Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court of Canada’

The FLF recently came across this article, which explains that the Supreme Court of Canada has just ruled that a group of Vancouver sex trade workers can challenge the country’s prostitution laws. This ruling comes shortly after the Bedford case ruling, where the Court of Appeal in Ontario “struck down a ban on brothels, saying it exposes sex workers to danger. The federal government is appealing the Ontario ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada.”

This definitely seems like something we will want to keep our eyes on, not only because it could involve some changes to the law, but also  because, as the article explains, this ruling could invoke some broader changes as well: “The implications of this decision for women, for First Nations, for environmental groups to bring forward cases as collectives, in coalitions, simply can’t be overstated.”

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Earlier this week, the Supreme Court released its judgment in R v D.A.I. LEAF and the DisAbled Women’s Network of Canada (DAWN) jointly intervened in the case. In a majority ruling (the Court split 6 – 3 ), Justice McLachlin clarified that adults with mental disabilities need  not demonstrate an abstract understanding of the obligation to tell the truth to meet the test for testimonial competence.

D.A.I. involves a 23-year old complainant with intellectual disabilities such that her mental age was between 3 and 6 years old. The Crown is alleging that the complainant’s step-father repeatedly sexually assaulted her over a period of four years. The Crown sought to call the complainant to testify, but the trial judge held on a voir dire that the complainant had failed to show that she understood the duty to speak the truth. In a separate voir dire, the trial judge also excluded out-of-court statements made by the complainant to the police and her teacher, holding that the statements were unreliable. Despite the existence of other evidence that raised serious suspicions about the accused’s conduct, the case collapsed and the accused was acquitted. The Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed the acquittal.

The majority decision is a feminist victory that ensures the equality rights of all women. As Joanna Birenbaum, Legal Director of LEAF, stated in a press release on the day of the decision,  “In today’s Supreme Court of Canada decision, Chief Justice McLachlin writing for the majority described sexual assault as “an evil” and acknowledged that women with intellectual and other disabilities are targeted for this offence at alarming rates. The Court confirmed the importance of hearing the voices of women with mental disabilities in court. The Court acknowledged that the testimony of women with mental disabilities is essential to stopping sexual abuse and ensuring that sexual offenders are brought to justice.”

As an aside, the FLF seems to recall the Court splitting in the exact same way in R v J.A. Some interesting sexual assault jurisprudence trivia…

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