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Thomson Nelson > Higher Education > Canadian Criminal Justice: A Primer 2nd Edition > 

New Legal Landmark Timeline in Criminal Justice

Legislative Landmarks

Historical Cases and Events

Famous Trials

The History of Legal Players

Legal Rights

Legislative Landmarks

1774 Under the Quebec Act, Britain allows for the continuation of French Civil law in the British colonies.

1867 The British North America Act, later renamed The Constitution Act, 1867 makes Canada a country.

1869 - Legislative revisions to the Death Penalty statutes meant that this punishment was only available in cases of murder treason and, rape.

1892- Proclamation of Canada's First Criminal Code. It will be consolidated and revised in 1906, 1927 and 1953 but remains substantially the same with some

1892 offences still in effect.

1894- The Youthful Offenders Act codifies a child's right to be tried and incarcerated separately from the adult population, where possible.

1908 - The Juvenile Delinquents Act is proclaimed. It will remain in place for nearly 80 years, although will be comprehensively amended several times.

1908 - Parliament enacts the first drug control statute when it passes the Opium Act.

1911 - The Opium Act is renamed the Opium and Narcotic Drug Act, which also bans cocaine and morphine for non-medicinal use.

1923 - The Opium and Drug Act is amended to prohibit the use of marijuana and hashish.

Dec 11, 1931- Statute of Westminster removes the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the Court of Last Resort for criminal cases although civil cases will continue to be referred until 1949.

Jan 1, 1947 - The Canadian Citizenship Act, the first to define its people as Canadian rather than British subjects, came into effect.

1954 - The Opium and Drug Act is again amended to target drug trafficking.

1955- Major revisions to the Criminal Code reduce its size from 1100 section to 753.

1959 - The Parole Act is passed creating the National Parole Board.

1960 - Parliament enacts the Canadian Bill of Rights which enshrines fundamental freedoms and equality protections in a statute, which is later found to be ineffective as a protection of liberties as it is not binding on the provinces.

1961 - The Narcotics Control Act replaces the earlier drug statutes and imposes stiffer penalties.

1961 - The Criminal Code is amended to classify murder into capital and non-capital offences.There were two capital murder offences; premeditated murder and murder of a police officer, guard or warden in the course of duty. A capital offence had a mandatory sentence of hanging.

1966 - The Criminal Code is amended to remove the death penalty for all but the capital murder of a police officer.

1967 - Saskatchewan becomes the first province in Canada to enact legislation that compensates victims of crime.

1972 - British Columbia and Alberta establish Canada's first transition houses for victims of domestic abuse.

1976 - Capital punishment is removed from the Criminal Code to be replaced with mandatory life imprisonment.

1982 - Constitution Act, 1982 proclaimed; including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

1983 - Bill C-127 is enacted which amends the Criminal Code to remove the old "rape" laws and replace them with the offences relating to "sexual assault."

1984 - Parliament enacts the Young Offenders Act, which aims to address the special needs of young people in trouble with the law by making youth more accountable for their actions.

1985 – By 1985, the Charter had been argued in over 2000 cases in Canada .

1992 - Following the Supreme Court's decision in R. v. Seaboyer, that struck down various sections of the Code dealing with the defence of honest mistake, Parliament again revises the Code to enact Bill C-49 which revises the rape shield law.

1992-  The Corrections and Conditional Release Act adopts new principles with a view to less restrictive measures of sentencing.

1995 - The Firearms Act is proclaimed in force creating the controversial registration system for handguns.

1997- The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is enacted consolidating various drug offences found previously in the Narcotics Control Act, and the Food and Drug Act.

1998 - Amendments to the Canadian National Defence Act remove the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment with no eligibility for parole before 25 years completely abolishing capital punishment in Canada.

1998 - The DNA Identification Act establishes a national databank for DNA information.

2000 - Parliament enacts the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

2001 - The Marihuana Medical Access Regulations were approved. They authorize certain people with identified medical needs to posses and/or produce marihuana.

February 15, 2001 – Supreme Court ruling on the death penalty is a breach of fundamental justice under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Court did not go so far as to say execution was also unconstitutional under section 12 of the Charter, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

December 18, 2001 - Canada enacts the Anti-terrorism Act which enhances police arrest and investigation powers in cases where terrorism is suspected.

December 2002 - Bill C-23 to create a National Sex Offender Registry is tabled in the House of Commons. It subsequently dies on the Order Paper.

April 1, 2003 - After only twenty years, the YOA is replaced by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, an attempt to balance social issues addressed by the JDA and the stricter approach to crime found in the YOA.

December 15, 2004 - The Sex Offender Information Registration Act [SOIRA]) was proclaimed as law and came into force on this date. It creates a national registration system for offenders convicted of sexual offences.

May 2005 - Bill C-13,   An omnibus amendment act, changes the Criminal Code, the DNA Identification Act and the National Defence Act to allow for collection of DNA for use in Criminal Trials


Historical Cases and Events

Jan 19, 1649 - This is the date of the first execution in Canada . The victim was a 16-year-old girl found guilty of theft.

