Secret Evidence should not be allowed in civil cases

Secret Evidence should not be allowed in civil cases

Craig Forcese With Kent Roach

(2017) Globe and Mail, 12 pages

 

Abstract:

This paper responds to the government’s proposals for redressing the “intelligence-to-evidence” (I2E) dilemma in national security judicial proceedings, discussed in its targeted consultation document distributed in August 2017. The paper urges the need for not just law reform, but also operational reform in terms of how police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) manage their "parallel" national security investigations. We renew our doubts about the parallel investigation and the dangers it poses for national security. The paper supports the government's proposed changes to the Canada Evidence Act, s.38 national security confidentiality procedures for criminal trials. In particular, it agrees that trial court judges should be able to make and modify s.38 non-disclosure orders. It urges, however, that Parliament codify the Stinchcombe disclosure rules, and their application to national security proceedings, and not simply double-down by codifying the O'Connor "third party" rule - something that may reinforce parallel police/CSIS investigations. The paper expresses considerable skepticism for the "closed material proceeding" (CMP) proposal in civil trials implicating national security proceedings. These would produce, in essence, secret civil trials. We suspect secret civil trials would be challenged on division of power grounds, under s.96 of the Constitution Act 1867 and even under the Charter and the open court principle and, if it remains applicable, the Canadian Bill of Rights. More immediately, the CMP proposal seems likely to make a bill responding to neglected criminal law I2E issues much more controversial than it needs to be.

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About the Author:

Craig Forcese teaches public international law, national security law, administrative law and constitutional law. He also co-teaches advanced international law and relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He also co-organizes and instructs the Canadian component of Georgetown Law’s National Security Crisis Law course and simulation. In 2017, Professor Forcese and Kent Roach received the Canadian Civil Liberties Association Award for Excellence in Public Engagement (“for courage and commitment to human rights, human dignity and freedom”). In 2016, he was named jointly with Professor Kent Roach as among the “Top 25 most Influential in the justice system and legal profession” by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. In response to their work on national security law, Craig and Kent also received the Canadian Law and Society Association Book Prize (for their book False Security) and the Reg Robson Award (given annually by the BC Civil Liberties Association “to honour a community member who has demonstrated a substantial and long-lasting contribution to the cause of civil liberties in B.C. and Canada”). Professor Forcese was inducted as a member of the uOttawa Common Law Honour Society in 2016.

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