges for which a preliminary inquiry was held: 31% of these preliminary inquiries were held for crimes against the person, such as 7% for major assault (i.e., aggravated assault) and 5% for other sexual offences (i.e., sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, luring a child and sexual exploitation), which are offences punishable by a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment (compared to 22% for federal statute offences including drug offences, 20% for crimes against the property, 19% for other Criminal Code offences, and 7% for administration of justice offences). In addition, charges involving a preliminary inquiry take longer to complete and take more time in court, especially for serious offences. In 2016/2017, the median number of days it took to complete a homicide charge was 488 days when there was a preliminary inquiry compared to a median of 36 days when there was no preliminary inquiry; the median number of appearances when there was a preliminary inquiry was 18 compared to a median of 3 appearances when there was no preliminary inquiry.Footnote 66

Generally, a preliminary inquiry will take place if an accused person charged with an indictable offence elects to be tried before the superior court and requests one. The preliminary inquiry is to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to put the accused to trial for the offence charged or any other offence in respect of the same transaction. In this way, the preliminary inquiry serves a screening function. Over time, however, this procedure has developed other functions such as providing the Crown and the defence with an opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses and test their credibility.

Since coming into force on July 1st, 1893, the preliminary inquiry provisions of the Criminal Code have only been substantially modified once by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001,Footnote 67 which made the preliminary inquiry available on request rather than automatic, and aimed at encouraging the parties to consider whether a preliminary inquiry is necessary in individual cases, and if so, whether the scope of the issues and duration of the hearing could be limited.

The amendments in the Act restrict preliminary inquiries for adults accused of offences liable to a maximum punishment of 14 years or more of imprisonment (e.g., incest, aggravated assault, murder, instructing the commission of an indictable offence for a criminal organization or terrorist group, etc.).Footnote 68 The changes do not impact youths charged with criminal offences under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Amendments further allow the justice conducting a preliminary inquiry to limit the issues to be explored and the witnesses to be heard at the inquiry. In doing so, the amendments help prevent vulnerable witnesses from having to testify twice, further narrow the scope of the inquiry with a view to making it more efficient and effective, while maintaining the other benefits of this procedure such as, discovery at the earlier stages of the criminal justice process.

Preliminary inquiry reform has been a topic of debate in the Canadian legal community for decades. For instance, the Steering Committee has discussed the issue over the years, and in 2017, mandated the Department of Justice Canada to undertake a survey on preliminary inquiries.Footnote 69 As well, legal academics, such as Webster and BebbingtonFootnote 70 and DoobFootnote 71 have provided analysis and commentary on this issue.

The amendments outlined above are the result of significant discussion and consultation in various fora, including FPT meetings and at meetings of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada,Footnote 72 and represent a balanced approach between those who seek a bolder direction and those who strongly oppose any changes that reduce the availability of this procedure. In Jordan, the SCC notedFootnote 73 that Parliament should “consider the value of preliminary inquiries in light of expanded disclosure obligations.” Also, in its 2017 final report on delays, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs took a similar view as the SCC’s position in Jordan by recommending that preliminary inquiries be “restricted or eliminated”.

Though a formal analysis was not conducted, it is reasonable to assume that the SCC’s decision in R v Stinchcombe (1991)Footnote 74 outlining the Crown’s disclosure obligations, had a significant impact on preliminary inquiries, including on the number of preliminary inquiries held and/or scheduled. Furthermore, a two-phased impact assessment of amendments to the preliminary inquiry enacted by former Bill C-15A, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to amend other ActsFootnote 75 was conducted by the Research and Statistics Division of the Department of Justice. The unpublished findings showed, among other things, that in the year following the implementation of Bill C-15A, Quebec had a 68% decline in the number of preliminary inquiries held while British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nunavut experienced a 20% decline; and there were changes to the time and number of appearances required for a case with a preliminary inquiry to be processed through the court system. These results suggest that the legislative changes made by Bill C-15A may have, to some extent, reduced the number and scope of preliminary inquiries in some jurisdictions.

Reclassification of OffencesFootnote 76

(Clauses 315 and 316 plus many others)

Criminal Code offences are classified as summary or indictable. A hybrid offence is an offence that can be proceeded with either way as it allows the Crown to choose whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction. Summary offences are generally intended to target less serious conduct (e.g., causing a disturbance, trespassing at night) for which the current default maximum penalty is normally a fine not exceeding $5,000, six months in prison, or both. Maximum imprisonment penalties for summary conviction offences, however, vary and some are punishable by up to two years less a day.

Indictable offences address more serious conduct (e.g., aggravated assault, robbery, murder) for which the maximum penalties range from 2 years to life imprisonment. On indictment, the courts also have the ability to impose a fine in their discretion, in addition to other sentencing options.

