This timeline includes moments related to law, crime and legal reform in Canada.
May 23, 1701
Captain Kidd Hanged
William "Captain" Kidd, the famous Scottish pirate, was hanged for piracy. His treasure is reputed to be buried on Oak Island, NS.
June 21, 1734
Angélique Tortured and Hanged
Marie-Joseph Angélique allegedly set fire to her master's Montréal house and destroyed nearly 50 homes. She was tortured and hanged as an object lesson for all Blacks.
April 18, 1763
Marie-Josephte Corriveau was hanged for the murder of her husband. She was initially convicted of being an accessory to her father, Joseph Corriveau, killing her husband, but when Joseph recanted his confession, Marie-Josephte was retried and admitted her crime during the second trial. Her execution gave rise to many myths and legends.
September 17, 1764
Civil Courts in Québec
Québec establishes a system of civil courts, ending the military rule that had been implemented since the Seven Years' War.
June 22, 1774
Quebec Act Passed
The Quebec Act was passed (effective 1 May 1775); it established French civil law, British criminal law, freedom of worship for Roman Catholics and government by appointed council. It extended the boundaries of the province to the Ohio Valley.
June 02, 1779
Newspapermen Fleury Mesplet and Valentin Jautard were arrested by order of the governor after criticizing a judge''s rulings in their paper Gazette Littéraire.
April 21, 1785
Trial by Jury
Trial by jury was first established in Canada.
July 09, 1793
Slavery Act Passed
Governor John Graves Simcoe introduced the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, "an Act to prevent the further introduction of slaves, and to limit the term of contract for servitude within this province." It was the first step toward abolishing slavery in Upper Canada, and following its passage the country became a refuge for American slaves.
November 23, 1809
Edward Jordan was found guilty of murder and piracy and was hanged. His tarred and chained corpse was gibbeted at the entrance to Halifax harbour.
June 20, 1822
Law Society Founded
The Law Society of Upper Canada was incorporated.
June 05, 1832
Jews Receive Rights
A law giving Jews legal rights was passed in the Lower Canada Assembly. By 1768, the number of Jews in Montréal had grown, and the community established Canada's first synagogue, Shearith Israel. Jews had also settled in Québec City and other parts of Lower Canada. Ezekiel Hart had been elected to the legislature of Lower Canada in 1807 but was denied his seat on the basis of his religion.
April 12, 1838
Lount and Matthews Hanged
Samuel Lount and Peter Matthews were hanged for treason, at Toronto, for their roles in the Rebellion of 1837.
May 22, 1838
Last Fatal Duel
In Verdun, Qué, lawyer Robert Sweeny shot and killed Maj Henry Warde, who had sent a love letter to Mrs Sweeny, in the last fatal duel recorded in Canada.
May 28, 1838
Outlaw Seizes Steamer
Outlaw William Johnston seized and burned the steamer Sir Robert Peel in the Thousand Islands, carrying off $175 000 in cash and plunder.
January 18, 1839
Rebels were hanged at Montréal for their part in the Rebellions of 1837.
May 17, 1849
Pierre Guillaume Sayer and 3 other Métis in the Red River Colony were brought to trial on charges of violating the Hudson's Bay Company's charter by illegally trafficking in furs.
September 18, 1850
The Fugitive Slave Act
The Fugitive Slave Act passed by the American Congress on 18 September 1850 dealt a severe blow to the American abolitionist cause. It gave slave-owners and their agents the right to track down and arrest fugitives anywhere in the country. Bounty hunters often kidnapped free Blacks and illegally sold them into slavery in the Southern states.
July 01, 1858
First Coins Minted
A law required that the accounts of the Province of Canada be kept in dollars; the first Canadian coins were minted: silver 5-cent, 10-cent and 20-cent pieces and bronze pennies.
June 08, 1859
Supreme Court of British Columbia Established
The Supreme Court of British Columbia was established.
December 02, 1859
John Brown is Hanged
The Harpers Ferry raid left a deep impression on Canadians. In the days and weeks that followed, many newspapers took note of John Brown's efforts, and some even proclaimed him a "hero." Funeral bells tolled in Toronto after Brown's 2 December 1859 execution and many churches held memorial services.
February 11, 1869
Patrick James Whelan was hanged in Ottawa for murdering Thomas D'Arcy McGee. He was hanged in front of 5000 spectators in Ottawa, one of the last public executions in Canada.
May 23, 1873
North-West Mounted Police
An Act of Parliament authorized the creation of the North-West Mounted Police; the prefix Royal was added 1904.
April 08, 1875
Supreme Court Organized
An Act of the Canadian Parliament created the Supreme Court of Canada. The court sat for the first time on January 17, 1876.
January 17, 1876
Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada Sits for the First Time
Following its creation by the Supreme and Exchequer Court Act the year before, the Supreme Court of Canada sat for the first time. It would not hear its first case, however, until April 1876.
February 04, 1880
Five members of the Donnelly family were massacred near Lucan, Ont.
November 16, 1885
Louis Riel Hanged
Louis Riel was hanged for treason at the Regina jail. He had been convicted after a trial held in Regina from 28 July to 1 August. Macdonald's refusal to grant leniency made Riel a symbol of English-Canadian oppression.
March 06, 1889
A Toronto customs officer destroyed the novels of Émile Zola for being obscene.
March 25, 1893
Driving a Lady on Sunday
A Toronto magistrate fined a cab driver $2 or 10 days in jail for "driving a lady on a Sunday."
February 02, 1897
First Woman Lawyer
The Law Society of Upper Canada changed its regulations, allowing Clara Brett Martin to become the first woman admitted to the profession of law in the British Empire.
