Administration of Criminal Justice: Wrongful Conviction

It has been said that wrongful convictions are a triple failure of the justice system because an innocent person is wronged, a guilty person remains unaccountable, and the victim’s loved ones must contend with having blamed the wrong person. It is all but impossible to determine the precise number of wrongful convictions that occur in Canada for many reasons, but there are some indicators: to date, Innocence Canada has successfully exonerated 24 people; in the U.S., the National Registry of Exonerations currently lists 3,166 exonerations since 1989.

This course will explore both the causes of wrongful convictions and the various remedial approaches adopted by different jurisdictions, as well as safeguards put in place to attenuate the risk of wrongful convictions. In particular, you will study the following leading causes of wrongful convictions: adversarial excess, police and prosecutorial misconduct, tunnel vision, inadequate disclosure, frail identification evidence, false confessions, jailhouse informants, inadequate defence, and faulty forensic testing and junk science.

With respect to remedial options, you will learn about how Canadian exonerations are achieved through section s.696.1 of the Criminal Code. In addition, this course will examine the findings and recommendations of the various Canadian Commissions of Inquiry designed to explain and analyze the causes of a wrongful conviction in particular cases.

Criminal Law II: Advocacy & the Criminal Trial

This course bridges the divide between law school and a criminal law practice. Students will receive advanced instruction on a variety of topics at the intersection of criminal procedure and evidence. Students will then learn how to apply these legal principles to a trial. Students will receive a “disclosure” or “Crown” package as though they are working through a real trial. Using this material, students will learn how to formulate Notices of Application and Response, how to develop a factual foundation to support or refute a motion, and how best to present the facts on a motion. Class topics will focus on a variety of different motions commonly raised in criminal trials including Charter applications (search and seizure, arbitrary detention, right to counsel motions), applications to lead expert evidence, and similar fact applications.

Criminal Law II: Homicide

This advanced course in criminal law focuses on the law of homicide. The course will examine the constituent elements, available defences and relationship between forms of culpable homicide. The course will also address the prosecution and defence of homicide
charges, as well as evidentiary and procedural issues that frequently arise in homicide cases. In addition, the course will explore jury instructions at various stages of the trial.

Criminal Procedure

This course will provide students with an overview of the Canadian criminal process, with a special attention given to the limitations imposed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It will begin with an exploration of police investigative powers. The authority of Canadian police to search/seize, question, detain, and arrest will all be considered in detail. The exclusion of unconstitutionally obtained evidence, as well as the availability of other constitutional remedies, will also be addressed. The course will then shift to a consideration of the criminal process after charges are formally brought, including intake procedures, bail, disclosure, plea, plea bargaining, prosecutorial discretion, and the right to a trial within a reasonable time. If time allows, some trial and post-trial issues may be considered, including jury selection, res judicata, and appeals. Throughout, various theoretical perspectives on criminal law and process will be discussed. The course will also seek to introduce key historical connections and important points of comparison between criminal procedure in Canada and the United States, primarily in terms of their constitutional regulation, as well as with the common law of England.


This course is an introduction to the law of evidence. What is evidence? When is evidence admissible? How does it get admitted? In this course, we will learn about the specific rules that apply to many categories of evidence, like hearsay, expert opinions, and privilege. But we will also learn about the general principles that inform the overall structure of our rules of evidence, and the common sense assumptions that underlie them. We will see what happens to the rules when those assumptions are challenged or proven untrue, the role Parliament has played in efforts to reform the rules of evidence, and the balance the court has struck between competing interests in light of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


This course will introduce the law governing the proof of facts in civil and criminal trials in Canadian courts. Upon completion of the course, students should have a broad understanding of the law of evidence in Canada, including its common law, statutory and constitutional elements. The basic principles regulating the use and admissibility of evidence—including relevance, probative value, prejudice, and judicial discretion—will be examined in detail. Specific topics covered will include burdens of proof, competency and compellability of witnesses, rules about introducing physical evidence and questioning witnesses, judicial notice, character evidence, hearsay, admissions and confessions, expert evidence and privilege. Emphasis will be placed on the origins, purposes and justifications of evidence rules and the ways in which they operate in their legal and social context.