Hybrid offences target types of conduct for which the seriousness can vary greatly depending on the circumstances of the case. The Crown’s decision on whether to proceed by indictment or summary conviction is based on a variety of factors including, for example, the seriousness of the alleged conduct, any previous convictions, and the type of sentence the Crown intends to seek, given all the circumstances of the alleged offence and of the offender.

Offence classification determines where the case can be heard depending on the seriousness of the conduct, background of the offender and impact on victims. It is not simply a reflection of the seriousness of the offence, based on the hypothetical worst case. All summary conviction matters are tried in the provincial courts. The vast majority of criminal matters are heard by provincial court judges across Canada. Indictable offences can be heard in both provincial and superior courts, depending on the election of the accused, although there are some indictable offences that can only be heard in superior court. Generally speaking, matters that are tried in provincial court tend to proceed more quickly. In 2015/2016, provincial court charges had a median elapsed time of 112 days and a median of 6 appearances, while it took a median of 419 days to complete a charge in superior court and a median of 9 appearances.Footnote 77 The hybridization of indictable offences in the Act provides prosecutors with the flexibility to proceed summarily for a greater number of offences, in appropriate cases, leaving the more serious cases involving these offences to be tried by the superior courts, with or without a jury. This helps to ensure that these cases are dealt with more expeditiously and also helps to ensure that superior courts address the most serious matters.

The Act hybridizes 118 indictable offences.Footnote 78 Of these, 28 offences are punishable by a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment, a further 53 offences are punishable by a maximum of 5 years imprisonment and 37 are punishable by a maximum of two years imprisonment. In addition to hybridizing offences, the Act changes the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences from 6 months to 2 years less a day of imprisonment; and, extends the limitation period for all summary conviction offences to 12 months (from the current 6 months). A limitation period is the time frame within which a charge, to be tried by summary conviction procedure, must be laid, as calculated starting from the date of the alleged offence. This change complements the broader changes to offence classification. It ensures that police officers have time to investigate the more complex cases and provides the Crown with the flexibility to proceed in provincial court for a greater number of less serious cases. A broader range of offences being hybridized results in more efficient prosecutions, ensuring that cases are tried according to the seriousness of the alleged commission of the offence, and not simply the worst hypothetical case. This will have a positive impact on bringing accused persons to trial within a reasonable time, as required by the Charter.

This is also expected to assist in reducing delays in the superior court, including the time from first appearance to disposition of criminal cases. Hybridization assists in ensuring that the additional procedural safeguards available when proceeding by indictment, including preliminary inquiries and jury trials, continue to be made available for more serious cases and that the sentence sought justifies these additional processes. These amendments also ensure that sentencing ranges reflect the manner in which offences are prosecuted and reduce the number of offences being prosecuted by indictment when a summary conviction penalty is most appropriate in all of the circumstances. The same resulting sentence could be achieved through summary conviction processes with less strain on the criminal justice system.

The harmonization of the default maximum penalty of two years less a day for summary conviction offences ensures a consistent and clear standard. Although the change to the default maximum penalty also means that, for some existing summary conviction offences, the maximum penalty increases, it is important to note that this change is not a signal from Parliament that these offences should be punished more seriously. That is not the objective of the change, nor is it the anticipated effect. Rather, the goal is to standardize the approach to summary conviction offences after years of piecemeal reform to maximum penalties and limitation periods. The fundamental principles of sentencing continue to apply, so that sentences imposed should always be proportionate to the seriousness of the actual commission of the offence, including impact on victims, and the offender’s degree of blameworthiness. Hybridization is not a reflection of the seriousness of the offence, but the degree of seriousness of the actual commission of that offence, taking into consideration all of the circumstances.

AgentsFootnote 79

(Clause 317.1)

Section 802.1 of the Criminal Code currently authorizes agents (persons other than lawyers such as paralegals, articling students and non-legally trained individuals) to represent defendants in summary conviction proceedings if the maximum penalty is six months or less, unless the accused is a corporation or the agent is authorized to do so under a provincially/territorially-approved program. Where they exist, such programs include Indigenous Courtworker programs, student legal clinic/articling programs and paralegal programs.

The reclassification amendments as introduced would have had the effect of preventing persons other than lawyers (i.e., “agents”) from representing individuals charged with most summary conviction offences in many provinces and territories since they would increase the maximum penalty for most summary conviction offences to 2 years less a day. This could have caused an unintended consequence of reducing access to justice for accused who cannot afford or access counsel, those living in rural or remote communities and those accused from vulnerable populations who would not be able to represent themselves in court.

