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Crown wants to fight controversial ‘extreme intoxication’ defence ruling


TORONTO — Canada’s highest court will be asked to weigh in on a ruling that reopened the door for people accused of violent crimes to argue they were so intoxicated they had lost control of what they were doing.

The decision angered some women, and in a statement on Saturday a spokeswoman for Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey said the prosecution wanted the top court to hear a challenge to it.

“I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Jenessa Crognali. “It would be inappropriate to comment further as the matters are before the court.”

Crognali said the notice of leave to appeal had yet to be filed.

I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

In overturning the convictions of two men in separate cases, the Court of Appeal on Wednesday struck down a decades-old section of the Criminal Code as unconstitutional.

The men, Thomas Chan and David Sullivan, had either killed or injured close relatives. Both were high on drugs — one had eaten magic mushrooms, the other had tried to kill himself with an overdose of a prescription stop-smoking medication.

Evidence was that both became psychotic and went on a violent rampage. Their defence, however, ran afoul of the ban on arguing self-induced extreme intoxication had resulted in their “automatism.”

The federal government had enacted the law in 1995 amid a backlash over a court ruling that recognized drunkenness could be raised to defend against a sexual assault charge.

“(The law) enables the conviction of individuals for acts they do not will,” the Appeal Court said in striking down Section 33.1.

While such cases are rare and successfully raising an intoxication defence would be difficult, critics argued it had undermined a measure aimed at protecting women from sexual violence.

“We are dismayed that women’s rights to equality and dignity are not given more adequate treatment,” the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund said of the ruling. “It also risks sending a dangerous message that men can avoid accountability for their acts of violence against women and children through intoxication.”

Both federal and Ontario New Democrats had urged an appeal.

I can confirm that the Crown will be seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada

However, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said concerns the court had reopened floodgates for men accused of violence to argue intoxication were unwarranted.

For one thing, an accused would still have the difficult task of proving they were in a state of automatism to raise the extreme intoxication defence successfully. Simply claiming to have been drunk wouldn’t cut it.

Cara Zwibel, a director with the liberties association, said the ruling had not undermined the rights of victims.

“This is a rarely used provision,” Zwibel said. “It’s not this widespread, systemic concern.”

Neither the association nor the legal fund, both interveners in the case, had any immediate comment on the proposed appeal on Saturday.





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COVID-19 Canada: Political parties remain undecided on how to resume House of Commons


OTTAWA — Canada’s political parties have until 11 a.m. Eastern time to reach a deal about how best to re-open Parliament or else the House of Commons is to resume on its normal schedule, but so far no consensus has been reached.

The NDP, Bloc Quebecois, and Liberals reached a tentative agreement to sit in person once a week, but Conservatives have said that is not enough.

Most parties say the only reason to be physically present in the House of Commons is to vote on legislation. The reason they proposed one sitting per week is so those votes can happen quickly, without having to reconvene an emergency session.

Two virtual sittings of the committee of the whole per week can accommodate all other needs, said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a Monday morning news conference

Those virtual sittings would not only minimize contact, but also make sure people in regions far from Ottawa would be able to question the government.

“It’s important to hear voices from parliamentarians across this country,” Singh said.

The NDP have three MPs in Ottawa, including Singh, who say they are prepared to stay in the capital as long as necessary to reach a deal with the other parties.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet accused the Conservatives of holding parliament “hostage” for partisan reasons, and said he wants to get to the business of serving Canadians and the people of Quebec.

The Bloc said its priorities during the next sitting of the House is to promote the needs of seniors, and the NDP cited students who will be out of work this summer as one of their top concerns.

Both the NDP and the Bloc said they were confident a deal could be reached by the 11 a.m. deadline.

The Senate has broken until at least June 2, though several committees have plans to meet virtually and the full body can be recalled if legislation need to be passed.



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