1763 - Marie-Josephte Corriveau is convicted of killing her husband by striking him in the head with an axe as he slept. She was hanged on April 18 and her execution was the first under British rule.
November 16, 1837: Warrants are issued for the arrest of 26 Patriot leaders on charges of high treason, initiating the events of the Lower Canada Rebellion

Apr 12, 1838 - Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hanged for treason, at Toronto, for their roles in the Rebellion of 1837 in Upper Canada.

May 22, 1838 - In Verdun, Qué, lawyer Robert Sweeny shot and killed Maj Henry Warde, who had sent a love letter to Mrs Sweeny, in the last fatal duel recorded in Canada

Feb 11, 1869:  Patrick James Whelan was hanged in Ottawa for murdering Thomas D'Arcy McGee. He was hanged in front of 5000 spectators in Ottawa , one of the last public executions in Canada .

1876 Kelly v. Sullivan - The first case heard by the new Supreme Court of Canada

Feb 4, 1880: Five of the notorious Black Donnellys were massacred near Lucan, Ont.

November 16, 1885: Louis Riel hanged for treason

Jul 31, 1910 - Infamous British murderer Dr. Crippen was arrested aboard the SS Montrose as it was docking at Québec. Charged with the murder of his wife in England, he was the first criminal to be caught by the use of radio.

Feb 17, 1932: Albert Johnson, the "Mad Trapper," was shot and killed by the RCMP on the Rat River , northern Yukon Territory .

1934 - Brewer John Labatt was kidnapped and held for $50 000 ransom

Sept 5, 1945 - Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko a Russian born clerk in the Societ Embassy to Canada defected to the west with over 100 documents showing Soviet espionage activities in the west. The defection helped to escalate the Cold War.

Sept 9 1949 - Albert Guay arranges for a bomb to explode on the airplane carrying his wife. All 23 people on board are killed making this the largest mass murder at the time.

Sep 16, 1952 Police in Toronto recaptured the Boyd Gang, 4 men wanted for murder and armed robbery. They had broken out of Toronto 's Don Jail 8 days earlier.

Dec 11, 1962 - The last judicial hanging in Canada took place in Toronto 's Don Jail, when Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were executed for murder.

February 11, 1969 - After 14 days of occupation of the computer lab at Sir George Williams University in Montreal, over 200 students set fire to the building, 97 were arrested by riot police.

October 16 and 17th 1970 - On October 16, 1970, The War Measures Act is implemented in Canada. It authorizes sweeping police powers as the government and police in Quebec search for kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Vice Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte. Laporte is found murdered on October 17, 1970.

August 21, 1981 - Pedophile and mass murderer Clifford Olson offes his cash for bodies deal to the police where they paid him $10,000 for every body that he helped to locate.

Jan 3, 1985 - The Grange Commission reported that as many as 23 babies died of deliberate overdoses of the heart drug dioxin at Toronto 's Hospital for Sick Children, after Nurse Susan Nelles was acquitted of the crimes, no other person was ever convicted..

Feb 13, 1985 - Denis Lortie was found guilty of the first degree murder of 3 government employees in a submachine-gun attack on Québec's National Assembly in

May 1984.

June 22, 1985 - Canada's worst mass murder occurs when 329 people die on board Air India Flight 182 departed from Vacnouver British Columbia. It will be 15 years before any charges are laid.

Dec 6, 1989 - Marc Lépine went on a shooting rampage at the University of Montréal , killing 14 women and wounding 9 others. He also wounded 4 men, then turned the gun on himself.

Jan 26, 1990 - The royal commission investigating the wrongful murder conviction of Donald Marshall Jr reported that the justice system had failed him. He had been imprisoned for 11 years for a murder he did not commit.

August 24, 1992 - Mechanical Engineering Professor Valery Fabrikant shoots and kills three of his colleagues in the Engineering Faculty at Montreal's Concordia University a fourth professor dies a month later from injuries sustained in the incident.

July 1993 - Karla Homolka pleads guilty to two counts of manslaughter and receives a 12-year jail sentence as part of a plea bargain that she will testify against her husband to secure his conviction in the rapes and murders of two teenagers.

Apr 5, 1995 - Mark Chahal kills himself after killing nine members of his estranged wife's family in Vernon, BC .

Sept 1, 1995 -Paul Bernardo, accused of the murder and torture of 2 girls is convicted on all nine charges against him. After being sentenced to to life in prison without possibility of parole for 25 years, he is declared a dangerous offender.

Aug 2, 1995 –  Ottawa sportscaster Brian Smith was shot and killed by Jeffrey Arenburgh, who cited anger against the media as his motive.

Dec 3, 1996 - The RCMP finally charged Alan Eagleson, former executive director of the NHL Players Association, with fraud and theft. He had been indicted in

1994 for racketeering and fraud. Eagleson was subsequently sentenced to 18 month in prison.

