Presumptions of Regularity: Cases That Should Have Gone to the Supreme Court of Canada, But Didn’t!

Welcome to Cases That Should Have Gone to the Supreme Court of Canada, But Didn’t! This week, lawyer Kyla Lee discusses presumptions of regularity in regards to traffic signs.

Acumen Law Corporation lawyer Kyla Lee gives her take on a made-in-Canada court case each week and discusses why these cases should have been heard by Canada’s highest court: the Supreme Court of Canada.


In Canadian law, there are regulations about where traffic signs need to be posted on the roadway, the information that has to be on them and how visible those signs have to be. However, also in Canadian law, there is a presumption that if there is a sign in place it meets all of those requirements even if it wasn’t,  and the onus is on the driver to prove that the sign wasn’t proper.

Pierre Watters found himself facing a traffic ticket for going 97km/h in a 50kn/h zone. At trial, he argued that the sign that was posted on the roadway stating that it was a 50km/h zone did not comply with the regulations for the mounting of signs. The court dismissed his application for relief on the basis of the fact that there was this presumption of regularity, and he sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada which was dismissed.

The issue that Mr. Watters’ case raises is this question of when can you overcome the presumption of regularity and what evidence is required. Mr. Watters wanted clarification from the SCC of in what circumstances does the presumption of regularity apply and what the Crown has to establish before that presumption takes place.

The SCC missed the opportunity here to make the application of these presumptions more clear for people facing tribunals or traffic court which are largely do-it-yourself processes.

Watch the video for more.

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