Void for Vagueness Doctrine (Charter)

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Caselaw.Ninja, Riverview Group Publishing 2021 ©
Date Retrieved: 2022-01-27
CLNP Page ID: 1644
Page Categories: [Constitutional Law]
Citation: Void for Vagueness Doctrine (Charter), CLNP 1644, <https://caselaw.ninja/r/3q>, retrieved on 2022-01-27
Editor: Sharvey
Last Updated: 2021/09/10


R. v. Levkovic, 2010 ONCA 830 (CanLII)[1]

[86] Vague laws violate the principles of fundamental justice. If a vague law causes or amounts to a deprivation of a person's life, liberty or the security of his or her person, the law offends s. 7 of the Charter. [page19 ]

[87] Vague laws offend two fundamental values of our legal system. They do not provide fair notice of what is prohibited, thus making compliance with the law difficult. Further, they do not provide clear standards for those entrusted with their enforcement to enforce them. As a result, vague laws contribute or lead to arbitrary enforcement.

[88] Several principles emerge from the authorities that have considered complaints of constitutional infringement based on vagueness.

[89] First, merely because a statute is broad and far reaching in its facial scope does not mean that it is unconstitutionally vague. What is crucial is whether a court examining the provision can give sensible meaning to its terms: Prostitution Reference, at p. 1160 S.C.R.

[90] Second, an offence need not be codified in statutory form to survive a vagueness challenge, although statutes may tend to provide greater precision than the ever-evolving common law: United Nurses of Alberta v. Alberta (Attorney General), 1992 CanLII 99 (SCC), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 901, [1992] S.C.J. No. 37, at p. 933 S.C.R.[2]

[91] Third, inclusion in a statute of a term that has been the subject of debate and conflicting views as used in predecessor statutes does not render the provision void for vagueness, at least where the legislature has sufficiently delineated the area of risk and the terms of the debate: R. v. Nova Scotia Pharmaceutical Society, 1992 CanLII 72 (SCC), [1992] 2 S.C.R. 606, [1992] S.C.J. No. 67, at p. 657 S.C.R.

...

[98] Overbreadth is a discrete ground upon which a law may be constitutionally unsound. It is related to vagueness because both overbreadth and vagueness emanate from a common source -- a lack of legislative precision in the means used to accomplish [page21 ]the legislative objective: R. v. Heywood, 1994 CanLII 34 (SCC), [1994] 3 S.C.R. 761, [1994] S.C.J. No. 101, at p. 792 S.C.R.; Lindsay, at para. 16.[3]

[99] Overbreadth refers to a law that restricts liberty more than is necessary to accomplish its purpose. Overbreadth is established only where the adverse effect of the legislation on individuals subject to it is grossly disproportionate to the state interest that the legislation seeks to protect or achieve: Lindsay, at para. 21; Heywood, at p. 792 S.C.R. The "grossly disproportionate" standard accords substantial elbow room to the legislature's assessment of the risk to public safety and the need for the law under siege: Lindsay, at para. 21; Malmo-Levine, at para. 143; Cochrane, at para. 31.

The relevance of prosecutorial and judicial discretion

[100] A claim of unconstitutionality, whether advanced as vagueness, overbreadth or otherwise, is not answered by reliance on prosecutorial or judicial discretion to confine its application: R. v. Hess; R. v. Nguyen, 1990 CanLII 89 (SCC), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 906, [1990] S.C.J. No. 91, at p. 924 S.C.R.;[4] Lavallee, Rackel & Heintz v. Canada (Attorney General); White, Ottenheimer & Baker v. Canada (Attorney General); R. v. Fink, 2002 SCC 61 (CanLII)[5], [2002] 3 S.C.R. 209, [2002] S.C.J. No. 61, at para. 45; R. v. Bain, 1992 CanLII 111 (SCC), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 91, [1992] S.C.J. No. 3, at pp. 103-104 S.C.R.[6]


[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

City of Toronto v. Zanzibar Tavern Inc., 2007 ONCJ 401 (CanLII)

[113] In Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada, 2004 SCC 4 (CanLII), [2004] 1 S.C.R. 76 (S.C.C.)[7], McLachlin C.J.C. held that a law must set an intelligible standard for both citizens and officials who must enforce it:

A law must set an intelligible standard both for the citizens it governs and the officials who must enforce it (at para. 16).
...

[116] Furthermore, in its argument against vagueness the prosecution relies on the analysis used in Club Pro Adult Entertainment Inc. v. Ontario, [2006] O.J. No. 5027 (QL), 154 A.C.W.S. (3d) 64 (S.C.J.O.), where Spies J. concluded at para. 248 of [2006] O.J. No. 5027 (QL), that just because individual inspectors might apply the law differently it does not necessarily mean the statute is invalid unless the statute is so vague that it is incapable of consistent enforcement. Moreover, even if the law was being enforced in an inconsistent way, Spies J. reasoned that this inconsistent enforcement would not make the law unconstitutional when its provisions are not vague [emphasis is mine below]:

The fact that individual inspectors might apply the law differently does not invalidate the statue unless the statute is so vague that it is incapable of consistent enforcement. That is not this case. Furthermore, even if it could be established that the law is being enforced in an inconsistent way, that could not possibly result in a finding that the SFOA is unconstitutional, given that its provisions are not vague. Not every police officer charges every driver stopped for speeding. That fact has no impact on the constitutionality of the Highway Traffic Act, which makes it clear that speeding is an offence.

[8] [7]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 R. v. Levkovic, 2010 ONCA 830 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/2dr09>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  2. 2.0 2.1 United Nurses of Alberta v. Alberta (Attorney General), 1992 CanLII 99 (SCC), [1992] 1 SCR 901, <https://canlii.ca/t/1fscs>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  3. 3.0 3.1 R. v. Heywood, 1994 CanLII 34 (SCC), [1994] 3 SCR 761, <https://canlii.ca/t/1frnd>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  4. 4.0 4.1 R. v. Nguyen, 1990 CanLII 89 (SCC), [1990] 2 SCR 906, <https://canlii.ca/t/1fst0>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  5. 5.0 5.1 Lavallee, Rackel & Heintz v. Canada (Attorney General); White, Ottenheimer & Baker v. Canada (Attorney General); R. v. Fink, 2002 SCC 61 (CanLII), [2002] 3 SCR 209, <https://canlii.ca/t/51rj>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  6. 6.0 6.1 R. v. Bain, 1992 CanLII 111 (SCC), [1992] 1 SCR 91, <https://canlii.ca/t/1fsft>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  7. 7.0 7.1 Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General), 2004 SCC 4 (CanLII), [2004] 1 SCR 76, <https://canlii.ca/t/1g990>, retrieved on 2021-09-10
  8. City of Toronto v. Zanzibar Tavern Inc., 2007 ONCJ 401 (CanLII), <https://canlii.ca/t/1stnk>, retrieved on 2021-09-10