This course will examine the basic rules and principles of evidence law in Canada, and the impact of constitutional principles and constraints. The course will also examine some of the philosophical underpinnings on which judges and legislators rely when they develop and apply rules of evidence. Students will learn how to reason about evidence, and will be encouraged to reflect critically on the modern law of criminal evidence.


This course will provide students with a theoretical and practical understanding of evidence law. After discussing evidence law’s place in the legal system, the course will move on to questions about competence and compellability. This will be followed by a consideration of what makes evidence “relevant” – the threshold requirement for admissibility. The rules governing credibility will be considered, as will the most common exclusionary rules, and the exceptions to them. This will include hearsay evidence (and its most common exceptions, including the principled exception), opinion evidence (and its exceptions, including expert evidence), and character evidence (and its exceptions, including the “similar fact” rule). By the end of the course, students should: • Understand the goals of Evidence Law • Understand the sources of Evidence Law and their interrelationships • Be able to identify and analyze evidentiary problems in fact scenarios and resolve them with reference to prevailing evidentiary rules (common law, statutory and Charter). • Understand the procedural requirements for litigating different evidentiary issues. • Understand, on a practical level, how evidentiary issues are litigated.

International Criminal Law

Ending impunity for those responsible for atrocity crimes – such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression – is one of the goals of international criminal law (ICL). The course aims to provide students with a program oriented to the practice of ICL, underpinned by a strong framework of ICL doctrine and theory. Both substantive ICL (e.g., elements of crime, modes of liability) and procedural ICL (e.g., admissibility of evidence, victim/witness protective measures) will be discussed and debated. They will be studied alongside the policy, geopolitical and ethical considerations of ICL, such as during the creation of new international courts/tribunals (arguably new legal systems) and the conduct of international investigations. The course will consider how ICL relates to and interacts with international humanitarian law (also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict), international human rights law and public international law.
Four of the key features of the course include the following.
(1) Examining, analyzing and applying ICL to contemporaneous and ongoing situations, such as those in Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Ukraine.
(2) Surveying, comparing and evaluating the past and ongoing evolution of ICL, which is a relatively new field of law. As part of studying this evolution, students will view it through the lenses of:
· Institutions starting from the International Military Tribunals at Nuremburg and for the Far East, to the ad hoc and permanent tribunals/courts established in the 1990s and 2000s (e.g., International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, International Criminal Court), to the recent accountability mechanisms (e.g., UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/ISIL);

· Crimes such as the four ‘core crimes’ (i.e., war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression), terrorism (as considered and applied at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon), and the recently proposed crime of ecocide, and
· Types of individuals and entities accused of atrocity crimes, such as natural persons, corporations and States.
(3) Identifying, understanding and incorporating new technologies and techniques in building ICL cases (e.g., investigator or prosecutor roles) and responding to such cases (e.g., defence counsel or legal representative of victims roles), such as open-source videos and photos from social media, satellite imagery, mobile phone call data records and remote video-link interviews.
(4) Viewing, analyzing and critiquing ICL through the perspectives of victims, accused, investigative bodies, prosecution offices, defence entities/counsel, victims’ legal representatives, civil society, judges, affected States and third-party States.

Criminal Procedure

This course will provide students with an overview of the Canadian criminal process. It will begin with an exploration of police investigative powers. The authority of Canadian police to detain, search/seize, question and arrest will all be considered in detail. Special attention will be given to the limitations imposed on each of these powers by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The exclusion of unconstitutionally obtained evidence under the Charter, as well as the availability of other constitutional remedies, will also be addressed. The course will then shift to a consideration of the criminal process after charges are formally brought, including intake procedures, bail, disclosure (the effects of non-disclosure and/or lost evidence), election and plea, preliminary inquiries, the right to trial within a reasonable time and plea-bargaining. The course will then focus on the trial, including trial venue, jury selection and trial procedure. This will be followed by an overview of the law of sentencing, and a brief consideration of appeals.