This week at the SCC

This week, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear five appeals including the explosive case of photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was allegedly tortured and killed by authorities in Iran. The case weighs state immunity against human rights enshrined within the Charter.

March 18 — Quebec — Kazemi v. Iran

International law: Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen, was allegedly detained, tortured and killed by state authorities in Iran. Her remains were buried there, against the wishes of her family. Her son Stephan Hashemi filed a civil claim in Quebec against Iran, claiming damages for Kazemi’s and his own suffering. He also sought an order that his mother’s remains be returned to Canada. The appeal court granted the respondents immunity under the State Immunity Act. The appellant counters the act violates his Charter rights. The SCC will examine whether state immunity in this case is compatible with the Charter.

Read the Quebec Court of Appeal’s decision

Related summary: Canadian Centre for International Justice

March 19 — Newfoundland & Labrador — R. v. Anderson

Charter of Rights and Freedoms: Frederick Anderson was convicted of driving drunk. The Crown sought greater punishment due to prior similar convictions. The trial judge, however, found the Crown failed to consider the aboriginal status of the defendant or to offer sufficient reasons for greater punishment. The judge determined the mandatory minimum sentence contravened the Charter, and imposed a lesser sentence. The ruling was upheld in the Court of Appeal.

Read the Newfoundland & Labrador Court of Appeal’s decision

March 20 — Ontario — R. v. Quesnelle

Criminal law: Quesnelle was convicted of assault and sexual assault. During his trial, he sought disclosure of all police occurrence reports for one of the complainants. The application was denied for privacy reasons. On appeal, the question was raised as to whether the application was properly brought under the Criminal Code, or whether it should have proceeded pursuant to the lower threshold in R. v. Stinchcombe. The appeal court ordered a new trial. The SCC will review whether the Crown has a duty to disclose all occurrence reports. A publication ban is in place.

Read the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision

March 21 — Newfoundland & Labrador — Vokurka v. R.

Criminal law: Eric Vokurka was convicted of aggravated assault for cutting his friend and co-worker’s arm. On appeal, he argued the trial judge failed to fully take into account his relationship with the complainant and his intoxicated state, which to his mind, supported his argument the incident was an accident. The appeal was dismissed. The SCC will review whether the trial judge erred by failing to explain why these inferences were not accepted.

Read the Newfoundland & Labrador Court of Appeal’s decision

March 21 — Alberta — R. v. Leinen

Criminal law: Jeffrey Leinen drove his truck into a crowd of people gathered outside a bar where he had been drinking, killing one person and injuring another. He was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. The Court of Appeal quashed the conviction and ordered a new trial after determining the trial judge had failed to adequately instruct the jury on the respondent’s defence, that his acceleration into the crowd was an involuntary panic response, and thus was unintended. The SCC will review whether the defence was legitimate and whether the jury was properly instructed.

Read the Alberta Court of Appeal’s decision

Related news stories:
Killer driver Jeffrey Leinen, who ran down Olds College student Nicholas Baier, wants new trial, Calgary Sun

Jeffrey Leinen Trial: Judge Error Cited In Decision To Hold New Trial In Fatal Alberta Ramming, Huffington Post

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