The Act as passed included amendments that:

  1. give provinces and territories the additional ability to establish criteria for agent representation for summary conviction offences with a maximum penalty of greater than six months imprisonment (i.e., in addition to their current power to create programs under section 802.1); and,
  2. allow agents to appear on any summary conviction offence for the purpose of an adjournment of proceedings.Footnote 80

This amendment was similar to a proposal included in former Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, introduced on November 27, 2009, but which died on the Order Paper.

DNA OrdersFootnote 81

(Clause 196.1)

Section 487.04 of the Criminal Code lists different categories of offences for the purposes of ordering persons to provide DNA samples after conviction. “Primary designated offences” are the most serious offences, such that a court must impose a DNA order (e.g., murder, aggravated sexual assault). “Secondary designated offences” are less serious: the Crown must apply for a DNA order and the court has more discretion to make one. There are two types of “secondary designated offences”. The first category of offences are generic: all offences punishable by 5 years or more for which the Crown may proceed by indictment. The second category consists of those that are specifically listed in section 487.04 (e.g., criminal harassment, intimidation).

The Act hybridized straight indictable offences previously subject to a maximum penalty of 5 and 10 years, and therefore, a discretionary DNA order would have only been available when the Crown proceeded by indictment for these offences.

As a result, the Act now lists these offences as “secondary designated offences” in order to allow those offences to be eligible for discretionary DNA orders, regardless of whether the Crown proceeds by summary conviction or indictment.Footnote 82

Identification of Criminals ActFootnote 83

(Clause 388)

Paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Identification of Criminals Act (ICA) allows for fingerprints to be taken for persons charged and in custody or for persons convicted of indictable offences (hybrid and straight indictable offences but not for summary offences).

As noted above, the reclassification amendments in the Act allow the Crown to proceed either on indictment or summarily for 118 straight indictable offences. The amendments as originally introduced in the House of Commons would have resulted in fingerprints only being obtained where the Crown proceeded by indictment for these offences.

The Act now includes an amendment to paragraph 2(1)(a) of the ICA to allow for fingerprints to be taken for the 118 newly hybridized offences, regardless of whether the Crown proceeds by indictment or summarily.Footnote 84

Judicial Case ManagementFootnote 85

(Clauses 250, 251 and 267)

Judicial case management is repeatedly cited as one of the key measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system. As noted by the SCC in Cody (2017), judges are uniquely positioned to encourage and foster the culture change required to ensure the proper functioning of the system. Effective judicial case management ensures the prioritization and careful balancing of court resources. Enhanced case management refers to stronger judicial control of proceedings, whereby judges exercise a more active leadership role in ensuring that cases progress in a just and timely manner.

Furthermore, in their Final Report, the Senate Committee included as a priority recommendation “that the Minister of Justice work with the provinces and territories and in particular with the judiciary to:

  • stress the need for judges to improve case management, such as by imposing deadlines and challenging unnecessary adjournments, using the tools that already exist; and
  • consider making amendments to the Criminal Code to support better case management as necessary.”Footnote 86

In 2011, amendments to the Criminal Code granted case management powers to a judge where it is necessary for the proper administration of justice. These are broad powers and encompass scheduling, evidentiary, procedural and substantive issues. When properly mobilized by a case management judge, proceedings can be streamlined, litigation focused and case momentum maintained through setting deadlines and ongoing oversight.

Section 551.1 of the Criminal Code generally regulates the appointment of a case management judge, including the timing of the application for this appointment (i.e., for indictable offences to be tried before the superior court, after the indictment is filed). Some have argued that this timing is too late in the process to fully benefit from the case management judge’s involvement and assistance at the early stages of the process.

The amendments included in the Act strengthen the powers of case management judges by, among other things, allowing for their appointment at the earliest point in the process, ensuring they be involved in prompt resolution of preliminary issues and management of cases, and to assist in the timely and just completion of criminal matters.

Furthermore, criminal cases are generally tried in the community in which the offence has allegedly occurred. However, section 599 of the Criminal Code allows a judge of the court before whom the accused is to be tried, to order, in certain circumstances, that the trial be held in a different location within the province. A change of venue seeks to safeguard the accused person’s and society’s interests in a fair trial.

The amendments included in the Act give a case management judge the express ability to make change of venue orders. Permitting this at the earlier stages of the process prevents a potential duplication of efforts and the expenditure of resources where preparations are made at one location, only to be moved to another location later in the process. In deciding whether to order a change of venue, the court has to consider whether it promotes a fair and efficient trial and ensures the safety and security of a victim or witness or protect their interests and those of society.

