Ottawa, prov­inces at odds over tick­et­ing

Windsor Star - - CANADA - BRIAN PLATT

OTTAWA • A long-run­ning dis­pute be­tween some prov­inces and Ottawa means only parts of the coun­try can hand out tick­ets for fed­eral statu­tory of­fences, and in­ter­nal jus­tice depart­ment re­ports have re­peat­edly warned about the con­se­quences of this “un­even” ap­pli­ca­tion of law.

The in­ter­nal re­ports, writ­ten in 2010 and 2017, say that if tick­et­ing agree­ments aren’t signed with Al­berta, Saskatchewan and New­found­land, it ex­poses the gov­ern­ment to le­gal risk, ex­ac­er­bates the trouble with court de­lays, and ham­pers the work of peace of­fi­cers.

“This is not com­pat­i­ble with the proper ap­pli­ca­tion of the rule of law and a de­part­men­tal strat­egy to ef­fec­tively ad­dress this sig­nif­i­cant is­sue does not ap­pear to be in place,” the March 2017 re­port says.

It also warns the prob­lem will only get worse with the com­ing le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana.

It all stems from the Con­tra­ven­tions Act of 1992, which en­abled the gov­ern­ment to clas­sify some of­fences as con­tra­ven­tions that can be dealt with through a ticket and fine, rather than by sum­mary con­vic­tion in the courts.

In ef­fect, the Con­tra­ven­tions Act al­lows for de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing mi­nor fed­eral of­fences. It frees up court re­sources, and peo­ple re­ceiv­ing a ticket are not left with a crim­i­nal record.

How­ever, to avoid du­pli­cat­ing re­sources, the Con­tra­ven­tions Act cur­rently re­lies on pro­vin­cial sys­tems for serv­ing the tick­ets and pro­vid­ing av­enues of ap­peal. This means the fed­eral gov­ern­ment must sign an agree­ment with a prov­ince to make the tick­et­ing sys­tem op­er­a­tional there.

The hold­out prov­inces have con­cerns about train­ing, fund­ing and lan­guage rights, among other is­sues.

More than 1,000 of­fences have been des­ig­nated con­tra­ven­tions. Tres­pass­ing on a mil­i­tary base, dam­ag­ing an arche­o­log­i­cal site, or il­le­gally hunt­ing a mi­gra­tory game bird can all be pe­nal­ized with a ticket — ex­cept in the three prov­inces with­out an agree­ment, where a per­son would have to be for­mally charged and pros­e­cuted in the courts.

As one ex­am­ple, in Banff and Jasper, tick­ets can’t be used for Na­tional Park Act of­fences be­cause the parks are in Al­berta. The re­port es­ti­mates that 90 per cent of such of­fences in Bri­tish Columbia’s na­tional parks are dealt with through tick­ets.

The le­gal risk was iden­ti­fied in an in­ter­nal jus­tice depart­ment re­port in 2010, which stated: “It cre­ates a sit­u­a­tion whereby the ex­act same un­law­ful be­hav­iour that would con­tra­vene a fed­eral statu­tory of­fence des­ig­nated as a con­tra­ven­tion is treated dif­fer­ently, based on the ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion of the of­fender. This could trig­ger le­gal risks, par­tic­u­larly in prov­inces where the Act is not op­er­a­tional, in light of the fact that of­fend­ers are ex­posed to greater penal­ties.”

The new re­port, com­pleted this spring, shows lit­tle progress.

It notes that law en­force­ment of­fi­cials who can’t use tick­ets of­ten just let peo­ple off with a warn­ing to avoid the cum­ber­some court process and its dis­pro­por­tion­ately se­ri­ous con­se­quences. The re­sult­ing lack of en­force­ment en­cour­ages “non-com­pli­ance,” the re­port warns.

Though it was writ­ten be­fore the cannabis leg­is­la­tion was re­leased, the re­port men­tions mar­i­juana le­gal­iza­tion as a po­ten­tial prob­lem.

The pro­posed fed­eral bill does set out “tick­etable of­fences” for mi­nor mar­i­juana in­frac­tions — how­ever, in­stead of re­ly­ing on the Con­tra­ven­tions Act, the bill sets up an en­tirely new tick­et­ing scheme, mean­ing they will re­main crim­i­nal of­fences. (Even so, the leg­is­la­tion care­fully spec­i­fies pay­ment of th­ese tick­ets will not re­sult in a search­able crim­i­nal record.)

The jus­tice depart­ment says it’s still in ne­go­ti­a­tions with prov­inces around how ex­actly th­ese new cannabis tick­et­ing of­fences will work.

It says it’s on the verge of fi­nal­iz­ing an agree­ment with New­found­land and Labrador, and will de­velop a strat­egy for the others.

“The Depart­ment of Jus­tice is pur­su­ing the in­ter­est of Al­berta and Saskatchewan in im­ple­ment­ing the con­tra­ven­tions regime in their re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions, hav­ing ex­changed rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion about the im­ple­men­ta­tion’s le­gal and op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments,” spokesper­son Si­mon Rivet told the Na­tional Post.

But while Al­berta con­firmed it’s in dis­cus­sions, Saskatchewan has not talked with the gov­ern­ment about con­tra­ven­tions in “sev­eral years” and fed­eral in­ter­est has been “spo­radic,” said spokesper­son Noel Busse.

“There are reser­va­tions about the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Con­tra­ven­tions Act in Saskatchewan at this time for sev­eral rea­sons, including its im­pact on elec­tronic sys­tems re­form, lan­guage rights is­sues and whether pro­ceed­ing with fed­eral tick­et­ing now might re­sult in more con­fu­sion or com­plex­ity,” he said.

ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Some pot in­frac­tions could be­come “tick­etable of­fences.”

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