CCLA works to ensure that due process, respect for the principles of fundamental justice, and fairness flow through every step of the criminal justice process. We also monitor the criminal justice sentencing regime and process, to ensure that sentences are both proportionate and humane.
Fighting for a fairer justice system.
The presumption of innocence. The right to reasonable bail. The right to a fair trial, including the right to know the case against you and to make full answer and defence. The right to be free from torture and other forms of cruel and unusual punishment. These are only a few of the essential constitutional guarantees that form the foundation of a fair criminal justice system that respects due process. When constitutional safeguards are not observed, justice cannot be achieved. Protecting constitutional rights helps ensure a fair trial, which gives confidence in the specific result as well as the justice system as a whole. Our constitutional rights also help safeguard against wrongful convictions and the punishment of the innocent.
A 2014 Supreme Court Win
In some terrorism cases, it is impractical to provide the accused with all the information that underlies the case against them, such as the identities of the informants against them. This is because if they turn out to be terrorists, they could go after informants. To fix that problem, “special advocates” are sometimes appointed as an intermediary who can look at all the information and represent the accused’s interests.
Harkat was accused of coming to Canada to engage in terrorism and was appointed a special advocate. However, communication restrictions were placed between the special advocate and Harkat and his lawyer.
A fair hearing means that everyone deserves the right to know the case against them and to make a full defence.
Our lawyers went to court to argue that the communication restrictions were an unacceptable violation of the right to have a fair hearing. The Supreme Court decision strengthened our case for proper communications by stating that there was a presumption in favour of the accused being able to communicate with the Special Advocate. The decision also makes it harder for the government to deny information to the accused.