Feb 6, 1997 - A federal court ruled that Robert Latimer be retried for murder charges in the mercy killing of his daughter, citing flagrant abuse of process by the prosecution.

Nov. 14, 1997 - 14-year-old Reena Virk. is murdered in Victoria B.C.One young man and six female teenagers are charged in her murder which was allegedly motivated because Virk "did not fit in."

Dec 1, 1997 - Justice Peter Richard of Nova Scotia issued a report on the Westray mine disaster citing slipshod government inspection and mine management disregard for safety as responsible for the explosion.

Apr 6, 1999 - Pierre Lebrun, a former employee of OC Transpo, an Ottawa bus company, shot and killed 4 workers and wounded another before killing himself.

Apr 28, 1999 - A 14-year-old boy armed with a .22 calibre rifle shot and killed 2 students at W.R. Myers High School in Taber, Alta. The killings followed by 8 days the Colorado massacre.

May 17, 1999 - The Saskatchewan government awarded David Milgaard $10 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction for murder and 23 years of imprisonment. Milgaard was cleared by DNA evidence in 1997.

Jun 17, 1999 - Canadian citizen Joseph Stanley Faulder was executed in Huntsville, Texas, the first Canadian executed in the US since 1952.

Dec 14, 1999 -  US customs officials arrested an Algerian-born man, named Ahmed Ressam, entering the US from Canada at Port Angeles , Washington . He was headed for Los Angeles International Airport , where he planned to blow up a terminal on New Year's Eve.

Aug 3, 2000 - The RCMP filed charges against a 16-year-old Montreal boy whom it had arrested in April in connection with computer attacks that paralysed several Internet sites, including CNN (Mafiaboy)

March 31, 2004 - Mohammad Momin Khawaja becomes the first person charged under the Anti-terrorism Act.

March 16, 2005 - After 19 months of trial, the Air India trial comes to an end with the acquittals of Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri.

January 30, 2006 - The trial of Robert Pickton charged with the murder of 27 women in British Columbia commences in New Westminster, B.C.

March 2, 2006 - The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a total ban on wearing a kirpan to school violated an individual’s freedom of religion protected by section 2(a) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, second, that this ban on religious expression was not reasonable or justifiable, as is required under section 1.

August 28, 2007 – Truscott’s conviction was brought to the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 19, 2006. The hearing is also notable for being the first time that cameras were allowed into a hearing of the Ontario Court of Appeal. On August 28, 2007, Truscott was acquitted of the charges.

January 24, 2008 – Pickton was convicted on lesser counts of second degree murder in the killing of six women whose partial remains were found on his property. He was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 25 years before he can apply for parole. A trial on the remaining 20 counts is expected later this year.


Famous Trials

1604 – In Semayne's Case, the common law rule that a “man's home is his castle” was established creating the need for police officers to obtain warrants if they wished to conduct a search of a residence.

1843 - M'Naghten's Case; This is the decision of the British House of Lords that established the common law principle that insanity is a defence. It is later incorporated into the Criminal Code.

1881 – In Hicks v. Faulkner, the British House of Lords determines that a police officer can only arrest someone that the officer has “reasonable and probable grounds” to have committed an offence.

1884 In the British case, The Queen v Dudley and Stephens, the House of Lords considers whether cannibalism is justifiable when raising the defence of necesssity.

1935- The House of Lords decision in Woolmington v. D.P.P clearly established that the presumption of innocence in criminal cases is the “golden thread of English criminal law.” As a result the burden of proof in criminal cases is on the Crown who must establish the accused's guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The case remains good law in Britain and in Canada where the decision was adopted by the Canadian courts.

1936 The Canadian case of   Christie v. York   [1940] S.C.R. 139 demonstrates the inequities in Canada's justice system when, Fred Christie, a person of colour is denied the right to drink in the tavern in Montreal's Forum. He appeals his case to the Supreme Court of Canada which denies his appeal in a decision made in 1940.

1947 – In the House of Lords decision of Christie v. Leachinsky, the court determined that a police officer need not always advise an accused person of the charges against him or her. This was especially true where the reason for the arrest should be “obvious.” The Canadian courts adopted this same test, which had some modifications, but was abolished with the advent of the Charter.

1949 -In Reference re Validity of Section 5(a) of the Dairy Industry Act , the "Margarine Reference," the Supreme Court of Canada (confirmed by the JCPC) holds that criminal law is a matter of exclusive federal jurisdiction. To determine if an act is criminal Rand J., stated; "A crime is an act which the law, with appropriate penal sanctions, forbids."

1951- R. v. Boucher : In 1951, Boucher was charged with seditious libel distributing pamphlets that critized the Quebec government' s prohibition of Jehovah's Witnesses. Convicted at trial and on appeal. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Canada that determined that merely publishing critical statements, without any intention to incite violence against the government, could not be seditious libel.

1957 - The Supreme Court of Canada in Beaver v. R.clarified the meaning of mens rea in cases whre possession was an element of the offence. It determined that the accused must have "subjective" knowledge of the nature of the object in possession - in this case, the accused had to know that he possessed heroin and not sugar.

