Chapter 13 – The Dangers of Charter-Proofing the Toronto 18’s Prosecution


  • Kent Roach


This chapter examines the many failed Charter challenges brought by the Toronto 18. Although the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was added to Canada’s Constitution in 1982 as a response to national security excess, it failed to benefit the Toronto 18 and make the prosecution longer. Charter challenges to mandatory publication bans that some of the Toronto 18 argued prevented them from responding to prejudicial pre-trial publicity failed. Charter challenges to bail conditions and harsh conditions of pre-trial detention – including solitary confinement and prosecutorial use of a direct indictment to pre-empt a preliminary inquiry – also were unsuccessful. Although the courts found that the police had violated various Charter rights in several cases, they never excluded evidence obtained as a remedy. The Toronto 18 had Charter rights, but not Charter remedies. The Supreme Court reversed a trial judge’s decision, not allowing him to decide national security secrecy claims and what evidence could not be disclosed to the accused. Finally, the courts upheld broad terrorism offences as consistent with the Charter. Although the many failed Charter challenges can be seen as producing due process excess and delay, it is argued that the conclusion that the prosecution were consistent with the Charter or “Charter-proof” can blind the public to troubling and problematic aspects of the prosecution and of our broad terrorism laws. It also confirms that even in the Charter era, the executive and the legislature play the dominant roles in the national security context.