In a decision made in late 2014, the Quebec Court of Appeal affirmed the legal profession’s unique role in undertaking constitutional challenges. In a unanimous decision (Vezina, Savard, and Vauclair JJA), the Court upheld Justice Roy’s decision to reject the Government of Canada’s application to strike the claim of the Barreau du Quebec for want of standing. The relatively short decision, Canada (Procureur general) v. Barreau du Quebec, 2014 QCCA 2234, was released on December 4, 2014 and was a judgment “par la Cour”.
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Today, in Canada (Attorney General) v. Federation of Law Societies of Canada, 2015 SCC 7,the Supreme Court confirmed that one of the hallmarks of the legal profession, namely, solicitor-client privilege is one of the fundamental principles of justice worthy of constitutional sanction under s. 7 of the Charter. In reviewing the federal government’s anti-terrorism and anti-money laundering legislation, the Court also ruled that, to the extent the legislation required lawyers to obtain and keep information about their clients for the government, it constituted an unreasonable search and seizure contrary to s. 8 of the Charter.
Today, in its fifth decision of the year, the Supreme Court overturned yet another decades old precedent and found the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting physician-assisted death in end-of-life situations unconstitutional and contrary to s. 7 of the Charter. This is the third time this year that the Court has overturned one of its previous decisions on constitutional matters. In Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5, the Court spoke with one voice and in its own name (the headnote states that the precedent was “distinguished” but make no mistake, it no longer applies to these same statutory provisions against assisted death). No one justice was accredited with the authorship of the reasons.
An innocent omission, a slip of the mind, an honest mistake of an arresting police officer is not sufficient to prevent the Court from excluding evidence obtained following a violation of an accused person’s right to counsel. Last Friday, the Supreme Court of Canada reinforced that right and determined that, notwithstanding the inadvertent nature of the police’s behaviour, the correct remedy was to exclude the evidence subsequently obtained.