Fight the good fight in war on crime, says Gadhia

By AdvocateDaily Staff

Ontario’s criminal lawyers must keep fighting “the good fight” in the face of the Harper government’s tough on crime initiatives, says Roots Gadhia.

The Toronto-based sole practitioner says Ottawa’s stance has affected the practice of criminal law considerably.

“The government has basically thrown money behind every war on crime initiative that they could come up with, from guns and gangs to mandatory minimums to taking away the two-for-one formula for enhanced credit for those individuals serving time in custody,” says Gadhia. “Of course with this type of money being thrown into these initiatives – especially police and guns and gangs, and the prosecution – what’s happening is that a lot of individuals are being snared by a very wide net that’s being cast out.

“So, in situations where one or two individuals might have been arrested in the past we’re now hearing about a hundred people being arrested. And of course that’s going to clog up the courts, of course that’s going to cause delay in getting matters to court,” she says.

Gadhia says the “pendulum has swung to the right,” and it’s not just the Harper government. She noted the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Sinclair v (case citing) where “an individual’s 10B rights were violated in my respectful opinion, yet the Charter was watered down by the Supreme Court [which] said it’s not necessary for an individual to speak to their lawyer continuously throughout an interview unless there is a very material change of circumstance. Yet, who makes that decision? And shouldn’t an accused person be entitled to say, ‘Look, I need to speak to my lawyer. You’ve just told me something else about the case, I’d like to speak to my lawyer.’ That right, according to the Supreme Court of Canada no longer exists, or is watered down to a significant extent.”

The Criminal Lawyers’ Association fall conference, in fact, spoke directly to the tough on crime issue and how new defences are required for the new laws, says Gadhia. But, she says at the end of the day, the criminal lawyers can “only fight the fight.

“We just need to plod on and struggle on in the hopes that each case generates a new precedent that will eventually swing the pendulum from the right back towards hopefully the centre, and when it comes to individual rights and Charter rights in this country hopefully to the left.”

Gadhia notes that “these are rights that have been enshrined and we worked hard to create a democracy in this country by having these rights. These rights in fact are the model for countries around the world that follow Canada and its legal system, and by watering it down, by taking away these rights and defusing what they really mean we’re heading into a police state.”

Gadhia says the CLA seminars focused on dealing with some of the new laws with unique and creative defences so that clients have “a fair shot in court. That’s not to say we came up with the answers but I think the purpose behind the conference was to ensure that each lawyer who attended understood the necessity of actually fighting the good fight, being passionate about the defences and not naturally assuming this was the only answer to a client’s problem.”

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