May 06, 1898
Yukon Field Force
The Yukon Field Force, consisting of 203 volunteers, left Vancouver for Dawson to maintain order during the Klondike Gold Rush.
April 25, 1903
Jewish Education Rights (Québec)
The Québec legislature adopted legislation requiring Jews to pay their taxes to the Protestant schools panel and granting them education rights equal to those of Protestants. In 1928, the Privy Council ruled that the 1903 Act was ultra vires (beyond legal authority).
May 08, 1906
Train Robber Captured
Bill Miner stuck up a CPR train near Kamloops, but the robbery was bungled. Miner and 2 accomplices were captured by the Royal North-West Mounted Police.
July 11, 1906
Lord's Day Act Passed
The Lord's Day Act, officially making Sunday a day of rest in Canada, was passed into law by the Senate. The Act restricted trade, labour and recreation on Sundays.
July 31, 1910
Crippen Caught by Radio
Dr Crippen was arrested aboard the SS Montrose as it was docking at Québec. Charged with the murder of his wife in England, he was the first criminal to be caught by the use of radio.
October 10, 1911
BC Courthouse Opens
The BC provincial courthouse opened in Vancouver on Georgia Street in an impressive building designed by Francis Rattenbury.
November 05, 1914
Cattle Grazing Granville Street
The Vancouver police were notified that a large number of cattle were at large on Granville Street. The police rounded up and impounded 97 head of cattle, which were later redeemed by the Swift Canadian Co. for a fee of $97.
July 27, 1918
Albert Goodwin Shot
Labour organizer and draft resister Albert "Ginger" Goodwin was shot by police outside Cumberland, BC. On August 2, the day of his funeral, union members in Vancouver started a 24-hour strike and fought with returning servicemen.
February 01, 1920
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
The Royal North-West Mounted Police became the Royal Canadian Mounted Police after merging with the Dominion Police. RCMP headquarters was moved from Regina to Ottawa.
March 01, 1920
Alberta Penitentiary Closes
The federal government ordered the Alberta Penitentiary in Edmonton closed down and the 147 prisoners moved to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan or Stony Mountain, Manitoba.
April 21, 1920
Houde Murder Trial
The murder trial of Marie-Anne Houde ended. Houde was accused of murdering her step-daughter, Aurore, who became a martyr in the collective consciousness. Houde's defence was insanity exacerbated by pregnancy. Initially she was sentenced to be hanged but her sentence was changed to life imprisonment due to pressure from the citizenry and militant groups.
January 10, 1924
Pérodeau Appointed Lieutenant-Governor
The Honourable Narcisse Pérodeau was appointed Québec''s 14th lieutenant-governor, serving until 10 January 1929.
April 24, 1928
In the Persons Case, the Supreme Court of Canada unanimously decided women were not "persons" who could hold public office as Canadian senators. In 1929 the British Privy Council reversed the decision.
February 17, 1932
Mad Trapper Shot
Albert Johnson, the "Mad Trapper," was shot and killed by the RCMP on the Rat River, northern Yukon Territory.
June 21, 1940
Conscription Act Passed
Parliament passed the National Resources Mobilization Act, providing for the conscription of able-bodied men for home defence. It was amended in 1942 by Bill 80, giving the government power to conscript for overseas service.
August 05, 1940
Houde Arrested for Sedition
Camillien Houde, the mayor of Montréal, was arrested by the RCMP for sedition in having advised Québec men not to take part in the compulsory National Registration.
April 29, 1941
Women Admitted to the Québec Bar
Québec law was changed to admit women to the Bar. They would have to wait until 1956 to become notaries.
August 01, 1944
Family Allowance Act
The House of Commons approved the Family Allowance Act, providing monthly baby bonuses to parents of children under 18.
February 23, 1946
Japanese Lieutenant-General Tomoyuki Yamashita was hanged near Manilla, Phillipines, for war crimes.
May 14, 1946
Canadian Citizenship Act Passed
The Canadian Citizenship Act was passed, to take effect 1 January 1947. The Act replaced British subject status with Canadian citizenship.
November 08, 1946
Desmond Faces Segregation
Businesswoman Viola Desmond entered a movie theatre in New Glasgow, NS but was asked to leave when staff informed her that tickets sold to African Canadians were for the balcony and the main floor was reserved solely for White patrons. She was forcibly dragged out by police when she refused to leave and was fined $20 and sentenced to 30 days in prison.
January 01, 1947
Canadian Citizenship Act in Effect
The Canadian Citizenship Act, the first to define its people as Canadian rather than British subjects, came into effect.
January 13, 1949
Supreme Court Made Final Court
The Supreme Court of Canada was made the final court of appeal in Canada, ending recourse to the British Privy Council.
September 16, 1952
Boyd Gang Captured
Police in Toronto recaptured the Boyd Gang. Jailed for armed robbery and murder, the four men had escaped Toronto's Don Jail for the second time eight days earlier.
January 09, 1953
Marguerite Pitre, the last woman to be hanged in Canada, was executed at the Bordeaux jail. She was accused of participating in a plot to crash a Québec Airways DC-3 out of l'Ancienne-Lorette (Québec City), which killed 23 people. It was the first plane crash caused by a criminal act in North America.
March 06, 1957
Padlock Act Nullified
The Supreme Court of Canada nullified the Québec "Padlock Law" of 1937. The Act was a 1937 law in Québec that allowed police to close, or padlock, for one year any building where "communism or bolshevism" was being promoted.
June 11, 1962
Sons of Freedom Hearings Begin
Preliminary hearings in the conspiracy case against 72 Doukhobor protestors, known as the "Sons of Freedom," began at New Westminster, BC. The charges, for incidents that took place between 1958 and 1961, were dismissed a few months later.