1959 - On June 9, 1959, 12-year-old Lynne Harper was murdered. Less than 4 months later, 14-year-old Steven Murray Truscott was convicted of the offence and was sentenced to death as required by law at the time (see R. v. Truscott.) On January 21, 1960 , the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed his conviction appeal. On the same date his death sentence was commuted to one of life imprisonment. An application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was dismissed on February 24, 1960. His case has been the focus of several trials and inquiries.

1962 - Robertson and Rosetanniv. The Queen, arose when Robertson and Rosetanniopen a bowling alley in Hamilton, Ontario contrary to the Lord's Day Act. They were charged and convicted. On appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, the court maintained the conviction, ruling that the Lord's Day Act , which required shops to close on Sunday, did not infringe religious freedom under the Bill of Rights .

1967 - The elements of a lawful arrest were defined by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Whitfield. Arrest was defined to include the actual seizure or touching of a person with the intent to detain them and saying something that would indicate that an arrest is being made.

1970 - In R v Drybones, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Bill of Rights could be used to render federal statutes inoperative if they were inconsistent with it. Here the Court stuck down section 94(b) of the Indian Act  which prohibited "Indians" from being intoxicated off of reserve land, an offence that "discriminated" on the basis of race.

1971 – In R. v. Wray, the Supreme Court of Canada held that illegally obtained evidence could not be excluded as inadmissible.

1972 -The Nova Scotia Court held in R. v. Kennedy that the defence of necessity will apply in speeding cases.

May 1, 1972 - Curr v. The Queen: here the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that compulsory breathalyser tests did not breach the Bill of Rights.

Jul 18, 1973 -  Christine Demeter was murdered in 1973. Her husband, Peter Demeter, was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1974 after Canada 's longest and most bizarre murder trial in R. v.Demeter.

Nov 13, 1973 - A jury acquitted Dr. Henry Morgentaler of violating the Criminal Code in performing abortions.

1974 - In Kienapple v. The Queen, the Kienapple principle is established in a rape case when the Court determines that a person cannot be convicted of two related offences on the same facts.

1974- In Eccles v. Bourque, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that the police could enter a person's home without a warrant to effect an arrest.

1976 – In a decision under the Bill of Rights (R. v. Miller) the Supreme Court of Canada decided that death penalty did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. No determination on the issue has been made under the Charter as the death penalty is not an option in Canadian law.

1977 – The Metropolitan Toronto Police Force establishes the first year round spot check program for impaired drivers

1978 - The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that "soliciting" for prostitution means pressing and persistent behaviour and that a car was not a public place.

1980 - R. v. Pappajohn establishes the common law defence of "mistake of fact" in sexual assault cases allowing the accused a defence if he mistakenly concludes that his victim is consenting to the assault.

1985 – In R. v. Therens, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a person does not have to be physically detained by the police, if they are “psychologically detained” they have the right to be informed of their right to obtain and instruct counsel.

1985 – Section 11(d) of the Charter is interpreted in Dubois v. The Queen which confirms that the burden of proof in criminal cases remains with the Crown which must prove the guilt of the accused person “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

1985 - In Singh et al. v. Minister of Employment and Immigration, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to all persons physically present in Canada.

1985- Towne Cinema Theatres Ltd. v. The Queen establishes the principle of "community standards" as the measure of obscenity in Canada.

1985- Random spot checks which breathalyse the driver of an automobile were found to be acceptable under the Charter in R. v. Dedman.

1986- The police are allowed to enter a home without a warrant if they believe a person who committed a crime is inside and they announce their entracnce. While the decision in R. v. Landry was rendered post-Charter it arises from an offence which occurred pre-Charter making the Charter inapplicable.

1986 - The Supreme Court of Canada establishes the Oakes test in R. v. Oakes that establishes the criteria for S. 1 of the Charter to apply as a reasonable limit in a free and democratic society. However, from a criminal law perspective the case eloquently affirms that the presumption of innocence is a “fundamental liberty” in Canada . It also determines that requiring an accused person to prove that he/she did not commit an offence violates that presumption.

1987 – The landmark decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Smith determined that mandatory minimum sentences which were “grossly disproportionate to the crime” were unconstitutional and contrary to the Charter as they constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”

1987 – A free vote was held in the House of Commons on whether the death penalty should be re-instated. The motion was defeated.

1987 – R. v. Collins represented the first decision under the Charter which addressed the inadmissibility of illegally obtained evidence. Such evidence would be excluded if it would “bring the administration of justice into disrepute.” Of special note is that self-incriminating evidence would be excluded mirroring the American Miranda rights.

1989 – The Supreme Court of Canada interprets s. 10 of the Charter in R. v. Black and determines that a person does not have to submit to an arrest unless they are fully aware of the nature of the charges against themselves.

1990 - In Reference re ss. 193 and 195.1(1)(C) of the Criminal Code (Manitoba.) , the Supreme Court of Canada finds that the offence of soliciting does not infringe the Charter.