These amendments to the Criminal Code speak directly to the work of the Steering Committee on this priority areaFootnote 87 as well as the Senate Committee’s recommendation to enhance case management by providing additional tools and the earlier exercise of these tools.Footnote 88

Routine Police EvidenceFootnote 89

(Clause 291)

The presentation of evidence in a criminal trial often results in police officers being taken off the street for extended periods of time in order to give testimony on issues that are frequently uncontested and/or peripheral to the key issues in the proceedings. Consistent with the Senate Committee’s recommendation to this effect,Footnote 90 the Act includes measures that enable certain evidence of police officers to be received in writing, rather than by the more time-consuming oral testimony. The Act makes admissible at trial the transcript of testimony given by a police officer earlier in the proceedings, either at the preliminary inquiry or on a voir dire (for example, a voir dire on the constitutionality of the accused’s arrest).Footnote 91

Allowing the use of written evidence with regard to routine police evidence is expected to reduce the time and financial burden on police officers who are required to testify in court over lengthy periods of time, or provide the same evidence twice (for example, in a preliminary inquiry and at trial). As well, these measures increase efficiencies in court by minimizing some of the time spent on hearing undisputed oral testimony from police officers in circumstances, where that testimony could be provided in writing without negatively impacting the accused’s right to full answer and defence.

Rules of CourtFootnote 92

(Clauses 186, 187(2) and 306)

Sections 482 and 482.1 of the Criminal Code allow courts to make rules, including case management rules, to regulate certain court functions and delegate certain administrative tasks to court personnel. The rules of certain courts under these provisions are subject to the approval of the lieutenant governor in council of the province. Also, section 745.64 allows the appropriate Chief Justice to set out the procedural application process to seek the reduction in the number of years of imprisonment without eligibility for parole for certain offences. Rules made pursuant to section 745.64 are “statutory instruments” for the purposes of the Statutory Instruments Act (SIA), and thus are subject to examination by the Department of Justice to, among other things, optimize the quality of the text and ensure their coherence with other federal legislative texts in accordance with the criteria set out in the SIA. Rules made under sections 482 and 482.1 are not “statutory instruments”, and thus are not subject to this examination. Rules made under the three provisions noted above must be published in Part II of the Canada Gazette.

The administrative process by which these rules are enacted can result in unnecessary delay in their implementation. In light of Jordan, courts are also engaged in implementing additional measures, some by way of rules of court, to ensure the timely completion of criminal matters. As such, amendments to the Criminal Code expedite the rule-making process and ensure their effective and prompt implementation by removing the requirement in the Criminal Code that the rules of certain courts need to be approved by the lieutenant governor in council and that rules of court enacted under these provisions must be published in the Canada Gazette. Although the publication requirement is maintained to maximize access to justice, courts must choose the most appropriate medium by which this can be achieved (i.e., on their website, provincial Gazettes or case law reports). The Act states that the SIA does not apply to rules made under 745.64.

Additional Efficiency MeasuresFootnote 93

Guilty Pleas

(Clause 268)

Most criminal charges do not result in trials and are resolved by either guilty pleas or charges being dismissed. A guilty plea can spare victims from testifying, save court time and provide some certainty to the accused on the outcome of their case, including in some instances, a reduced sentence.

Subsection 606(1.1) of the Criminal Code provided that a court may accept a guilty plea only if it is satisfied:

  • that the accused is making the plea voluntarily;
  • that the accused understands that a guilty plea is an admission of the essential elements of the offence and the nature and consequences of the plea; and,
  • that the accused understands that the court is not bound by any agreement with the prosecutor.

Accused who are innocent may falsely plead guilty for ulterior reasons, such as being denied bail or wanting to avoid a lengthy wait for trial. It is not known how often false guilty pleas occur, but concerns have been raised about the potential prevalence of this issue, particularly with respect to Indigenous accused and accused from vulnerable populations (e.g., those who suffer from mental health issues, addictions, neurocognitive disorders, etc.) who may plead guilty without fully appreciating the circumstances of the offence or the significance of a guilty plea.Footnote 94 The amendment provides greater clarity to the current plea inquiry process in order to add a requirement in subsection 606(1.1) that the court be satisfied that the facts support the charge before the court accepts a guilty plea. The amendment mirrors a similar provision contained in the YCJA that applies to youth in the criminal justice system. The change provides an additional safeguard against false guilty pleas, while continuing to encourage early case resolution, enhancing the integrity of the administration of justice, and striving for efficiencies.

Prosecutorial Authority

(Clauses 2, 4(1), 28-29, 179, 185, 264 and 265)

While provincial Attorneys General have primary responsibility for criminal prosecutions in Canada, the Attorney General of Canada (AGC), through the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, prosecutes:

  • all federal offences outside the Criminal Code (including drug offences in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act), which employ the procedures under the Criminal Code;
  • Criminal Code offences in the three Territories; and,
  • certain Criminal Code offences, under circumstances as expressly set out in law (for example, terrorism offences, securities fraud offences, and organized crime) throughout Canada.