December 11, 1962
Last Hangings in Canada
The last judicial hanging in Canada took place in Toronto's Don Jail, when Ronald Turpin and Arthur Lucas were executed for murder.
June 18, 1964
Married Women in Québec Gain Legal Capacity
Under Bill 16, Québec women were able to act independently of their husbands, i.e., make decisions without their husband’s approval. This ability to have legal capacity had a huge impact, particularly on contractual transactions. The bill was championed by Marie-Claire Kirkland-Casgrain, Québec’s first female member of the Legislative Assembly.
August 11, 1965
Klan Activity in Amherstburg
In 1965, racial tension ran high in Amherstburg, ON. A cross-burning set the tone; the Black Baptist Church was defaced and the town sign was spray-painted "Amherstburg Home of the KKK." Five days of racial incidents threatened to escalate but the situation was saved by an investigation by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. No arrests were made.
February 22, 1966
LaPointe Appointed Lieutenant-Governor
The Honourable Hugues LaPointe was appointed Québec''s 22nd lieutenant-governor, serving until 27 April 1978.
November 07, 1967
Mineral Rights Declared Federal
The Supreme Court ruled that offshore mineral rights on the West Coast belonged to the federal and not the BC government.
May 30, 1969
Sixteen-year-old David Milgaard was arrested in Prince George, BC, for the murder of Gail Miller in Saskatchewan. He would be cleared by DNA evidence almost 30 years later, in 1997.
October 10, 1970
Pierre Laporte Kidnapped
Québec labour minister Pierre Laporte was kidnapped in the Montréal suburb of St Hubert by FLQ terrorists.
March 13, 1971
Rose Sentenced for Murder
Paul Rose was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Pierre Laporte.
May 20, 1971
FLQ member Francis Simard was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Pierre Laporte's murder during the October Crisis.
November 30, 1971
Rose Sentenced for Kidnapping
Paul Rose was sentenced to life in prison for the role he played in the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte during the October Crisis.
December 02, 1971
The Gendron Report was published, recommending that Québec have French as its official provincial language while maintaining both English and French as its two national languages.
May 01, 1972
Compulsory Breath Tests
The Supreme Court ruled that compulsory breath tests administered by law enforcement officers constituted a "due process of the law" and therefore did not breach citizens' right to liberty and security of the person.
June 29, 1972
Supreme Ruling on Breathalyzer
The Supreme Court ruled that motorists could seek legal advice before submitting to a breathalyzer test.
September 04, 1972
Art Gallery Robbed
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts was robbed of $2-million worth of paintings and other art objects, including a Rembrandt worth $1 million.
September 27, 1972
Sale of Firecrackers Banned
Ottawa banned the sale of firecrackers.
January 31, 1973
Aboriginal Title Recognized
The Supreme Court acknowledged the existence of Aboriginal title in law.
February 23, 1973
Rose Acquitted of Laporte Murder
Jacques Rose was acquitted of the murder of Pierre Laporte during the FLQ crisis. On 9 December 1972, he would also be acquitted of Laporte''s kidnapping but would be convicted of being an accessory after the fact on 17 July 1973.
July 18, 1973
Christine Demeter Murdered
Christine Demeter was murdered. Her husband, Peter Demeter, was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1974 after Canada's longest and most bizarre murder trial.
September 07, 1973
NWT Court Allows Land Claim
The Northwest Territories Supreme Court allowed the Indian Brotherhood of the NWT to file a land claim for one-third of the NWT.
November 13, 1973
Jury Acquits Morgentaler
A jury acquitted Henry Morgentaler of violating the Criminal Code in performing abortions.
January 07, 1974
Bora Laskin Sworn In
Bora Laskin was sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
June 24, 1974
No Extradition for FLQ
Prime Minister Trudeau declared that Canada would not seek the extradition of the FLQ members who had fled to Cuba and then France.
August 01, 1974
Election Expenses Act Passed
The Election Expenses Act came into force. The law provided for income-tax deductions, for disclosure of the source and amount of donations over $100, and limited the amount of money that could be spent in an election campaign.
November 29, 1974
Naim Djemal hijacked an aircraft over Saskatchewan, assaulted a stewardess and ordered the pilot to fly to Cyprus. He was apprehended in Saskatoon.
July 15, 1975
Human Rights Commission Created
Legislation was introduced to create a Human Rights Commission.
July 23, 1975
Ottawa Bans Soviet Fleet
Ottawa banned the Soviet Atlantic fishing fleet from Canadian ports for overfishing.
August 01, 1975
The Helsinki accords were signed. Canada was one of the signatories, agreeing to respect the human rights and freedoms of its subjects.
November 18, 1975
Mandatory Seat Belts
Ontario introduced legislation to make the wearing of seat belts mandatory.
February 04, 1976
Ruling on Censorship in NS
The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled that the province did not have the right to censor motion pictures.
June 30, 1976
Members Vote vs Death Penalty
MPs voted 148-127 not to reinstate the death penalty.
February 16, 1977
Marjorie (Cantryn) White became the first Aboriginal woman in BC to be appointed a citizenship judge.
August 26, 1977
Bill 101 Passed
Bill 101, Québec's French-language charter, was passed by the National Assembly.
January 21, 1980
Canada Expels Spies
Canada expelled 3 Soviet Embassy employees for spying. They had been involved in buying classified information from a US citizen in Ottawa.
February 05, 1981
Toronto Bathhouse Raid
Toronto police descended on four Toronto bathhouses and rounded up close to 300 men. Such raids were a fixture on the gay scene, as police used a questionable interpretation of the term “bawdy house” to justify their actions.
