Charges have been withdrawn against a Mississauga couple who refused to stay in a quarantine hotel upon returning to Canada, according to a news release from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
In January 2021, Audrey and Douglas Davies left their home for a vacation in Florida and returned in June of that year.
They landed in Toronto Pearson International Airport where they were ordered to stay in a government sanctioned quarantine hotel. However, they refused and were subsequently charged with breaching the Quarantine Act.
They were issued a ticket and they filled out the option to request an early resolution meeting with prosecutors, however a notice of an early resolution wasn’t signed until almost two years later, on June 2, 2023.
The early resolution meeting was held on July 20, 2023.
The Davies’ lawyer displayed his concern for the delay, and referenced 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.”
Despite that, the Crown decided to proceed in prosecuting the case anyway.
Trials for cases in Provincial Courts must be completed within 18 months of the charges being laid, according to the Supreme Court of Canada’s R v. Jordan decision.
If trials elapse that time frame, it will result in a stay of charges as prejudice is assumed, excluding exceptional circumstances, or if the trial is delayed by the accused.
The division of Ontario Provincial Court that deals with the Provincial Offences Act had been closed to in-person proceedings from March 2020 to April 2022. Despite that division being closed, other divisions of provincial courts remained open.
In the case of the Davies and many others like theirs, these long delays were considered to be “exceptional circumstances” and therefore a stay of charges is not issued.
Davies’ lawyer, Chris Fleury, sent a letter to the Crown on August 14, 2023 to further discuss concerns over the prolonged delay, demanding that the trial proceed as soon as possible.
The Crown informed Fleury that the charges against the Davieses had been withdrawn as of Aug. 30 – which the Fleury called a “bittersweet result.”
“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,” said Fleury in a statement.