The Wilson Decision – Yes, No, or Something? 

Today we got word from the Supreme Court of Canada that they will be giving their decision in the Wilson v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) and Goodwin v. British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) cases on Friday morning. This news confirms my earlier predictions and suspicions that the decision would be rendered in October.

We will finally have an answer from Canada’s top court on the legality and proper process of British Columbia’s DUI law.

For those that do not remember, the Wilson case was a decision concerning British Columbia’s controversial Immediate Roadside Prohibition regime. It was heard in tandem with Goodwin, a case directly challenging the constitutionality of the legislation. Goodwin was once known as Siva.

At issue in Wilson was the section of the IRP legislation that requires an officer to have reasonable grounds, as a result of the analysis of the approved screening device, to believe the driver’s ability to drive is affected by alcohol. The question then becomes does that mean only that the roadside breathalyzer gives the police the reasonable grounds, or does it mean that the reasonable grounds come from something more than the result?

The BC Supreme Court decided that it required more than just the reading on the device. The Court of Appeal reversed that decision. And that brought us to the Supreme Court of Canada. You can watch the video of the arguments here. At the Court, I argued that more was required to give the officer the requisite reasonable grounds standard. I argued that this was something that was necessary as a procedural safeguard when the legislation offered no remedy for a capricious demand, and no remedy if the demand did not meet the requirements of the Criminal Code, notwithstanding that the legislation imports authority to make the demand from the Code itself. You know, legal mumbo jumbo.

This case is important because it deals very directly with the issue of administrative processes eliminating procedural and legal rights, including those guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If we are replacing, effectively, criminal law with an administrative scheme that derives its authority from the Criminal Code, then there has to be some compensation through the guise of a more expanded reasonable grounds standard for that loss of Charter-protected rights.

The Court can do a lot in their decision. They can decide that the BC Supreme Court was correct. They can decide that the Court of Appeal was correct. Or they can do neither and make their own decision based on their own considerations. Predicting the outcome of these cases is hard, and I am anxious but hopeful regarding the outcome. Our Supreme Court of Canada has given a number of well-reasoned, intelligent, and Charter-positive decisions lately and I know they took this case very seriously.

But I guess I won’t sleep until then either way.

6 thoughts on “The Wilson Decision – Yes, No, or Something? ”

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