June 12, 1981
RCMP Charged in October Crisis
Seventeen present or past members of the RCMP were charged with a total of 44 offences following the Keable Report. The offences were connected to illegal operations conducted after the October Crisis.
September 28, 1981
Court Rules on Patriation
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the federal proposal to patriate the Constitution unilaterally was strictly legal, but offended the constitutional convention requiring provincial consent.
March 08, 1982
Canada Act Passed
The British House of Commons passed the Canada Act of 1982. It was adopted by the House of Lords on March 25. The Act ended British legislative jurisdiction over Canada. Queen Elizabeth II signed the proclamation in Ottawa on April 17.
June 28, 1982
Access to Information Act
The Access to Information Act was passed by the House of Commons. It came into effect in July 1983.
December 10, 1982
200-Mile Limit Set
An international Law of the Sea agreement was signed, entrenching a 200-mile international limit.
March 30, 1983
Bertha Wilson Sworn In
Bertha Wilson was sworn in as Canada's first female Supreme Court Justice. She was appointed on March 4.
June 09, 1983
Bill 101 Violates Charter
The Québec Court of Appeal ruled that Bill 101, Québec's language law, violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
September 18, 1984
Hunter v Southam Case
In Hunter v Southam the Supreme Court of Canada declared that some sections of the Combines Investigation Act violated a portion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, following a claim by Southam Inc that their newspaper offices were improperly searched.
December 15, 1984
Bill 101 Challenged
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the compulsory exclusive use of French on public commercial signs, as per Bill 101, was contrary to the right of freedom of speech. The Bourassa government reacted by introducing Bill 178, reinstating the use of French-only signs.
January 03, 1985
Grange Commission Report on Infant Deaths
Ontario Supreme Court Justice Samuel Grange delivered his report into infant deaths at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. The inquiry had been called to look into the deaths of some 36 babies, many of them suspicious. Grange determined that nurse Susan Nelles, charged with murdering several babies, had been wrongly accused, but no one else was held criminally responsible. As of 2015, there were still no answers.
February 13, 1985
Lortie Found Guilty
Denis Lortie was found guilty of the first degree murder of 3 government employees in a submachine-gun attack on Québec's National Assembly in May 1984.
February 28, 1985
Zündel Convicted of Intolerance
Ernst Zündel was convicted of publishing false news causing harm to racial tolerance by publishing his claims that the mass extermination of Jews in Nazi Germany never occurred. The conviction was later overturned on constitutional grounds.
April 04, 1985
In the Singh Case, the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that a refugee has the right not to "be removed from Canada to a country where his life or his freedom would be threatened."
April 24, 1985
Legislation The Law
Lord's Day Act Ruled Contrary
The Supreme Court of Canada found that the Lord's Day Act was contrary to the freedom of religion guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.
May 09, 1985
Cabinet Ruling by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court declared that federal Cabinet decisions are subject to judicial control under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
September 29, 1985
Bank Inquiry Announced
The federal government announced an inquiry, headed by Supreme Court Justice Willard Estey, to investigate the failures of the Calgary-based Northland Bank and Edmonton's Canadian Commercial Bank.
June 19, 1986
New Competition Act
The new Competition Act and Competition Tribunal Act came into force.
December 30, 1986
War Crimes Commission Reports
The Commission of Inquiry into War Criminals reported after examining 3 lists of suspects. In most cases the commission found that the accused was either not in Canada or that there was no evidence that the individual had participated in war crimes.
December 06, 1989
École Polytechnique Massacre
Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old with a hatred of women, went on a shooting rampage at École Polytechnique, the Université de Montréal's engineering faculty, killing 14 women and wounding 14 more people before committing suicide. In the wake of the tragedy, issues such as gun control, misogyny and gender-based violence came to the fore of public debate in Canada. Tighter firearms laws were instituted in the years that followed, and the events of 6 December have had a lasting influence on efforts to end gender-based violence.
January 26, 1990
Donald Marshall Exonerated
The royal commission investigating the wrongful murder conviction of Donald Marshall Jr reported that the justice system had failed him. He had been imprisoned for 11 years for a murder he did not commit.
March 15, 1990
Sikh Mounties Permitted to Wear Turbans
The Solicitor General of Canada, Pierre Cadieux, announced the decision in the Baltej Singh Dhillon case, allowing Sikh RCMP officers to wear a turban while in uniform.
March 08, 1991
Gitksan Court Case
In Delgamuukw et al v The Queen, the BC Supreme Court ruled that, according to treaties, the Gitksan do not have Aboriginal title to the land, but they do have the right to use it for subsistence.
January 06, 1992
The Québec Superior Court gave paralysed patient Nancy B. the right to be disconnected from a respirator, which would result in her death.
May 15, 1992
Westray Inquiry Set
Mr Justice Peter Richard was named to head an inquiry into the Westray mine disaster.
August 27, 1992
Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel was acquitted of charges for violating section 181 the Canadian Criminal Code pertaining to freedom of speech for publishing his treatise "Did Six Million Really Die?" Zündel was eventually deported back to Germany where he subsequently stood trial for and was convicted of holocaust denial in 2007. He was released on 1 Mar 2010.
January 01, 1994
Québec Civil Code
The Civil Code of Québec, the legal text defining civil laws in the province, came into effect.
January 23, 1995
Morin Conviction Overturned
The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned a conviction of Guy Paul Morin for the 1984 murder of a neighbourhood girl. DNA evidence showed that he could not have been the killer.
February 21, 1995
Kingston Women's Prison Report
A federal ombudsman released a report accusing officials of the Prison for Women in Kingston, Ont, of using excessive force in quelling a disturbance in April 1994.
