Accused requested trial in French, Supreme Court found review premature

There was “hierarchy” or “order of operations” of statutes, appeal allowed

SUPREME COURT OF CANADA - Criminal Law – TRIAL - Rights of accused

Accused was charged with provincial driving offence and requested that his trial be conducted in French, and after his request was refused, accused filed petition in Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking order in nature of certiorari or mandamus. In dismissing his petition, Supreme Court judge held that review would be premature because decision could be reviewed by way of appeal after conclusion of trial. Accused unsuccessfully appealed. It was found that Supreme Court judge had not erred in finding statutory appeal procedures provided remedy for accused or in finding that there were no special circumstances warranting intervention. Accused’s claim, that he had right to trial in French through operation of s. 133 of Offence Act, which he submitted incorporated s. 530 of Criminal Code and provided right to trial in French, was not accepted. As appeal was from discretionary order, interference would only be warranted where judge acted on wrong principle or failed to give sufficient weight to all relevant considerations. Accused appealed . Appeal allowed. Attorney General’s argument, that British Columbia 1731 Act, which stated that English was language of provincial offence prosecution in British Columbia, took precedence due to s. 3(1) and s. 133 of British Columbia Offence Act, was rejected. It was found there was “hierarchy” or “order of operations” of statutes, in which first step was to look to legislation that created offence in question, which was s. 3(1) of Motor Vehicles Act, then s. 3(1) was applied, subsequently, where Offence Act was silent on matter, Criminal Code came into play, and finally, where matter was not addressed in any of preceding legislation, other sources of law were consulted, such as British Columbia legislation. This roadmap directly lead to incorporation of s. 530 of Criminal Code into Offence Act via s. 133 of latter Act.

Bessette v. British Columbia (Attorney General) (2019), 2019 CarswellBC 1318, 2019 CarswellBC 1319, 2019 SCC 31, 2019 CSC 31, Wagner C.J.C., Abella J., Moldaver J., Karakatsanis J., Gascon J., Côté J., Brown J., Rowe J., and Martin J. (S.C.C.); reversed (2017), 2017 CarswellBC 1871, 2017 BCCA 264, Saunders J.A., Goepel J.A., and Fenlon J.A. (B.C. C.A.).

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