1990 – A mandatory minimum sentence for first degree murder was held by the Supreme Court of Canada to be constitutional in R. v. Luxton. Similarly in R. v. Arkell, a mandatory minimum sentence for second degree murder was also held to not contravene the accused's Charter rights.

1990 - Angelique Lyn Lavallee successfully argues the "battered woman's defence" before the Supreme Court of Canada and is acquitted of the killing of her abusive common law partner.

1990 - In R. v. Keegstra, the freedom of expression protections fo the charter were pitted against the hate provisions of the Criminal Code, and inciting hatred was found not to be protected by the Charter.

1990 – Evidence obtained from a “polygraph test” is deemed inadmissible in court.

1990 – The Supreme Court of Canada determines that a police officer must have “reasonable and probable grounds to make an arrest. Such a test would be on an “objective basis”. (R. v. Storrey)

1991 – The crown is found to have an onus to disclose all information in its possession in R. v. Stinchcombe.

1991 - The Criminal Code amendments which removed the defence of honest belief of consent in rape cases are struck down as contrary to the accused's Charter rights in R. v. Seaboyer.

1994 - The common law defence of drunkeness is applied by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Daviault and Daviault is acquitted of the sexual assault of an elderly woman in a wheel chair, because he was too drunk to form the necessary mens rea to commit the offence. The Criminal Code will be amended to remove this defence.

Jan 23, 1995 - The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of a neighbourhood girl. DNA evidence showed that he could not have been the killer.

1995 - The Corrections and Conditional Release Act, amended the Criminal Code by allowing a sentencing judge to delay parole. In R. v. Goulet, the Ontario Court of appeal found that delayed parole did not contravene a convicted persons' Charter rights. the Supreme Court of Canada concurred with the interpretation of the Court of appeal in R. v. Chiasson.

Sep 1, 1995 - A jury found Paul Bernardo guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 2 girls in 1991 and 1992.

1997 - The Lifchus test is established to describe the meaning of the term "reasonable doubt", in R. v. Lifchus.

1997- R. v. Feeny is an important Charter case on the interpretation of s. 8, because the Supreme court of Canda determines that the police, in general, obtain prior judicial authorization of entry into the dwelling house in order to arrest the person.

April 23, 1999 - The special sentencing provisions for Aboriginal Offenders are tested by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Gladue and found to be Charter compliant.

1999 - R. v. Ewanchuk, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 330, determines that the "no means no" amendments to the Criminal Code withstand Charter scruntiny and the defendant is convicted.

1999 - When police officers enter a home where they suspect domestic abuse to be occurring, they do not need a warrant; R. v. Godoy.

Nov 22, 1999 - Convicted serial rapist Larry Fisher was found guilty of the murder in 1969 of Gail Miller. The verdict ended the 30-year saga of David Milgaard, wrongly convicted of the murder.

1999 - Parliament's attempt to redress some of the inequities facing aboriginal people involved with the Criminal Law is tested in R. v. Gladue which holds that s.718 of the Criminal Code, the section that requires a trial judge to consider alternative sentencing options for aboriginal offenders, is found to be constitutional.

October 12, 2000 - In R. v. Darrach, the supreme Court of Canada confirms that Bill C-49 revisions to the Criminal Code which prevent an accused person from cross-examining a rape victim's sexual history are constitutional and do not infringe the accused person's right to a fair trial.

2001 - In R. v. Sharpe, the child porography sections of the Criminal Code are considered by the Supreme Court of Canada and simple possession of child pornography is found to be a form of freedom of expression.

2001 - The Supreme Court of Canada rules that the defence of necessity was not available to Robert Latimer when he was convicted of second degree murder in the death of his disabled daughter. The court also rejected the argument that a minimum sentence for murder was "cruel and unusual punishment" and therefore prohibited by the Charter.

February 15, 2001 – The Supreme Court of Canada rules that in absence of “exceptional circumstances” guarantees in death penalty cases are always constitutionally required in the case of United States v. Burns. The case revolved around two Canadian citizens, Glen Sebastian Burns and Atif Ahmad Rafay, who were accused of murdering Rafay’s family in the United States. Burns and Rafay confessed to undercover Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and plans were made to extradite the pair to United States to face first degree murder charges. They were extradited to Washington State with a guarantee that if convicted, they would not face the death penalty. On May 27, 2004, both men were found guilty of three counts of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

2002 - In a sensational trial concerning sexual abuse of young girls by a cult leader, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed its earlier position against allowing an accused person to go on a "fishing expedition" concerning the victim's histories, in R. v. Shearing.

2002 - In Sauve v. Canada (Chief Eletoral Officer), the Supreme Court of Canada narrowly struck down s. 51 of the Canada Elections Act, which had prevented prisoners incarcerated in federal institutions from voting. The majority concluded that the impugned provision of the Act contravened the Charter and could not be justified by s. 1.

