Remedying Unreasonable Delay


  • Colton Fehr



In R. v. Jordan, the Supreme Court of Canada adopted presumptive ceilings for determining whether the right to be tried within a reasonable time is violated. In so doing, the Supreme Court eschewed any balancing of individual and societal interests at the rights stage of analysis. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not simultaneously reconsider its prior determination that the only remedy for unreasonable delay is a stay of proceedings. As balancing individual and societal interests is fundamental to determining whether a stay is justified, the next logical step is to shift this balancing to the remedial stage of analysis. In so doing, the accused should typically be required to prove that the harm suffered irreparably undermines fair trial interests before proceedings are stayed in response to unreasonable delay. A stay of proceedings in these circumstances, however, ought not be restricted to “non-serious” crimes. Where the harm relates to the accused’s liberty or security interests, other remedies should be granted. The Senate’s recent proposal to grant monetary rewards is feasible if supplemented with other remedies that limit the continued impact of delay on an accused’s liberty and security interests. I nevertheless maintain that using financial compensation to remedy the impact of delay on these interests ought to be approached with caution as it could encourage complacency towards delay. To counteract this incentive, stays of proceedings should remain available if the Crown uses this narrower remedial structure as a means to “buy time” to conduct prosecutions.