It’s no secret that it can take years for legal cases to be resolved, especially if they’re complex and involve major social issues. To get the year off to a good start, we’ve identified three of these legal sagas… which will continue into 2024!
English school boards before the courts
In 2020, a provincial law was adopted to transform school boards into school service centres. Was this an insignificant change? Not for everyone…
The new law intended to do much more than just change the term used to call these institutions – it wanted reform the way school boards were run. It led to a significant drop in the number of candidates eligible to run in school elections, reduced administrators’ incomes, excluded elected people from certain committees and allowed the government to become more involved in the management of school funds.
However, as a linguistic minority in Quebec, English school boards have the right to manage and control their own educational institutions.
The Superior Court ruled that the provincial law went against the management rights of English school boards. These changes are therefore inapplicable to them.
But that’s not the end of the story: the Quebec government is contesting the decision. What’s more, the government wants to introduce new rules to continue the reform. To be continued in 2024!
Minimum sentences… no longer applicable?
Some crimes have mandatory minimum sentences. For example, the mandatory minimum sentence for arms trafficking is one year in prison. This means that a judge who finds a person guilty of this crime will not be able to give them a lesser sentence, despite any special circumstances.
Earlier this year, a few judges determined that some mandatory minimum sentences were unreasonable or excessive. This is the case for the offence of child luring, for example.
The Supreme Court of Canada, which examined this issue, clarified that the offence is serious. Invalidating this mandatory minimum sentence only gives more flexibility to the courts. They can then impose a sentence that is truly proportional to the crime committed.
This trend is not limited to the courts. In 2021, the federal government introduced new rules aimed at reducing the over-representation of marginalized people in the prison system.
Specifically, these rules aim to abolish certain minimum sentences, including those related to arms trafficking or the production of certain illegal substances. The rules dealing with minimum sentences have not yet come into force.
Will this trend of abolishing minimum sentences continue in 2024? We’ll stay tuned …
A shocking secret trial
Generally, criminal trials are public: anyone can attend, find out the identity of those involved and hear the final judgment.
A public trial is both a right of the accused and an important pillar of our democracy. How else can we know whether justice has been served?
That’s why last year’s secret trial came as such a shock. In this case, the police had recruited an informant for criminal investigations. The informant had also been involved in crimes.
In the end, the relationship between the police and the informant deteriorated. Charges were brought against the informant, who requested a stay of proceedings. It was this hearing on the stay of proceedings that was held in secret to protect the informant’s identity – their name was kept confidential, the trial was held behind closed doors and the judgment was redacted.
Let’s not forget that protecting the identity of informants is also an essential part of our legal system.
Now, several media outlets are calling for this information to be made public.
What will prevail? The importance of keeping the informant’s identity a secret, or the right to a public trial? We may have the answer in 2024!