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This week at the SCC

|Written By Elizabeth Raymer

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear four appeals this week, one constitutional and three criminal. The constitutional law case concerns Innu communities seeking damages from mining companies -- Iron Ore Company of Canada, based in Quebec, and Northshore Mining Company -- which have been performing extraction activities on Innu ancestral lands on the Labrador peninsula since the 1950s. The attorney general of Newfoundland and Labrador argues that Quebec has no jurisdiction over the case.

April 23 – Yukon Territory – Larue v. R.

Criminal law: The appellant was convicted of first degree murder after a trial in which the jury heard a range of Mr. Big and hearsay evidence. At trial, a witness refused to testify and, as a result, the Crown applied to admit two hearsay statements under the principled approach to the hearsay rule. A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Bennett J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial on the basis that the statements did not meet the test of threshold reliability to be admitted under the principled approach to hearsay as articulated in R. v. Bradshaw, 2017 SCC 35, [2017] 1 S.C.R. 865.

Read the appellate court decision here.

Related news stories:
Norman Larue appeals murder conviction to the Supreme Court of Canada; Yukon News

Judge erred, man’s appeal alleges; Whitehorse Daily Star

April 24 – Quebec –  Newfoundland and Labrador v. Uashaunnuat (Innu of Uashat and of Mani-Utenam)

Constitutional law: The Attorney General of Newfoundland and Labrador (AGNL) argues that Quebec courts are without jurisdiction to make determinations about activities and land located beyond their territorial limits. The dispute concerns the alleged breach of Aboriginal rights through mining activities on ancestral lands bordering two Canadian provinces. The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed the motions to strike allegations, noting that the doctrine of Crown immunity did not preclude it from assuming jurisdiction given that the action was not brought against the AGNL directly. The Court of Appeal of Quebec dismissed the AGNL’s appeal and expressed concerns about access to justice and proportionality over the severing of the proceeding.

Read the appellate court decision here.

Related news story:
Quebec Innu win latest court battle in $900 million lawsuit against Rio Tinto's Iron Ore Company of Canada; Financial Post

Related legal briefs:
The maturation of the duty to consult; Dentons LLP

Aboriginal Law in Multi-Jurisdictional Disputes; theCourt.ca

April 25 – Alberta – Wakefield v. R.

Criminal law: The appellant, a drug dealer, was convicted of second degree murder. The victim, from whom the appellant and his co-accused had planned to collect a drug debt, was fatally stabbed in the legs, and there was evidence at trial that the appellant had inflicted the stab wounds. The appellant appealed his conviction on several grounds; in particular, he argued that the trial judge failed to consider whether the Crown had established the mental element of the offence. A majority of the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Berger J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal and ordered a new trial. In his view, while it was clear that the appellant meant to cause bodily harm, there was no evidence that he had knowledge of the foreseeable consequences of that harm.

Read the appellate court decision here.

Related news story:
Lethbridge Police charge two men with murder; Global News

April 26 – Alberta – W.L.S. v. R.

Criminal law: The appellant was acquitted of sexual assault. He allegedly dragged his son’s aunt from her bedroom to the living room while she was sleeping and violated her sexually. The appellant’s 11-year-old son witnessed the incidents and testified that his aunt was essentially unresponsive. The trial judge accepted the boy’s evidence, but acquitted the appellant because she was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that there was an absence of subjective consent, and because the aunt had had an opportunity to leave the home at some point but did not. The Court of Appeal entered a conviction, finding that because the trial judge accepted the son’s evidence the only reasonable inference available to her was that the aunt was at least sleeping during one or more of the sexual encounters and was therefore incapable of consenting.

Read the appellate court decision here.


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