R v Balfour and Young, 2019 MBQB 167

Ms. Balfour’s and Mr. Young’s s 11(e) Charter rights were violated. A stay of proceedings is moot, but an order of costs is just. Consideration should be given to an independent review of the system affecting in-custody accused on remand in northern Manitoba.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

Ms. Balfour and Mr. Young are residents of different northern Manitoba Indigenous communities. Each were arrested and charged with Criminal Code offences. Their cases are completely unrelated except they both experienced difficulty having timely bail applications. Each had made an application for a declaration that their ss 7, 9, 11(e) and 12 rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated. Each sought a judicial stay of proceedings of their charges, and costs.

The focus of the Court’s analysis was on s 11(e) of the Charter, the right of a person charged with an offence not to be denied reasonable bail, as it is broad enough to encompass the specific elements of this matter in a holistic manner. The Court found that Ms. Balfour and Mr. Young rights were violated and the Crown did not seek justification for the violation under s 1 of the Charter.

Remand custody is substantially unlike being a sentenced prisoner in a correctional facility or penitentiary. Particularly in northern Manitoba, being in remand custody awaiting some court process or trial is physically and emotionally stressful for many reasons, especially for first offenders and young offenders. An in-custody remand cannot be routine or perfunctory, the remand must be for a good reason. Lack of court resources or time is not a good or valid reason (R v Reilly, 2019 ABCA 212). Such remands cannot be done consecutively with the effect of sidestepping the accused’s right to object or consent to longer delays. This also applies to remands for less than three clear days, where an accused need not consent.

Northern Manitoba residents who are held waiting for bail are moved repeatedly, often driving great distances while locked in crammed vans and in foul weather. It is unsafe for Sheriffs and accused alike, and adds to the chaos of the northern justice system as personal or video appearances are unreliable. Many accused do not stay in remand in the north but are transferred to central or southern Manitoba. Almost all are away from their home community such that personal visits with their counsel, family, children or supports are few and far between, if at all. Telephone communication to lawyers or families is difficult, infrequent and expensive. Accused are housed with all manner of inmates from a mix of backgrounds and temperaments; some of whom are violent, addicted to drugs or alcohol, or have mental health issues. Lawyers deposed that many clients have lost their employment, or have been attacked or threatened, while in remand waiting for bail hearings. Some accused consider pleading guilty just to get out of remand custody.

The remedy for a stay of proceedings is moot. An appropriate remedy under s 24(1) of the Charter, may generally include a stay of proceedings, a reduction of a sentence, or costs. At a minimum, judicial condemnation is required and the Court finds the bail practices in play in northern Manitoba should shock the conscience of any reasonable person. The violations of Ms. Balfour’s and Mr. Young’s Charter rights were directly related to long-standing and glaring systemic issues. Although the breaches were predictable, the issue of processing the potential release of an arrested person is vital. A bail system must be designed to ensure no person’s liberty is improperly usurped. This is of special concern, as many of the communities in the Thompson judicial area of northern Manitoba are Indigenous and many of those citizens suffer the effects of colonization (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218).

No other remedy than costs remains available. In the end, Ms. Balfour and Mr. Young will receive nothing for the breaches of their individual Charter rights, but their lawyers will be reimbursed their expenses and receive partial compensation for their efforts.

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