March 20, 1995
Tobias Accused of War Crimes
The federal Immigration Department began legal proceedings against Erichs Tobias, a former Latvian accused of war crimes.
May 18, 1995
Bernardo Trial Begins
The trial of Paul Bernardo, accused of the murder and torture of 2 girls, began.
May 23, 1995
An Edmonton judge acquitted Marilyn Tan of charges that she had injected her former lover Conrad Boland with HIV-infected blood.
May 24, 1995
Gay Adoption Law Struck Down
Judge James Nevins of the Ontario Court struck down a provincial law preventing same-sex couples from adopting children.
May 25, 1995
Court Rules Against Discrimination
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Charter protects the rights of homosexuals against discrimination, though sexual orientation is not specifically mentioned in the Charter.
June 13, 1995
New Gun Bill Passed
The House of Commons passed its Gun Bill, with a vote of 192-63, barring handguns and requiring all firearms to be registered.
June 20, 1995
Drunkenness Defence Bill
The House of Commons approved a bill to prevent suspects accused of assault from using drunkenness as a defence.
July 20, 1995
Largest Libel Award
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a $1.6 million libel award to Casey Hill, the largest in Canadian history, in his dispute with the Church of Scientology.
August 02, 1995
Sportscaster Brian Smith was shot and killed in Ottawa by Jeffrey Arenburgh, who cited anger against the media as his motive.
September 01, 1995
Bernardo Found Guilty
A jury found Paul Bernardo guilty of the kidnapping, rape and murder of 2 girls in 1991 and 1992.
September 23, 1995
Dionne Quints Claim Abuse
Three of the famous Dionne quintuplets, Annette, Cécile and Yvonne claimed in a television interview that they had been sexually abused by their father. The claim was repeated in their book, The Dionne Quintuplets: Family Secrets.
April 05, 1996
Mass Murder in Vernon
Mark Chahal killed 10 people in Vernon, BC.
May 09, 1996
Dorothy Joudrie was acquitted of charges of the attempted murder of her estranged husband, Calgary businessman Earl Joudrie. The jury found that she was suffering from a mental disorder.
May 29, 1996
RCMP Board Taiwanese Ship
RCMP officers boarded the Taiwan-registered ship Maersk Dubai and arrested the captain on charges of murdering 2 Romanian stowaways.
July 30, 1996
Violent Crime Rate Down
StatsCan reported that the violent crime rate in Canada had dropped to 995 incidents per 100 000 population, the third consecutive year the rate had fallen.
December 03, 1996
The RCMP finally charged Alan Eagleson, former executive director of the NHL Players Association, with fraud and theft. He had been indicted in 1994 for racketeering and fraud.
February 06, 1997
Latimer to be Retried
A federal court ruled that Robert Latimer be retried for murder charges in the mercy killing of his daughter, citing flagrant abuse of process by the prosecution.
July 09, 1997
Miss Canada Gives Up Title
Danielle House gave up her Miss Canada International title after pleading guilty of assault against her boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.
July 30, 1997
Violent Crime Down
Statistics Canada reported that violent crime in Canada had dropped for the fourth straight year to 973 incidents per 100 000 population, including 633 murders.
October 01, 1997
Bastarache Named New Supreme Court Justice
PM Jean Chrétien named Justice Michel Bastarache to fill the vacancy left on the Supreme Court by Gerard LaForest. He became the first Acadian appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
October 01, 1997
Referendum Law Struck Down
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down Québec's controversial law limiting spending on referenda.
November 18, 1997
Constitution Act Amended
Parliament voted to amend the 1982 Constitution Act in order to allow Québec to replace its religion-based school system with one drawn along linguistic lines.
November 24, 1997
Death of Judge Sopinka
John Sopinka, former Supreme Court of Canada judge, died at the age of 64 in Ottawa. he was a vigorous champion of the rights of the accused.
December 01, 1997
Westray Report Issued
Justice Peter Richard of NS issued a report on the Westray mine disaster that cited slipshod government inspection and the mine management's disregard for safety as being responsible for the explosion.
January 06, 1998
Eagleson Pleads Guilty
Alan Eagleson pled guilty to fraud in Boston, Mass, and fined $1 million.
January 07, 1998
Eagleson Pleads Guilty Again
Alan Eagleson pleaded guilty to fraud in a Toronto court and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
February 13, 1998
Girls Found Guilty in Slaying
Three girls of ages 14, 15, and 16 were found guilty in Victoria, BC, of killing 14-year-old Reena Virk. Three others pled guilty of assault.
February 16, 1998
Unilateral Secession Dispute
The Supreme Court of Canada began to hear arguments on whether unilateral secession by Québec would be legal.
February 27, 1998
Eagleson Stripped of Order
Governor General Romeo LeBlanc announced that Alan Eagleson had been expelled from the Order of Canada after his conviction for fraud.
August 20, 1998
Supreme Court Rules on Separation
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that Québec could not secede from Canada without first negotiating the terms of secession with the federal government and the other provinces.
April 06, 1999
Gun Rampage in Ottawa
Pierre Lebrun, a former employee of OC Transpo, an Ottawa bus company, shot and killed 4 workers and wounded another before killing himself.
April 12, 1999
First Black Judge in Québec
The government of Québec appointed Juanita Westmorland-Traore as the first black judge of the Québec court.
April 23, 1999
Court Rules on Aboriginal Sentencing
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the lower courts should apply traditional disciplinary practices when sentencing Indigenous persons found guilty of criminal offences.
