This case concerns the rights of complainants in sexual assault trials.

LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Facts

This case involves a constitutional challenge to the legal framework governing what happens when an accused person has a sexual assault complainant’s private records in their possession. Under that framework, the accused person cannot surprise the complainant with these records during their trial. Instead, the accused person must ask the judge to hold a hearing and decide whether or not to allow the records to be used in court.  The judge will consider different factors in making the decision, including factors supporting the equality rights of complainants. Complainants have the right to participate in these hearings. They also have the right to have access to independent counsel to help them participate. 

Arguments

LEAF argued that the framework is constitutional, as it enhances the equality rights of complainants while respecting the accused’s right to full answer and defence. Sexual assault complainants are uniquely vulnerable participants in the criminal legal system. They are also deeply impacted by the use of their private records. The challenged legal framework recognizes and responds to that reality. It promotes the equality, dignity, and privacy rights of complainants.  

Outcome

A majority of the Supreme Court upheld the legal framework put in place to protect the equality rights of complainants in sexual assault cases. In upholding the framework, the majority recognized that criminal trials “can be invasive, humiliating, and degrading for victims of sexual offences” and that “[m]ore needs to be done.” The Court also provided more clarity on how the framework should be implemented.

LEAF is grateful to Kelley Bryan (PBP Lawyers) and Karen Steward, counsel for LEAF in this case.

Download the factum here.

Read the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision here.

LEAF’s arguments are informed and supported by a case committee composed of academics and practitioners with expertise in relevant issues. The committee members for this intervention are (in alphabetical order): Frances Chapman (Lakehead University), Elaine Craig (Dalhousie University), and Karen Segal (Allevato Quail & Roy).