R v Oakes On December 17, 1981, David Edwin Oakes was seized with 8 vials of hash oil outside of London, Ontario. He allegedly purchased 10 vials of hash oil for $150 for his own use. He was also in possession of approximately $620 which he claimed to have received from a government program. Despite Oakes statement that the vials were meant for pain relief and that the money he had was from a workers compensation cheque. Section 8 of the Narcotic Control Act (NCA) established a “rebuttable presumption” which states that an accused individual in possession of a narcotic has the intention to traffic unless the accused can prove otherwise. In section 11 (d) of the canadian charter it states that one is innocent until proven guilty. However, in this case Oakes was considered guilty until he could rightfully prove himself to be innocent. This led oaks to make a charter challenge, claiming that the reverse onus created by the presumption of possession for purposes of trafficking violated the presumption of innocence guarantee under section 11(d) of the Charter. The issue before the Court was whether s. 8 of the NCA violated s. 11(d) of the Charter, and whether any violation of s. 11(d) could be upheld under s. 1. of the Charter. They then had to consider whether the government could justify this violation using section 1. The Oakes Test is employed every time the government tries to defend a restriction on the Charter rights of Canadians. The test provides a system for the courts to balance the government’s ability to achieve its goals and, the protection of each individual’s rights. This balancing test is now considered a foundation of Canadian constitutional law and has influenced the canadian legal system forever.The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is an important document that allows us to live our lives without complete governmental control, although there may be certain times when rights should be limited. The R. v Oakes case is a perfect example of this scenario coming into play. David Edwin Oakes was seized with an unlawful possession of hash oil and was immediately convicted of trafficking, under section 8 of the NCA. By looking at the Charter, it was clear that section 8 of the NCA violated his right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, guaranteed in section 11.d. With that in mind, Oakes presented a motion that challenged section 8 of the NCA. Since the Supreme Court and the Crown were confident that Oakes was trafficking narcotics, they created a four criteria ruling, in order to reasonably limit the rights of the respondent. This is permitted under section 1 of the Charter, which states that “The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms…only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law.” Oakes passed the first part of the ruling which stated that “the reasoning for limiting the Charter must be proven important enough to override a constitutionally protected right.” The case did not pass the second part of the criteria which stated that “there must be an appropriate connection between the limitation of rights and the objective of the legislation.” Thus, the appeal was dismissed and Oakes was released. After reviewing the case it was clear that even though Oakes did not have his rights limited against him, limiting rights could be used in more severe cases. There are examples when it is acceptable to limit someone’s rights because of Section 1 of the Charter. This section of the charter as as previously mentioned “guarantees the rights and freedoms expressed, only subjected to reasonable limits prescribed by law”. In other words, it protects the rights and freedoms of every Canadian individual, but only to a certain degree prescribed by the law. In regards to this specific case, Oakes was convicted of trafficking narcotics and had to prove himself innocent. The Supreme Court was not right to assume that they had a reasonable idea that he was trafficking and it was justifiable to limit his right to presumption of innocence. In other cases, section 1 of the charter assures that no one takes advantage of their Charter rights, for example, expressing hate against individuals or religious beliefs. Essentially this creates a situation where no one can have superiority of their rights to do something that is morally incorrect. This section of the Charter is an extensive reason why courts should not hesitate when trying to limit an individual’s rights. As a result of this case, the Oakes Test was created and since has been implemented to judge many cases. This test insures that if an individual’s rights are limited, they are not to an extent where the government has full control of a person’s well being. The Oakes Test consists of two main criteria. The first part of the criteria states that “the purpose to be served by the measures limiting a Charter right must be suitably important to demand overriding a constitutionally protected right or freedom.” The second part of the criteria states that “the party invoking s. 1 must demonstrate the means to be reasonable and evidently justified”. With the Oakes Test in place there should never be a scenario in which the government completely limits someone’s right to an unlawful extent. Ultimately, the Oakes Test assures that rights are not limited to an unlawful extent and individuals rights and freedom are protected. In some scenarios, it may become necessary to limit an individual’s rights, and there are several reasons why it is okay to do so. Section 33 of the Charter states that Parliament and provincial legislatures have a permit to overrule sections 2 and 7-15 of the Charter. With that being said, section 33 has no effect on certain rights such as the democratic rights, mobility rights, language rights, gender equality rights. In the R. vs. Oakes case, if the government had reasonable doubt that Oakes was smuggling narcotics it would have been lawfully correct to override section 11.d of the Charter. Section 33 of the Charter, just like section 1 helps to ensure that no one takes advantage of any individuals rights.In the Oakes case itself, the Supreme Court found that the federal government failed to logically connect Oakes possession of of illegal drugs and money to the presumption that he was occupied in the crime of drug trafficking. The difficulty of proving that he was not trafficking drugs should not have been transferred over to him. Oaks was convicted with a minor possession charge and found not guilty of trafficking.The Canadian legal system handled this case similarly to how the United States would . In the U.S minor drug possession charges tend to be the lightest, while intent to distribute, traffic, or manufacture drugs carry a much more severe penalty. The only main difference is that in the U.S you are considered guilty until you can prove yourself to be innocent at the federal level. Furthermore, in other countries such as Japan where one is guilty until proven innocent causes wrong convictions that threaten to taint law enforcement agencies. R v. Oakes case may be used as an international example for activists against unreasonable searches and seizures to ensure that the rights and freedom of every individual is guaranteed. With growing activism towards human rights and accused rights, search and seizure laws should absolutely be revised to lean in the favour of the one being searched. In addition, Article 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.” Hence, this is a cornerstone in protecting individuals’ rights and freedom. The Canadian Supreme Court sits amongst the highest level of court in Canada and is Canada’s final court of appeal. The Supreme Court chooses cases that hold public and legal issues. Thus, supporting the Canadian legal system by contributing to the improvement in different areas in law. The Canadian legal system is amongst the most lawful in the world in contrast to other legal systems. The Charter of Rights and Freedom has been constructed to protect law abiding citizens and it should remain that way. Of course there will always be people who will take advantage of it in a negative way and use it to their benefit. Oakes was unlawfully convicted and taken into custody for being in possession of hash oil vials because he was suspected of trafficking drugs. The laws in the canadian legal system went against the NCA, and the decision made in the beginning was absolutely not reasonable. However, during the end of the case closed Oakes received justice and was not charged with trafficking. The Oakes test has been applied in over 1600 legal decisions and that number will only increase as time goes on. The test assures that rights are not limited to an unlawful extent and that every canadian individuals freedom is protected. With these propositions at hand, this leads me to conclude that the the canadian charter of rights and freedom has been written for the well being of everyone as a collective.
August 3, 2019 0 Comments