The Criminal Code contains specific rules regarding the powers of the AGC to prosecute certain offences or to invoke criminal procedures. The amendments in the Act modernize and consolidate these authorities to make clearer that where the AGC is the prosecutor, they can prosecute all related aspects of the case, including the inchoate form of the offence (e.g., attempt or conspiracy to commit), and all ancillary and related proceedings (e.g., forfeiture and proceeds of crime).

Remote Appearances

(Clauses 1(2), 188, 216, 225(2), 290 and 292)

Currently, the general rule is that all persons involved in the criminal justice process must appear in person, unless otherwise specified in the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code included numerous provisions relating to the remote appearance of certain individuals involved in criminal justice processes. However, these were subject to different criteria depending on the individual (e.g., accused, witness, counsel) and stage of the proceedings (e.g., judicial interim release, preliminary inquiry, trial, appeal, etc.).

The amendments in the Act modernize and facilitate the appearance by audioconference or videoconference of all persons involved in criminal cases, including a judge or justice, throughout the criminal justice process, under certain circumstances and, in some situations, in consideration of certain factors.

These amendments serve the proper administration of justice, including by ensuring fair and efficient proceedings and enhancing access to justice for all Canadians. These amendments set out the situations in which a remote appearance can occur, which depends on the individual circumstances and stage of the process and, in some situations, such factors as: the accused’s right to a fair trial; the nature of the witness’s anticipated evidence; the inconveniences to the witness to appear physically; the seriousness of the offence; and costs. In certain situations, the court is required to record the reasons for refusing to order a remote appearance or for holding a hearing remotely.

In its Final Report, the Senate Committee recommendedFootnote 95 that the “Minister of Justice ensure that resources are invested in technological solutions to the problems presented by small, scattered populations in remote and isolated communities”. The Report specifically called for increased use of videoconferencing technology “so that court appearances such as bail hearings and interlocutory applications can be conducted remotely and without the need for an accused person to be removed from his or her community.”

The amendments in the Act directly respond to this recommendation by expanding the use of technology to facilitate remote appearances by all persons involved throughout the criminal justice process, including in remote and isolated communities.

Judicial Signatures

(Clauses 3, 262, 284, 286, 318, 330-334, 338-345 and 347-353)

A clerk of the court will most often prepare court orders or other documents reflecting judicial pronouncements made from the bench, and sign such documents. Likewise, clerks of the court are permitted to prepare and sign many Criminal Code forms which record a judicial pronouncement. At common law, the act of preparing and signing court documents is considered administrative in nature and can be delegated to clerks of the court. Currently, only a few Criminal Code provisions specifically provide that a clerk of the court can prepare and sign such documents. This creates a lack of uniformity in the Criminal Code with respect to which court documents a clerk of the court may sign.

In addition, the signature line of a number of forms does not reference “clerk of the court” even though the purpose of some forms is to record a judicial pronouncement. Furthermore, the names of judicial officers on the signature line are not consistently set out for some of those forms.

The amendments provide for the signing authority of clerks of the court who record judicial pronouncements made from the bench, unless otherwise provided for in the Criminal Code or ordered. They codify the common law regarding the authority of judicial officers to delegate to clerks of the court the administrative act of signing court documents that records such pronouncements. Amendments are also made to the signature line of some Criminal Code forms to add greater clarity and consistency surrounding the authority of clerks of the court to sign forms that are used to record judicial pronouncements made from the bench.

Clarifying the authority of a clerk of the court to sign such documents facilitates the administration of justice and enhances efficiencies in criminal court case processing.

Re-election Timeframe for Mode of Trial

Re-election by accused after the completion of the preliminary inquiry

(Clause 254(1))

Prior to the Act, the Criminal Code provided that an accused may re-elect another mode of trial other than a trial by a provincial court judge (namely, judge alone or judge and jury) as of right, at any time during their preliminary inquiry or before the 15th day following its completion. Further, the Criminal Code specifies that after this period, the accused may only re-elect with the written consent of the prosecutor.

This period (i.e., before the 15th day following the completion of the preliminary inquiry) is considered too restrictive and limits the accused’s opportunity to fully assess the numerous issues related to their re-election. The period of time during which an accused can re-elect as of right must be sufficient to allow them to take the necessary steps to make an informed decision on re-election, but should not unnecessarily prolong the period so as to impact the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

The amendment in the Act amends the previous timeframe to allow the accused to re-elect a mode of trial at any time during their preliminary inquiry or before the 60th day following the completion of the preliminary inquiry. This balanced approach provides sufficient time for the accused to fully assess the evidence adduced at the preliminary inquiry in order to make an informed decision with respect to re-election, while bringing a sense of finality to the accused’s election soon after the preliminary inquiry.