April 28, 1999
A 14-year-old boy armed with a .22 calibre rifle shot two students at W.R. Myers High School in Taber, Alberta. One died and the other was critically injured. The shooting occurred just eight days after the Colorado massacre.
May 17, 1999
The Saskatchewan government awarded David Milgaard $10 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction for murder and 23 years of imprisonment. Milgaard was cleared by DNA evidence in 1997.
May 20, 1999
Gay Spousal Rights
The Supreme Court of Canada struck down the definition of the term "spouse" in Ontario law under which homosexuals were denied the right to sue for spousal support.
May 20, 1999
Off-Reserve Voting Rights
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to open aboriginal band elections to off-reserve band members, stating that excluding them violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
June 17, 1999
Canadian citizen Joseph Stanley Faulder was executed in Huntsville, Texas, the first Canadian executed in the US since 1952.
June 30, 1999
Controversial Ruling on Child Pornography
The BC Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that struck down a law prohibiting the possession of child pornography, stating that the law violated privacy and freedom of expression. The next year, however, in R v. Sharpe, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the law against child pornography, finding that it balances freedom of expression with the protection of children. The case was finally sent back to the British Columbia Supreme Court, where John Robin Sharpe was convicted of possessing child pornography.
July 09, 1999
Unborns Cannot Sue Parents
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that children could not sue their mothers for injuries suffered while they were in the womb. The case was brought in 1993 by Gerald Price on behalf of his grandson, who was injured in a car crash.
July 09, 1999
Child Refugee Rights
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that immigration officers must consider children's best interests before deporting their illegal immigrant parents.
August 21, 1999
Justice Lamer Retires
Chief Justice Antonio Lamer announced his retirement from the Supreme Court of Canada, effective January 7, 2000.
September 15, 1999
Arbour Joins Supreme Court
Louise Arbour was sworn in as Supreme Court justice one day after stepping down as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal investigating crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
September 17, 1999
Mi'kmaq Fishing Rights Upheld
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that treaties from the 1760s guaranteed Mi'kmaq rights to fish, hunt and log year round. The ruling sparked controversy, as the Mi'kmaq began to fish lobster out of season. Angry non-Indigenous fishermen destroyed lobster traps and other equipment, sunk a boat and carried out an armed blockade of Yarmouth Harbour, NS. The conflict ended when an agreement was reached that allowed the Mi’kmaq to fish for subsistence only.
November 16, 1999
A BC judge sentenced 5 skinheads to prison for the 1998 beating death of Nirmal Singh Gill. The judge ruled that the attack was racially motivated.
November 17, 1999
Mi'kmaq Rights Clarified
The Supreme Court of Canada clarified its earlier ruling (September 17) regarding Mi'kmaq (Micmac) fishing rights, stating that the ruling had been misinterpreted. It stated that the ruling applied did not guarantee open season on fishing.
November 22, 1999
Fisher Found Guilty
Convicted serial rapist Larry Fisher was found guilty of the murder in 1969 of Gail Miller. The verdict ended the 30-year saga of David Milgaard, wrongly convicted of the murder.
November 25, 1999
Court Upholds Assault Law
The Supreme Court upheld a controversial law protecting the confidentiality of a sexual-assault complainant's counselling documents.
December 14, 1999
Algerian Terrorist Stopped at US Border
US customs officials arrested an Algerian-born man, named Ahmed Ressam, entering the US from Canada at Port Angeles, Washington. He was headed for Los Angeles International Airport, where he planned to blow up a terminal on New Year's Eve.
January 07, 2000
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin Sworn In
The first female Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, was appointed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien. McLachlin is the longest serving chief justice in Canadian history and has been on the top court’s bench for 25 years. Her aim has been to make the court more transparent, with faster turnaround and consensus-oriented decisions.
April 19, 2000
Ludwig Found Guilty
An Alberta judge found activist Wiebo Ludwig guilty of a 1998 gas-well bombing. Ludwig claimed that the wells were responsible for deadly pollution in the area.
June 09, 2000
Border Security Agreement
Canada and the United States signed a border security agreement under which the two countries would bolster security along the eastern border directed by a joint enforcement team.
August 03, 2000
Mafia Boy Arrested
The RCMP filed charges against a 16-year-old Montreal boy whom it had arrested in April in connection with computer attacks that paralysed several Internet sites, including CNN.
January 01, 2001
Religious Tolerance and the Kirpan
In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that a Québec student had the right to wear a kirpan while in school. The Québec Court of Appeal struck down the decision in 2004, ruling that community safety was more important than wearing the ceremonial dagger, but in 2006 the Supreme Court again decided that religious tolerance was to be encouraged in Canadian society and that a total ban infringed on the guarantee of religious freedom under the Charter of Rights.
January 18, 2001
Court Upholds Latimer Sentence
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the 10-year sentence imposed by Saskatchewan Court of Appeal on Robert Latimer for the mercy killing of his disabled daughter. A jury had handed down a lighter sentence.
January 26, 2001
Court Upholds Law Against Child Porn
The Supreme Court of Canada upheld a federal law prohibiting the possession of child pornography, overruling a lower court decision that struck down the law on the basis of freedom of speech.
June 30, 2001
Some 1500 Duplessis Orphans received an apology and a fault-free offer of compensation. Each received a lump sum payment of $10 000 and an additional $1000 for each year spent in an asylum, roughly $25 000 per person.
November 06, 2003
Canada Ratifies Law of the Sea
Canada ratified the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which entered into force in 1994.
March 19, 2004
Same-Sex Marriage Legalized
A Court of Appeal ruling legalized same-sex marriage in Québec.
