This course is intended to introduce students to the basic procedural and doctrinal concepts and frameworks of Canadian criminal law. The course begins with an overview of several basic concepts including the sources of criminal law and procedure, and the limits of Canadian criminal jurisdiction. The course then analyzes principles of actus reus (the wrongful act) and mens rea (the guilty state of mind) and their role in defining the essential elements of criminal offences. Several specific criminal offences are examined in connection with these components, including homicide and sexual assault. The course provides an overview of some excuses and defences to criminal charges. In the second term student-led seminars cover a variety of criminal law topics such as the powers of law enforcement officials while investigating crimes and sentencing offenders. Throughout the course we will study how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the common law applies to the criminal justice process.
Indigenous Content and Perspectives
Two classes (one class in each term for a total of 5 hours of instruction) are dedicated exclusively to fighting systemic anti-Indigenous racism and highlighting the impact of colonization and residential schools on the Canadian criminal justice system. We engage guest speakers from indigenous communities to engage with students on the following issues and questions: Does anti-Indigenous systemic racism shape our laws? Does our criminal justice system operate in a fair and impartial manner, blind to race, socioeconomic status, or other marginalizing factors? What is the role of lawyers in combating racism and prejudice in law and society? Are the protections to accused persons under the Charter equally accessible to all Canadians? These classes challenge students to confront implicit bias and engage meaningfully with this important content. As a result, students learn to apply a lens of anti-racism and critical legal analysis to the Canadian criminal justice system. Eight further hours of course content allow students to apply this learning through readings and seminar presentations interrogating various issues including Indigenous youth and the criminal justice system; Gladue sentencing principles and corrections; and policing of indigenous communities.