In a recent decision of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Ewert v. Canada (Attorney General), 2016 BCSC 962, Mr. Justice Blok certified as a class action certain aspects of a lawsuit brought by an inmate for, amongst other things, damages for violations of Charter rights. The inmate in question, Jeffery Ewert, claimed that, during a lockdown at the Kent Correctional Institution that occurred between January 7 and 18, 2010, his rights and the rights of other inmates under ss. 7, 8 and 12 of the Charter were violated and that they were accordingly entitled to damages.
On June 3, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada yet again upheld the constitutional principle in support of professional secrecy between legal advisors and their clients. Justices Wagner and Gascon, rendering reasons for the Court in Canada (Attorney General) v. Chambre des notaires du Québec, 2016 SCC 20, underscored the importance of solicitor-client privilege, not only in the judicial system, but also in the legal system. Accordingly, in Chambres des notaires, as well as in Canada (National Revenue) v. Thompson, 2016 SCC 21, released contemporaneously, the Court held that the right to professional secrecy trumped the need of the government to be able to obtain accounting records of legal advisors in so far as they related to clients.
The Supreme Court closed out 2014 with a ruling that has met not without some controversy. In R. v. Fearon, 2015 SCC 77, a bare majority held that the common law police power to search incident upon a lawful arrest survived the Charter‘s protection of the right of privacy, albeit with some limitations as imposed by Justice Cromwell (for the majority). Although the search in this case did not comply with the newly imposed qualifications and was therefore not compliant with the Charter, Justice Cromwell held that the evidence so obtained should not be excluded. The minority, led by Justice Karakatsanis, would have found the warrantless search to be unconstitutional and would have excluded the evidence so obtained. The qualifications to the police power to search incident upon an arrest are not easily and objectively assessed, and the principal criticism levied against them is that it will be difficult for the police to know if they are onside or offside of the constitutional mark.
Mr. Matthew David Spencer won the battle but lost the war in the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada of R. v. Spencer, 2014 SCC 43. The unanimous 8 member panel has made it very clear that persons using the Internet have a reasonable expectation of privacy, including a reasonable expectation that their anonymity will be respected. While the Court allowed the admission of evidence obtained in this case through the police’s warrantless acquisition of Mr. Spencer’s identity from the internet service provider (“ISP”), from this point on, police in Canada must understand that they will need authorized searches through the use of properly issued warrants in order to overcome this presumption of preservation of anonymity.