Re-election by accused before the first day appointed for trial

(Clause 254(1))

Prior to the Act, subsection 561(2) of the Criminal Code provided that an accused who elects to be tried by a provincial court judge or does not request a preliminary inquiry may, not later than 14 days before the first day appointed for trial, re-elect as of right to another mode of trial; after that time, written consent of the prosecutor is required. A re-election at such a late point in the proceedings (i.e., 14 days before the day first appointed for trial) results in the cancellation of the trial, negatively impacting the efficiency of the criminal justice system as a result of, among other things:

  • the resources required to summon witnesses to trial have likely already been invested;
  • the additional resources required to notify witnesses that their subpoenas are cancelled;
  • the inconveniences experienced by witnesses; and,
  • the court time that was reserved for the trial becomes available, in most cases, too late to be used for another trial or procedure.

To address this issue, the Criminal Code is amended though the Act to provide that an accused may re-elect as of right another mode of trial, not later than 60 days before the first day set for trial. This ensures that steps required to prepare for trial (as noted above) are not taken unnecessarily where the trial is cancelled as a result of the re-election. It also provides, in some cases, sufficient lead time to allow for the re-allocation of court time and resources to other matters. Accused persons retain the ability to re-elect another mode of trial after that timeframe with the written consent of the prosecutor.

Out-of-Province Warrants

(Clauses 19, 66, 152, 180-181, 191-193, 195-197, 201, 207-208, 385 and 400.1)

The endorsement of an out-of-province warrant by a judicial officer in the executing jurisdiction is one mechanism by which the Criminal Code makes a warrant valid for execution in another province. The amendments remove the out-of-province endorsement requirements for search warrants and wiretap authorizations in the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Cannabis Act, and provide that these warrants, authorizations and investigative orders have effect anywhere in Canada upon issuance by a justice or a judge. These amendments contribute to streamlining investigative procedures by saving valuable time as well as police and judicial resources.

Removing this requirement also implements a 2016 recommendation by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada working group on endorsements of out-of-province search warrants, which was of the view that the out-of-province investigative warrants and wiretap authorizations can be more effectively executed by making warrants enforceable across Canada without the need for endorsement.

JuriesFootnote 96

(Clauses 269-273)

Continuation of trial without jury

A mistrial ordered as a result of a jury being reduced to below the minimum ten jurors is an unfortunate interruption in the pursuit of justice. Such orders have significant repercussions on criminal justice system resources, are distressing to those involved, the jurors and the witnesses, and undermine public confidence in the administration of justice.

The Criminal Code allows for 13 or 14 jurors to be sworn where the trial judge considers it advisable in the interests of justice. In making this decision, the judge considers, among other things, the risk that a mistrial could result from the discharge of too many jurors.

Furthermore, the Criminal Code provides that, unless the court is satisfied that it would not be in the interests of justice, rulings on preliminary motions (disclosure, admissibility of evidence, and Charter motions) made during the first trial are binding in any new trial resulting from a mistrial. Therefore, there may be greater incentive to simply continue the proceedings without the jury, rather than seeking a new trial and starting from the presentation of the evidence on the merits before another jury.

Additionally, although the judge’s role in a jury trial is primarily to adjudicate questions of law, the judge nonetheless follows the evidence adduced very closely as it is the judge’s responsibility to, among other things, determine its admissibility and to rule on all objections. Moreover, in jury trials, judges generally include a summary of the evidence in their charge to the jury.

The amendments allow a judge, on consent of the parties, to continue the trial without the jury and render a verdict when the jury is reduced to below ten jurors. Although this will not be used in all cases, it prevents some mistrials, as there are some situations where accused persons prefer an expedient resolution of their case and choose to continue the trial with a judge sitting without the jury rather than starting a new trial.

Power to stand aside jurors

Section 633 of the Criminal Code gives a judge the power to stand aside (or “stand by”) jurors for reasons of personal hardship or any other reasonable cause. The term “other reasonable cause” includes obvious instances of juror bias (e.g., where a juror is related to a witness in the case). The effect of standing aside a juror is to enable the judge to move to the next prospective juror and in cases where a full jury is subsequently confirmed, those who were stood aside are dismissed.

The Act amends section 633 to permit a judge to stand aside a juror to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice. This tool helps to ensure that potential jurors are impartial and capable of performing their duties, if selected. The concept of maintaining public confidence in the administration of justice is already used in other parts of the Criminal Code and has been interpreted by the SCC in St-Cloud (2015)Footnote 97 in the context of bail. In this context, decisions are made on a case by case basis and are based on all relevant circumstances, including the importance of ensuring that the jury is impartial, competent and representative. The amendment recognizes and enhances the role of judges in promoting an impartial, representative and competent jury.

