Cases & Decisions

R v Le [Arbitrary Detention in Backyard]

Court: Supreme Court of Canada, 2019

JFCY intervened in an appeal where a 19 year old was charged after the police entered the backyard of his 17 year old friend where a group of people were gathering. This case challenged the constitutionality of the detention and search of young people. JFCY made submissions about the way the Charter rights of young people should be analyzed and given that the person who’s consent was required for the police to enter, search and detain was a young person as identified by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision, JFCY is pleased that the court recognized the unique vulnerability of young people, and their experience of intersecting discrimination and disadvantage, including race and repeated interactions with the police. As argued in JFCY’s written submissions and found at para 122 of the court’s decision, the decision included the finding that, “[w]hile the law may define adulthood as beginning at age 18, [scientific research shows that] the psychological and neurological development characteristic of adolescence in fact extends into a young person’s twenties.” The court also found that “[the accused’s] relative lack of maturity means the power imbalance and knowledge gap between citizen and state is even more pronounced, evident and acute.”

The court also recognized the negative experiences of racialized communities with policing (as raised by other interveners) and rejected the implication that, “Mr. Le’s prior interactions with the police somehow supports an interference that he is familiar with the dynamics in such interactions and that this familiarity would lead a reasonable person in Mr. Le’s circumstances to conclude that there had been no detention.” (at para 107-110) and found that “[a]ny previous experiences would not attenuate the power imbalance or reduce the coercive force of multiple police officers entering a private backyard without explanation or authority.”

The webcast of the hearing and written materials are all available on the Supreme Court of Canada information page for this case

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