Greens will not allow mega-trial bill to proceed without due consideration

Demonstrating that
one MP can make a difference in Parliament, Green Party Leader and MP for
Saanich-Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May, is denying unanimous consent in the House
of Commons to fast-track changes to the Criminal Code without committee

legislation would affect how so-called “mega-trials” – criminal proceedings
involving numerous defendants and charges – are conducted. The changes would
particularly target cases involving alleged terrorism or organized crime. 
The Green Party has consulted renowned civil rights lawyer Clayton Ruby
for an expert opinion on the legislation.

“I’m concerned that this Bill
imports US style justice for no good purpose. A good example is the clause which
states jurors should be referred to in court by a number rather than name.  This
is fear based, and I am rather proud of the fact that in Canada we have jurors
who without fear stand and deliver their verdict, for which they are openly
responsible.  I've never seen a case of jury threatening in 40 years at the
Bar,” said Mr. Ruby.

The Green Party Leader has specific
concerns around the encouragement of preferred (or direct) indictments in the
Bill.  A preferred indictment means the Crown has decided to deprive the accused
of the step of a preliminary inquiry to determine there is enough evidence to
justify a trial.  Currently the accused can apply to be released on bail at the
end of a preliminary hearing, or if an indictment is preferred, immediately
after that happens. Under the proposed law, that chance of release from custody
is lost. “A preliminary enquiry allows the accused to test the evidence and to
cross-examine key Crown evidence before a trial. The strength of a prosecution
case may change at this stage,” said Ms. May.  “These are very specific changes
that could have larger implications and need to be examined in

there is definitely a need to address these issues in order to speed these
trials, there are elements to these proposed changes which have the potential to
undermine fundamental principles of our justice system. We need to hear expert
testimony on these issues before we proceed,” said Ms. May.  “In
general, it is simply bad precedent to rush through legislation without hearing
from any witnesses.”

There is
pressure to pass the legislation quickly following the dismissal of proceedings
against 31 alleged members of the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang in Quebec when
the judge ruled the trial would take too long.

“There is
an old legal adage that
hard cases make bad law.  The government is rushing because 31
Hells Angels were let out of jail. This bill does not put them back in jail,”
said Ms. May. “It may not speed trials as much as people hope, and we don’t want
to compromise future criminal trials. We cannot afford to move rashly on an
issue of this importance.” 


Kieran Green
Director of