Peremptory challenges

Prior to the Act, section 634 of the Criminal Code set out the rules governing peremptory challenges. Peremptory challenges are a set number of challenges given to both Crown and defence counsel during jury selection. These challenges may be used at their discretion to exclude a potential juror from the panel without providing a reason. In some cases, this has led to their discriminatory use to ensure a jury of a particular composition, an issue that was recently litigated before the Yukon Court of Appeal in R v Cornell (2017).Footnote 98 The number of peremptory challenges allowed generally varies from 4 to 20 depending on the seriousness of the crime, the number of jurors, and whether there are co-accused.

Discrimination in the jury selection process in Canada has been well documented. Retired Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci discussed how peremptory challenges could be used in a discriminatory manner.Footnote 99 The Report recommended further consideration of this issue with a view to possible Criminal Code amendments to prevent the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges. Senator Murray Sinclair also documented the discriminatory use of peremptory challenges and recommended that they be abolished.Footnote 100 Similar calls for reform have been made by legal experts and advocacy groups, such as the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto.Footnote 101

The Act abolishes peremptory challenges. This approach is consistent with other common law countries laws, such as England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Abolishing peremptory challenges addresses the concern that this aspect of the jury selection process may be used to discriminate unfairly against potential jurors and will strengthen public confidence in the jury selection process. The amendments signal that discrimination of any kind has no meaningful role in promoting fairness and impartiality in the criminal justice process.

Challenge for cause

(Clause 270-272)

The challenge for cause process is frequently used and is considered an important aspect of jury selection that aims to ensure only eligible and impartial jurors are selected to try a case. Prior to the Act, a challenge for cause (section 638 of the Criminal Code) occurred where Crown or defence counsel sought to exclude a potential juror on the basis of one or more of the following grounds:

  • the name of the juror does not appear on the panel;
  • the juror is biased;
  • the juror has been convicted and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment;
  • the juror is an “alien” (i.e., not a Canadian citizen);
  • the juror is physically unable to perform the duties of a juror; and,
  • the juror does not speak the official language of the trial.

With the exception of a person’s name not appearing on the panel, which is determined by the trial judge, all other challenges for cause were decided by two lay persons called “triers”, who are not trained in law. This could involve the same two triers or different “rotating” triers. The process has led to confusion and delays in jury trials across Canada. The amendment shifts the responsibility to judges – who are trained and impartial adjudicators – to oversee the challenge for cause process in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the process.

This change implements a recommendation of the Steering Committee,Footnote 102 and also brings Canada’s challenge for cause process in line with that of other common law countries, such as England, New Zealand and Australia.

As well, the Act amends the challenge for cause ground based on a juror’s criminal record. Previously, jurors could be excluded for cause if they had been convicted of an offence and sentenced to more than 12 months imprisonment. The amendment modifies the period of imprisonment from 12 months to 2 years. This change means that fewer jurors with criminal records for minor offences could be excluded in the challenge for cause process, and is consistent with the Act’s changes to increase the default maximum penalty for summary conviction offences to 2 years less a day (rather than 6 months). The change addresses concerns that have been raised that this rule disproportionately impacts certain segments of society, including Indigenous persons, as noted by Justice Iacobucci.

Other reforms to the challenge for cause grounds were made to update and modernize outdated language (i.e., reference to a juror being an “alien” is replaced with “non-citizen”).

Other YCJA AmendmentsFootnote 103

(Clauses 376 to 378)

Several of the other YCJA amendments are introduced in a manner consistent with the SCC’s direction in Jordan to take “a fresh look at rules, procedures, and other areas of the criminal law to ensure that they are more conducive to timely justice and that the criminal process focuses on what is truly necessary to a fair trial”.

Obligation to consider seeking adult sentenceFootnote 104

The Act removes the obligation on prosecutors to consider seeking adult sentences for serious violent offences and the obligation to advise the court if they decide not to seek an adult sentence. These requirements create an unnecessary procedural obligation, given that prosecutors can be relied upon to consider seeking adult sentences in appropriate cases without the law specifically requiring them to do so. In addition, these requirements may inappropriately interfere with prosecutorial discretion.

Lifting publication bans on youth sentences

The Act also repeals the provisions in the YCJA which require a youth justice court to decide, in every case where a young person receives a youth sentence for a violent offence, if the publication ban protecting that young person’s identity should be lifted. This requirement has been in place since 2012 and while it has created additional burdens for the court, orders for the lifting of a publication ban under this provision have rarely, if ever, been made.

This provision is also at odds with a traditional cornerstone of youth justice in Canada which has generally protected the privacy of young persons involved in the youth criminal justice system. The rationale for this longstanding rule is that the publication of a young person’s name would detrimentally affect the young person, impede rehabilitation efforts and in the long run, compromise public safety. Certain exceptions exist, such as when a youth receives an adult sentence.

