Sask. judge denies request to stay COVID-19 health order violation cases

·2 min read
A judge in Saskatoon threw out three defendants' requests to stay the proceedings against them related to COVID-19 public health order violations. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC - image credit)
A judge in Saskatoon threw out three defendants' requests to stay the proceedings against them related to COVID-19 public health order violations. (Trevor Bothorel/CBC - image credit)

A judge in Saskatchewan decided that those waiting to deal with their COVID-19 public health order violation tickets can keep waiting.

The decision published from Saskatoon earlier this month said those who thought their delays were potentially unconstitutional were wrong, given the unforeseen and exceptional circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

A group of three defendants — two people and a numbered company tied to a nightclub or lounge in Saskatchewan — with a total of seven public health order violations between them, asked the courts to stay their proceedings.

They argued an 18-month limit existed due to the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R v Jordan, 2016. That case determined those with legal proceedings against them deserved to be tried within a reasonable period of time, as per the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The judge ruled the defendants, who waited between 400 and 560 days before their COVID-19 health order violations were addressed in court, did not have a case.

"Counsel for the defendants pointed out that the Charter guarantee to trial within a reasonable time applies to the present offences. I agree," Judge D. Agnew wrote.

"That does not mean, however, that what constitutes a 'reasonable time' must be the same for provincial offences and criminal offences."

The judge noted a "reasonable" time for a trial related to provincial offences, like tickets for not wearing a mask, must be greater than a "reasonable" time for a trial for someone accused of murder and in remand.

"It defies common sense to suggest that someone who wants to dispute a speeding ticket should have the same priority to a trial date as does someone sitting on remand awaiting trial in Provincial Court for manslaughter," the decision said.

"Defendants on provincial tickets do not typically suffer the same restrictions on their liberty, whether by being on release conditions or by being physically held in remand, as may be the case for persons accused of criminal offences."

The decision also said the offences in question also don't typically leave victims who suffered tragic loss and require closure to move on with their lives, a feature noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the R v Jordan case.

The judge noted the trials in question in this case would resolve within a three to four month span outside of the limits set in R v Jordan.