2003 - In R. v. Owen, the Supreme Court of Canada establishes the principles to be applied in assessing whether a person found to be not criminally responsible ("NCR") on account of mental disorder should eventually be released from institutional care.
2003 - The amendments to the Criminal Code that established a distinction between dangerous offenders and long term offenders are weighed in a quintet of cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, see R. v. Johnson, R. v. Edgar, R. v. Smith, R. v. Mitchell, and R. v. Kelly

2003 - DNA testing pusuant to the Criminal Code is found to not contravene a person's right to privacy under s. 8 of the Charter in R. v. S.A.B.

2003- The crown's duty to disclose all evidence is again considered by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Taillefer, R. v. Duguay and new trials ordered for the accused when the court determined that the Crown withheld evidence from the accuseds.

2003 - The punishments imposed by the Narcotics Control Act for possession of marijuana are found to not contraven the Charter in R. v. Malmo-Levine and R. v. Clay.

2004 - The Criminal Code allows a parent to use reasonable force when disciplining a child. Children's advocates challenge the constitutionality of the section and the Supreme Court of Canada upholds the Code provisions in Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General)

 2004 - The cases, Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre v. Ontario (Attorney General) and Pinet v. St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital , released concurrently, represent the latest round in the attempt to reconcile the twin goals of public safety and the fair treatment of individuals who commit offences while suffering from a mental disorder.

2004 - The defence of automatism is considered by the Court in R. v. Fontaine.

2004- The Supreme Court of Canada considers the secrecy provisions of the Anti-terrorism Act and the Criminal Code and finds that they do noto violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Application under s. 83.28 of the Criminal Code (Re)

2004 - In R. v. Kerr, the Court considers whether an inmate can carry a weapon for self-defence in prison.

2004 - The provisions of the Criminal Code that condemn a person who is unfit to stand trial to remain instituionalized until fit to stand trial are found to be contrary to the Charter and struck down in R. v. Demers.

2004- Police powers of search are considered in R. v. Mann when a pat down search for a weapon found instead marijuana, The accused was acquitted as the search was found to contrave the accused's rights under s. 8 of the Charter.

2004 - In R. v. Perrier, R. v. Chan, the court considers the use of similar fact evidence when accused persons are alleged to be aprt of a "gang".

2004 - The use by RCMP officers of thermal imaging to detect "heat" which would be indicative of a "marijuana grow-op" is found to be reasonable under the Charter in R. v. Tessling.

2005 - In R. v. Krymowski, the court considered the offence of wilful promotion of hatred and found that people with shared characteristics could form an identifiable group, in this case "Roma" or gypsies.

2005 - In a R.I.D.E program set up by two First Nations police officers located at the entrance to a reserve in Ontario are authorized to detain and arrest anyone legally stopped by the officers; R. v. Decorte.

August 28, 2007 – Marks the ending to the murder case of Steven Truscott. On October 28, 2004 Justice Minister Irwin Cotler directed a Reference pursuant to section 693.3(a) (ii) of the Criminal Code to the Ontario Court of Appeal to review where new evidence would have changed the 1959 verdict in the case of Steven Truscott. On April 6, 2006, the body of Lynne Harper was exhumed in order to test for DNA evidence, but no useable DNA was recovered from the remains. Truscott’s conviction was brought to the Ontario Court of Appeal on June 19, 2006. In addition to the notoriety of the case, the hearing is also notable for being the first time that cameras were allowed into a hearing of the Ontario Court of Appeal. On August 28, 2007, Truscott was acquitted of the charges. The Attorney General of Ontario apologized to Truscott on behalf of the government, stating they were “truly sorry” for the miscarriage of justice.

2008 – Pickton faced 26 first degree murder charges but the judge at his first trial divided them into two groups and the jury heard evidence on only six. After an eleven month trial, Pickton was convicted on lesser counts of second degree murder in the killing of six women whose partial remains were found on his Port Coquitlam property. He was sentenced to live in prison with a minimum of 25 years before he can apply for parole. A trial on the remaining 20 counts is expected to proceed this year.

January 2008 - Charges against a group of Toronto drug squad officers have been thrown out. The charges were stayed after the judge agreed the trial had been unduly delayed, violating the officers' right to a speedy hearing. It was the biggest corruption investigation in the history of Canadian policing. The policemen, all former members of the Toronto drug squad, had faced a slew of charges, including extortion, theft, assault, perjury, and obstruction of justice.


The History of Legal Players

1774 - Quebec Act allows for the application of civil law in Quebec

1797 - The Law Society of Upper Canada which educates and licences lawyers, was established in what would become Ontario, some twenty years before any other province would follow suit.

1826 - The first paid police force in Canada was established at Saint John , NB.

1835 - The "Provincial Penitentiary of Upper Canada" is built at Kingston, Ontario. It will become a federal penetentiary with confederation.

1841 -1844- Provincial prisons are built in Saint John, New Brunswick and Halifax, Nova Scotia.With the Kingston Prison, they too become federal penetentiaries in 1867

1865 - The provincial government of Upper Canada opened the Rockwood Hospital next door to Kingston Penitentiary as an asylum for mentally ill inmates.

