This case concerns the ability to use self-induced extreme intoxication as a defence to assault and sexual assault offences.

LEAF intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Facts

Mr. Brown consumed alcohol and magic mushrooms while at a party. He then broke into two homes. While in the first home, he attacked a woman and caused her serious injuries. He caused property damage in the second home.

Mr. Brown argued that he did not have the intent to commit the assault, as a result of his intoxication. A provision of the Criminal Code, however, states that accused persons cannot use self-induced extreme intoxication as a defence to offences including assault, sexual assault, and manslaughter. The trial judge held that the provision violate ss. 7 and 11(d) of the Charter, and could not be saved under s. 1. The Court of Appeal of Alberta disagreed, and held that the provision was constitutional.  

Argument

LEAF argued that the constitutionality of the provision needed to be assessed in the context of women’s s. 15 equality rights. In enacting this provision, Parliament was focused on protecting the rights of women and children, recognizing that violence disproportionately impacts them. The assessment of whether the provision violated s. 7 of the Charter needed to consider and balance all of the Charter rights engaged by the provision, particularly the equality and security rights of women and children.

Outcome

The Supreme Court of Canada held that s. 33.1 violated the constitutional rights of accused persons, and struck down the provision. The Court clearly stated, however, that this does not mean that drunkenness without automatism can be used as a defence to sexual assault charges. The Court also agreed with LEAF that the rights of women and children “are intensely important and must be given full consideration under the Charter analysis.”

LEAF is grateful to Megan Stephens and Lara Kinkartz, counsel in this case.

Download the factum here.

LEAF’s interventions are all guided, informed and supported by a case committee composed of academics and practitioners with expertise in the relevant issues. The case committee for this case included: Karen Bellehumeur (Bellehumeur Law); Rosemary Cairns Way (University of Ottawa); Frances Chapman (Lakehead University); Alanna Courtright (St. Joseph Healthcare Hamilton); Daphne Gilbert (University of Ottawa); and Farrah Khan (Ryerson University).