January 08, 2007
Convicted sex offender Graham James was granted a pardon by the National Parole Board. Found guilty of 2 counts of abuse involving hockey players he coached, he was sentenced in 1997 to 3 and a half years in prison. The pardon was not made public until 4 Apr 2010 when another victim came forward to report alleged abuse.
December 10, 2007
Accused serial killer Robert Pickton was found guilty of the second-degree murders of Sereena Abotsway, Andrea Joesbury, Mona Wilson, Georgina Papin, Brenda Wolfe and Marnie Frey, sex trade workers who disappeared from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside between 1997 and 2001.
September 30, 2011
Top Court Defends Safe Injection Sites
In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court of Canada barred the federal government from closing Insite, a safe injection facility in Vancouver. Maintaining that such services play a crucial role in treating drug addiction and saving lives, the court decided that the benefit to public health outweighed the government's concerns surrounding the sanctioned use of illegal substances.
January 25, 2013
Supreme Court of Canada releases judgement on common-law rights in Québec
In the now famous Lola v. Eric case, the Supreme Court of Canada rules clause 585 of the Civil Code of Québec "discriminatory but acceptable". This clause does not recignize the same rights for common-law spouses and married couples upon the disolution of the relationship.
December 20, 2013
Prostitution Laws Struck Down
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the nation's prostitution laws violated sex workers' constitutional rights — namely, the right to practice their trade safely and to exercise freedom of expression. "It is not a crime in Canada to sell sex for money," noted Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the decision, which gave Parliament one year to rewrite the law.
January 10, 2014
First Indigenous Constitution in Ontario
Members of the Nipissing First Nation voted in favour of adopting their own constitution, or Gichi-Naaknigewin, believed to be the first such document among First Nations communities in Ontario. Its purpose is to allow the nation to define its membership and create laws. Legal experts say it is unclear, however, whether this constitution will run up against Canadian laws such as the Indian Act, which it is designed to replace.
March 20, 2014
Retroactive Changes to Parole Eligibility Struck Down
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the application of the Abolition of Early Parole Act to offenders who had already been sentenced was unconstitutional. The court maintained that these offenders would have been "thwarted" in their expectation of liberty and effectively punished again for the same crime.
March 21, 2014
Justice Nadon Denied Seat on Top Court
The unprecedented legal drama surrounding Prime Minister Stephen Harper's 2013 appointment of Québec judge Marc Nadon to the Supreme Court of Canada reached its decisive moment when the same court ruled, in a 6–1 decision, that Nadon did not meet the criteria for judges representing Québec on the court. Many commentators had been surprised by the appointment, viewing Nadon as an unlikely candidate for the seat, but it wasn't until Toronto lawyer Rocco Galati legally challenged the appointment that Nadon's position was jeopardized.
April 25, 2014
Supreme Court Rules on Senate Reform
In response to changes proposed by the Harper government, Canada's top court decided that Parliament cannot unilaterally make fundamental changes to the Senate. It ruled that abolishing this long-standing political institution would require consent from all the provinces, while introducing new term limits or elections for Senators would require consent from seven provinces representing half the population.
January 30, 2015
Right to Strike Upheld by Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Canada decided that the right to strike was constitutionally protected under the freedom of association clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The ruling struck down a Saskatchewan law that allowed government to prevent workers in essential services from striking.
February 06, 2015
Supreme Court Rules Against Ban on Assisted Suicide
In a historic decision on an emotionally charged issue, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that competent adults suffering from enduring and "irremediable" medical conditions should have the right to doctor-assisted suicide. The unanimous ruling gave Parliament one year to change the existing laws.
March 19, 2015
Supreme Court Rules on Faith-Based Education
The top court decided that the Québec government infringed on religious freedom by requiring that a Jesuit high school in Montréal teach a course on ethics and religious culture from a secular, neutral perspective. The decision affirmed Loyola High School's right to include its own perspective in the course, which is designed to promote understanding of diverse cultures and religious traditions.
May 07, 2015
Omar Khadr Freed on Bail
Toronto-born Omar Khadr, whom the United States captured in a firefight during the war in Afghanistan in 2002, was granted bail by an Alberta judge. At 15 years old, Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier, detained at Guantanamo Bay and later charged for his role in the firefight by the US military. In 2010, he pleaded guilty to five war crimes charges. In 2012, he was granted a transfer to the Canadian prison system to serve out the rest of his eight-year sentence. Khadr's polarizing and controversial legal saga ranks among the highest-profile cases in 21st-century Canada.
May 11, 2015
Death of Alan Borovoy
Civil rights activist and lawyer Alan Borovoy died at the age of 83. Often cited for his ardent defence of free speech, Borovoy served as general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association from 1968 to 2009. He also authored several books and a column that ran in the Toronto Star from 1992 to 1996. Borovoy was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1982.
March 24, 2016
Ghomeshi Acquitted in First Sexual Assault Trial
A verdict of not guilty on all charges was delivered at the end of former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi’s first trial on charges of sexual assault. In his decision, Justice William Horkins questioned the credibility of the three complainants. The high-profile proceedings raised questions about why victims of sexual assault might stay silent for years before making complaints to the police. In addition, the gruelling cross-examinations each woman went through during the trial threw a national spotlight on how complainants may be treated inside a courtroom.
April 14, 2016
Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court Ruling Changes Legal Definition of “Indian”
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously that the legal definition of “Indian” — as laid out in the Constitution — includes the Métis and non-status Indians. This ruling will facilitate possible negotiations over traditional land rights, access to education and health programs, and other government services.
