The Supreme Court of Canada recently decided, in a case called Vancouver (City) v. Ward, that money (damages) may be awarded for breach of a person's rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter).
The complainant in the case was wrongly suspected of having planned to throw a pie at the Prime Minister. He was awarded $5,000 for having been strip searched, which was found to be a breach of his s. 8 Charter right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
Section 24(1) of the Charter provides that anyone whose Charter rights have been breached may apply to court for an 'appropriate and just' remedy. Courts have a lot of scope in deciding on a remedy for a Charter breach. Money compensation is just one possible, and new, remedy. Other possible remedies include, for example, dismissing or staying charges, or excluding evidence.
In the Ward case the Supreme Court of Canada outlined four main steps involved in dealing with a claim for damages for a Charter breach:
Step 1: Was the Charter breached?
Step 2. Would damages compensate a victim for personal loss, vindicate a Charter breach and/or deter future breaches?
Step 3: Even if damages would fulfill a purpose set out in Step 2, can the government show that a damage award would be inappropriate or unfair? For example, are there alternative remedies that would adequately address the breach?
Step 4: How much money should be awarded?
For more information:
- Click here to read the case online;
- Click here to read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms online
- Click here to find out more about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.