Canadian Supreme Court rules government may withold national security-related evidence in Tortonto 18 terrorism case

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada on Thursday upheld challenged aspects of the Canada Evidence Act , ruling that national security considerations take precedence over criminal convictions. The court affirmed the constitutionality of a provision that vests the Federal Court with, and removes from trial judges, the authority to determine the national security implications of evidence that prosecutors seek to withhold. In reaching its conclusion, the court noted the balance that must be struck between ensuring security and a fair judicial system:

As we have stated, co-operative arrangements between the prosecution and the defence are to be encouraged, as they have the potential to greatly facilitate complex trials for all parties involved and to reduce the strain on judicial resources. However, the defence is under no obligation to cooperate with the prosecution and if the end result of non-disclosure by the Crown is that a fair trial cannot be had, then Parliament has determined that in the circumstances a stay of proceedings is the lesser evil compared with the disclosure of sensitive or potentially injurious information.

The case stems from the prosecutions of the “Toronto 18” who were arrested in 2006 after police learned of their plans to bomb sites throughout Ontario using fertilizer explosives in response to Canada’s military involvement in Afghanistan.

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