Placement reportsFootnote 105

Finally, the amendments included in the Act remove the obligation on the youth justice court to order a placement report in each instance where a young person receives an adult sentence. Instead, such reports are ordered at the youth justice court’s discretion, when it is of the view that such a report would be of assistance to the court in deciding on the placement of the young person. The obligation, as it stood prior to the Act, contributed to delay in many situations where the placement decision was readily apparent to all parties involved.

Other Amendments

The Act includes the following amendments to ensure that the Criminal Code is closely aligned with the Charter and promotes greater consistency and respect for the Charter, while at the same time, seeking to address inefficiencies in the criminal justice system.

Victim surcharge (Bill C-28)

(Clause 301)

The Act merged the amendments proposed in former Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Code (victim surcharge). Building on these previously proposed amendments, the Act re-enacts the victim surcharge regime with greater judicial discretion to impose the surcharge, in response to the SCC’s December 2018 decision in R v Boudreault.

Before the SCC’s decision in Boudreault, the victim surcharge was imposed automatically on sentencing and no judicial discretion to waive the mandatory surcharge was provided. The Boudreault decision ruled that the mandatory victim surcharge regime was unconstitutional, and the court struck down the victim surcharge regime in its entirety.

The Act re-enacts section 737 which requires a surcharge to be imposed for every offence for which an offender is sentenced, but it provides greater judicial discretion to depart from imposing the surcharge, in appropriate cases. It allows courts not to impose a victim surcharge where it would cause undue hardship to the offender given their precarious financial circumstances or where it would otherwise be disproportionate to the degree of responsibility of the offender or the gravity of the offence. It provides guidance to sentencing courts as to what constitutes undue hardship and sentencing courts must provide reasons for departing from the presumption that the surcharge should be imposed.

Sentencing courts now have the discretion to impose just and fair sentences for all offenders, in particular for Indigenous persons and vulnerable or marginalized offenders who are overrepresented in the criminal justice system and who were disproportionately impacted by the mandatory victim surcharge.

The new victim surcharge provisions apply to any offender who is sentenced for an offence that was committed after the day on which they come into force. As the provisions came into place 30 days after Bill C-75 received Royal Assent, which was July 21, 2019, these provisions apply to any offence committed on or after July 22, 2019.

Exploitation and trafficking in persons (Bill C-38)Footnote 106

(Clause 386)

The Act also includes the proposals found in former Bill C-38, An Act to amend An Act to amend the Criminal Code (exploitation and trafficking in persons), which facilitate the prosecution of human trafficking offences under the Criminal Code as well as add the trafficking in persons offence to the list of offences to which a reverse onus applies in proceedings for the forfeiture of proceeds of crime.

Unconstitutional provisions (Bill C-39)Footnote 107

(Clauses 51, 53-55, 60, 63.1, 69.1-69.2, 73, 77-78, 89, 98-102, 111, 189-190, 202, 251.1 and 320)

Lastly, the Act includes the proposals found in former Bill C-39, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (unconstitutional provisions) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 8, 2017. These Criminal Code amendments, among other things:

  • remove provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada, and are therefore of no force or effect (e.g., vagrancy and abortion);
  • repeal section 159 of the Criminal Code (anal intercourse) and provide that no person shall be convicted of an historical offence of a sexual nature, unless the conduct would be an offence under the Criminal Code at the time the charge is laid; and,
  • make consequential amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In addition, following an amendment adopted by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting various activities in relation to bawdy houses (sections 210 and 211), which had been used discriminatorily against the LGBTQ community and no longer serve a legitimate criminal law purpose, are also repealed.

Coming into force

Bill C-75 received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.

The amendments relating to bail and administration of justice offences, including amendments to Youth Criminal Justice Act, come into force on December 18, 2019 (180 days after Royal Assent) to provide additional time for implementation of these measures, including training for police and Crown prosecutors.

The amendments relating to reclassification, preliminary inquiries, judicial case management, Youth Criminal Justice Act (other than those relating to administration of justice offences) and all additional efficiency measures come into force on September 19, 2019 (90 days after Royal Assent).

The amendments relating to victim surcharge (former Bill C-28) come into force on July 21, 2019 (30 days after Royal Assent).

As was proposed in former Bill C-38, amendments relating to exploitation and trafficking in persons (former Bill C-452) came into force on June 21, 2019 upon Royal Assent.

All amendments in former Bill C-39 that have been included in the Act came into force on June 21, 2019 upon Royal Assent with one exception. The amendment to subsection 719(3.1) of the Criminal Code, removing the limits to credit for presentencing custody that were found unconstitutional, come into force on December 18, 2019 (180 days after Royal Assent).

Date modified: