On June 6th, the Liberal government introduced Bill C-51 An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Department of Justice Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act with the aim of amend, remove or repeal passages and provisions that have been ruled unconstitutional or that raise risks with regard to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It went further than this, however, and also introduced some new legislation for the prosecution of sexual assault offences in Canada.
There are a number of changes to the legislation. The first is that the defence will now have to seek the Judge’s approval of any written material (emails or texts) or videos that have sexual content or are for a sexual purpose. This creates a reverse-disclosure obligation on the defence, and practically means that all complainants will be aware of anything the defence may cross-examine them with ahead of time. Complainants will no longer be caught off guard by evidence when being cross-examined. Another change requires that any personal record of the complainant (diary or medical records) can only be used as evidence if the Judge agrees ahead of time, in a private hearing. Judges also now have the obligation to inform complainants that they have a right to their own lawyer to make objections in respect of any of the above documents being used.
It is not yet clear how this will effect sexual assault trials, but it is very likely that these changes will require more court time for these types of trials. In a system that is already struggling to deal with Jordan delay issues, these added requirements will undoubtedly only contribute further to that delay issue.
The text of the bill can be found here: http://www.parl.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/bill/C-51/first-reading
An article on the bill can be found here: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/06/06/criminal-code-clean-up-bill-clarifies-sex-assault-laws.html