1867- A group of church workers in Toronto assembles with a mission to bring spiritual help to prisoners in the local jail. Eventually, they will become known as The John Howard Society

May 23, 1873 - An Act of Parliament authorized the creation of the North-West Mounted Police; the prefix Royal was added 1904.

1874 - The Toronto church workers who organized themselves in 1867 rename themselves The Prisoners Aid Association

Apr 5, 1875 - An Act of the Canadian Parliament creates the Supreme Court of Canada. The court sat for the first time on January 17, 1876.
January 1882 - The Salvation Army begins conducting services in Toronto, Ontario.

1890 - The Salvation Army opens a Prison Gate home in Toronto.

May 6, 1898 - The Yukon Field Force, consisting of 203 volunteers, left Vancouver for Dawson to maintain order during the gold rush.

1901 - Canada's first parole program begins under the auspices of the Salvation Army.

1911- The first juvenile detention centre opens in Montreal, Quebec. It is run by the Salvation Army.

1919 - The duties of the RNWMP were expanded to include all of Canada west of Ontario .

Feb 1, 1920 - The Royal North-West Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after merging with the Dominion Police. RCMP headquarters was moved from Regina to Ottawa .

1929 - General Draper, the chief of Police in Toronto reactivates the Prisoners Aid Association as the Citizens Service Association. The organization of volunteers provided practical help to ex-prisoners with housing, clothing and employment.

1939 - The first Canadian Elizabeth Fry Society is established in Vancouver. By 2006, there are 25 E. Fry Societies nationally, "that work with and for women and girls in the justice system, particularly those who are, or may be, criminalized."

1949 - The Supreme Court of Canada was made the final court of appeal in Canada , ending recourse to the British Privy Council.

1958 - The first volume of the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice is published.

1974 - Women are recruited as RCMP officers for the first time.

Jan 7, 1974 - Bora Laskin was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

1974- Canada pioneers a restorative justice experiment with two youthful offenders in Elmira, Ontario.

1977 - The Dakota Ojibway Tribal Council Police Department became the first self-administered, Aboriginal police service in Canada.

1977 - Ontario establishes the Reduced Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) program.

Mar 30, 1983 - Bertha Wilson was sworn in as Canada 's first female Supreme Court Justice.

1984 - The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), a civilian security agency divorced from the RCMP, came into existence.

29 November 1985 - The General Assembly of the United Nations adopts resolution 40/34 of  1985 entitled The Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power

1988 - Canada establishes the Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime to ensure that victim's issues were considered by federal and provincial officials working on criminal justice issues.

Mar 15, 1990 - In a change to the RCMP dress code, the federal government decided that Sikh officers could wear turbans while on duty.

1990 - MADD Canada (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was formed to create a national network of victims and concerned citizens working to stop impaired driving and to support victims of this violent crime.

1991 - The First Nations Policing Policy (FNPP) was created by the Federal Government to provide First Nations across Canada with "access to police services that are professional, effective, culturally appropriate and accountable to the communities they serve."

1993 - The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime is established with a mandate to ensure that crime victims are "treated equitably.".

1993 - In Weatherall v. Canada, male prisoners object to frisk searches by feale correctional staff. The Supreme Court of Canada holds that the inmates' Chater rights were not infringed by these cross-gender searches.

1994- Canada launches its National Crime Prevention Strategy

1995- Canada and the United States sign the Canada-United States Accord on our Shared Border.

July 11, 1997 - Judge Lynn Ratushny releases her Self-Defence Review Report to the Minister of Justice which considered the situations of 98 women who were imprisoned in circumstances that might have otherwise found them to be victims.

Nov 3, 1999 - PM Jean Chrétien appointed Justice Beverley McLachlin as the first female chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. She was sworn in January 7, 2000.

Jun 9, 2000 -  Canada and the United States update the Border Security Accord of 1995 under which the two countries would bolster security along the eastern border under a joint enforcement team.

July 24, 2002 - On Canada's motion, the United Nations Economic and Social Council adopted Resolution 2002/12 encouraging countries to use Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Programmes in Criminal Matters in developing and implementing restorative justice in their countries.

2003 - Canada establishes the Canadian Firearms Centre (CAFC) to administer the Canadian Firearms Act and Regulations

December 15, 2004 - The National Sex Offender Registry (NSOR) is established to track offenders convicted of sex related offences.


Legal Rights

Apr 21, 1785 - Trial by jury was first established in Canada

Jan 23, 1831 - The Lower Canada Assembly voted that Jews have legal rights.

1859 - The death penalty could be imposed in the following instances: murder, rape, treason, administering poison or wounding with intent to commit unlawfully abusing a girl under ten, buggery with man or beast, robbery with wounding, burglary with assault arson, casting away a ship and, exhibiting a false signal endangering a ship

1878 - The Canada Temperance Act gave local governments the right to prohibit the sale of alcohol.

