Sep 092023

Charges against couple who refused to quarantine withdrawn

MISSISSAUGA, ON: The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is pleased to announce that the charges against an Ontario couple who refused to stay in a quarantine hotel have been withdrawn by Crown prosecutors.

Audrey and Douglas Davies departed Canada for Florida in January 2021. On June 26, 2021, they returned to Canada through the Toronto Pearson International Airport but were charged with breaching the Quarantine Act for refusing to stay in a quarantine hotel. Mr. and Mrs. Davies immediately completed a form on the reverse of their ticket, requesting an early resolution meeting with prosecutors.

It was not until June 2, 2023 (almost 24 months later), that a notice of an early resolution meeting was signed by the Court Clerk of the Ontario Court of Justice. The early resolution meeting occurred on July 20, 2023. At the meeting, the Davies’ lawyer expressed concern with the delay, citing Section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that “[a]ny person charged with an offence has the right to be tried within a reasonable time.” The Crown nonetheless insisted on prosecuting the case.

According to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v. Jordan, trials for cases in Provincial Courts must be completed within 18 months of charges being laid. If trials are not completed within 18 months, prejudice is assumed, and a stay of charges will result, barring exceptional circumstances or delays caused by the accused. From approximately March 2020 to April 2022, however, the division of the Ontario Provincial Court dealing with the Provincial Offences Act was closed to in-person proceedings, even though other divisions of Provincial Courts had been open. Remarkable and lengthy closures like those affecting the Davies were considered to be “exceptional circumstances” and did not, therefore, count toward the 18-month threshold.

On August 14, 2023, lawyer Chris Fleury sent a letter to the Crown, reiterating the Davies’ concerns regarding the delay and demanding that the matter move forward as quickly as possible. On August 30, 2023, the Crown informed Mr. Fleury that the charges against Mr. and Mrs. Davies had been withdrawn.

Lawyer Chris Fleury, whose efforts on behalf of Mr. and Mrs. Davies have been supported by the Justice Centre, stated, “This is a bittersweet result for the Davies. It is an excellent outcome for them personally. But, it is frustrating for Canadians who will not get to challenge Ontario’s decision to keep Provincial Offences Courts closed, while all other Ontario courts were open. We were looking forward to challenging established case law and ensuring that section 11(b) of the Charter is enforced consistently across the Provincial Courts.”

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