This paper examines the impact of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R. v. Albashir on constitutional remedies under section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 and section 24(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Albashir marks a step in the evolution of constitutional remedies by adding to the list of factors that can justify a court declaring a law invalid on a prospective-only basis. It recognizes a new exception to the presumption of retroactivity that applies when a court declares a law to be invalid. Where a court suspends its declaration of invalidity, once the suspension expires, the effect of the declaration may be prospective only, if that is necessary to give effect to the purpose of the suspension. Prospectivity is justified where retroactivity would undermine the very purpose of the suspension. Albashir is also significant for confirming that a remedy under section 24(1) of the Charter is available to offset any negative consequences that prospective declarations might have. Any accused whose conduct had been unconstitutionally criminalized under the prospectively invalidated law, would have recourse to an individual section 24(1) remedy such as a stay of proceedings. The paper also examines the guidance given by the Supreme Court that courts should be more explicit about the temporal application of their remedial declarations. Albashir sets a new standard for remedial clarity, urging courts not only to explain their reasons for suspending declarations of invalidity, but also to explicitly address whether a declaration is to operate retroactively or purely prospectively once the suspension expires. The Court further provides suggestions on temporal clarity to lawmakers in crafting remedial legislation, through retroactive criminal legislation and transition provisions, although these seem unlikely to lead to the desired certainty. An annex to the paper including a “roadmap” chart, distills the relevant remedial principles to aid litigants in future cases involving declarations of constitutional invalidity.
Turley, Anne M. and Oxaal, Zoe.
"The Significance of R. v. Albashir in the Evolution of Constitutional Remedies."
The Supreme Court Law Review: Osgoode’s Annual Constitutional Cases Conference
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