1885 - Passage of "An Act to restrict and regulate Chinese Immigration into Canada" which charged a "head tax" for every Chinese person entering Canada

1914 - Canada enacts the War Measures Act which gives sweeping powers to the Government to arrest, detain and question anyone in Canada.

1901 - Prohibition in Canada begins when the Prince Edward Island legislature passed a law forbidding the sale and consumption of intoxicating beverages.

1914 - Following Canada's entry into World War I, over 5,000 people of Ukrainian origin are interred until 1920 under the War Measures Act.

May 25, 1918 - Women vote in a federal election for the first time. However, the The War-Time Elections Act strips the vote from naturalized "enemy aliens" (Germans and Ukrainians) and fails to grant the vote to Chinese, Japanese, Aboriginal peoples, and other visible minorities.

March 21, 1928 Alberta passes the Sexual Sterilization Act . It provides for the forced sterilization of inmates in mental hospitals.

March 24, 1937 - The Québec government passes the "Padlock Act" empowering the attorney general to close, for one year, any building used for propagating "communism or bolshevism."

Aug 5, 1940 - Camillien Houde, the mayor of Montréal, was arrested by the RCMP for sedition in having advised Québec men not to take part in the compulsory National Registration.

April 1942 - In a plebiscite vote that divided Canadians along linquistic lines Canadians voted to allow for Conscription of Canadians into National Overseas Service in WWII.

1940 - Women finally get the right to vote in Quebec elections under the Act Granting to Women the Right to Vote and to be Eligible as Candidates

1940 - Canada enacts the War Measures Act for a second time.

February 26, 1942 The federal government uses the War Measures Act to intern 26,000 Japanese nationals of military age.

1944 - Canadians were prohibited by law from moving to certain over-populated cities, including Victoria , New Westminster, BC, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa and Hull, Québec, without prior permission.

1957 - Saskatchewan becomes the first in Canada to proclaim a Human Rights Act prohibiting discrimination.

Mar 6, 1957 - The Supreme Court of Canada nullified the Québec "Padlock Law" of 1937.

1960 - Aboriginal people in Canada obtain the right to vote.

1966 - Capital punishment is removed from the Criminal Code in all cases except for intentional murder of a police officer in the line of duty.

1969 - The Criminal Code Amendment Act liberalized laws on abortion, homosexuality and lotteries.

Sep 27, 1972 -  Ottawa bans the sale of firecrackers.

Jul 15, 1975 - Legislation was introduced to create a national Human Rights Commission.

Jun 30, 1976 - MPs voted 148-127 not to reinstate the death penalty.

1976 - As a result of the Morgentaler case, the Criminal Code was amended to prevent appeals courts from reversing "not guilty" jury decisions.

1982- With the proclamation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Dr. Henry Morgenthaler takes his abortion campaign to the courts again. This time he isacquitted.

1984 - According to Parliament's Badgley Commission, 1 in 2 females and 1 in 3 males will be sexually assaulted at some time in their lives and 80% of these assaults will occur before the age of 18.

1985 – By 1985, the Charter had been argued in over 2000 cases in Canada .

Apr 24, 1985 - The Supreme Court of Canada found that the Lord's Day Act was contrary to the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.

1985 - Five inmates who are placed in administrative segregation successfully rely on the Charter to have the superintendent's decision overturnned in Cardinal v. Director of Kent Institution

1985 - The War Crimes Commission was established to investigate war criminals in Canada . Dec 30, 1986 - The Commission of Inquiry into War Criminals reported after examining 3 lists of suspects. In most cases the commission found that the accused was either not in Canada or that there was no evidence that the individual had participated in war crimes.

1988 - Patients in mental hospitals finally get the right to vote in federal elections.

Jun 13, 1995 - The House of Commons passed The Firearms Act, with a vote of 192-63, barring handguns and requiring all firearms to be registered.

Jun 20, 1995 - The House of Commons approved a bill to prevent suspects accused of assault from using drunkenness as a defence.

January 1998 - The Government of Canada issues the Statement of Reconciliation, an apology to victims of abuse at Canada's Indian Residential Schools.

1998 - Despite massive opposition the federal government approved a settlement package for Hepatitis C victims limited to those persons contracting the disease between 1986 and 1991.

Nov 16, 1999 - A BC judge sentenced 5 skinheads to prison for the 1998 beating death ofNirmal Singh Gill. The judge ruled that the attack was racially motivated

October 12, 2000 - The Supreme Court upheld a controversial law protecting the confidentiality of a sexual-assault complainant's counselling documents.

2000 - Amendments to the Canadian Elections Act allow homeless people to vote in federal elections.

March 17, 2003 - The Canadian Government announces its decision to not join the war in Iraq.

November 22, 2004 - The Federal Government announces a new plan to compensate more victims of Hepatitis C.

November 23, 2005 - Indian Residential School abuse survivors are offered up to $30,000 per person for the suffering endured while children in these federally mandated schools. The overall package of compensation will be $1.9 billion with another $195 million devoted to a truth and reconciliation process in the communities affected.


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