May 11, 2016
Ghomeshi Signs Peace Bond, Avoids Second Trial
Weeks after the end of his first sexual-assault trial, former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi avoided a second trial by signing a peace bond in which he committed to be of good behaviour and avoid contact with former CBC co-worker Kathryn Borel. Ghomeshi also apologized to Borel in court for "sexually inappropriate" behaviour toward her when they worked together. In her statement to the public, Borel said that while the ordeal “won’t be over until he admits to everything that he’s done,” the apology was “the clearest path to the truth.”
May 17, 2016
Liberals Table Transgender Rights Bill
On the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould introduced legislation to protect the rights of transgender Canadians. If passed, the bill would make it illegal to deny someone a job or discriminate against them in the workplace based on their gender identity or expression. The Criminal Code would also be updated to protect transgender individuals from being targeted by hate propaganda and hate crimes.
June 02, 2016
Longest Jury Trial in Canadian History
Ronald Weinberg, the founder of Cinar, a once-successful children’s television production company based in Montréal, was found guilty of defrauding the company of $120 million along with associates Lino Matteo and John Xanthoudakis. The trial ran for over two years and was reported to be the longest jury trial in Canadian history. Eleven of the original panel of 14 jurors served for the entire duration of the proceedings.
June 17, 2016
Assisted Dying Bill Passed
The Senate passed a new law allowing physician-assisted dying for terminally ill patients who are suffering and whose death is “reasonably foreseeable.” The creation of the law, which spurred intense debate among Canada’s parliamentarians and senators, was prompted by a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ended the ban on assisted suicide.
June 22, 2016
Toronto Police Express Regret for Bathhouse Raids
Toronto police chief Mark Saunders publicly expressed "regret" on behalf of his force for the 1981 bathhouse raids. On 5 February of that year, Toronto police officers arrested about 300 gay men on charges of being found in a common bawdy house or keeping a common bawdy house. Most of the charges were dropped, but the raids further persecuted and marginalized a group whose rights were largely unprotected in Canadian society of the time. They also spurred a new era of political activism in the city’s LGBT community.
February 14, 2017
First Victory of a Sixties Scoop Lawsuit
Ontario Superior Court judge Edward Belobaba ruled in favour of Sixties Scoop victims, finding that the federal government did not take adequate steps to protect the cultural identity of on-reserve children taken away from their homes. This was the first victory of a Sixties Scoop lawsuit in Canada.
May 18, 2017
Law Changes to Address Opioid Crisis
Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make related amendments to other Acts, received Royal Assent and became federal law. Presented by health minister Jane Philpott, the bill aimed to combat Canada’s opioid crisis, an epidemic of addiction to painkiller drugs such as fentanyl and oxycodone. Among other changes, it simplified the process for opening supervised consumption sites, made it harder to import drug-making equipment such as pill presses and allowed border officers to open mail weighing 30 grams or less.
July 05, 2017
Omar Khadr Receives Settlement and Apology from Ottawa
The Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau awarded Omar Khadr $10.5 million in compensation for the violation of his constitutional rights while he was a prisoner at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a teenager. Canadian officials had participated in his interrogation on the condition that they share the information with the Americans. The controversial compensation package, along with a formal apology issued two days later, settled the lawsuit Khadr had launched against the government years earlier.
November 29, 2017
Supreme Court of Canada
Sheilah Martin appointed new justice to the Supreme Court of Canada
Sheilah Martin was appointed new justice to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Montreal-born and Alberta-based judge takes over the seat left by the retirement of Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (Richard Wagner took over the position of Chief Justice on 18 December 2017). With a wide legal and judicial expertise and bilingual in both French and English, she brings 30 years of experience to the Supreme Court. Among her famous cases, she crafted the Residential Schools settlement and rendered an important judgment regarding compensation for wrongful conviction.
December 15, 2017
People Supreme Court of Canada
Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retires
The Right Honorable Beverley McLachlin retires from her position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada after 28 years on the bench, 17 of which were spent as Chief Justice. Born into a rural Alberta farming family of modest means, McLachlin rose to become the first female chief justice of a Commonwealth high court and the longest serving chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
December 18, 2017
Supreme Court of Canada
Richard Wagner sworn in as new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Richard Wagner was sworn in as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. He was called to the Québec Bar in 1980 and worked at the law firm Lavery, de Billy in Montréal until his appointment to the Superior Court in 2004. While at this court, he sat in the Civil, Commercial and Criminal Divisions. In 2011, Richard Wagner was appointed to the Québec Court of Appeal. Less than two years later, in 2012, he was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada and then, on 18 December 2017, he was sworn in as Chief Justice, the highest judicial position in the country. His appointment follows a long tradition of having alternatively a Chief Justice from a Common Law background and then one with a Civil Law background. He replaced Beverley McLachlin as Chief Justice.
January 18, 2018
Bruce McArthur charged with multiple murders
Bruce McArthur, suspected of murdering two men, was arrested at his Toronto home. The 66-year-old was later charged with multiple additional murders after bodies were discovered in private gardens McArthur had worked on as a landscaper. His alleged victims were gay men.
January 26, 2018
Death of Barry and Honey Sherman ruled a homicide
Toronto police announced that Barry and Honey Sherman, found dead in their
January 11, 2019
High-Profile Cases Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court Guarantees Expat Voting Rights
In a 5–2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that expat Canadians can vote in federal elections regardless of how long they’ve lived outside the country. The ruling, which came a month after the Liberal government passed simialr legislation, reversed a 1993 law and will likely prevent any future legislation from infringing on expat voting rights.
February 08, 2019
Serial Killer Bruce McArthur Sentenced to Life in Prison
After pleading guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, Bruce McArthur was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The 67-year-old former landscaper took his victims from Toronto’s gay village, dismembered them and hid the remains in yards and planter boxes owned by his clients.
February 12, 2019
Ontario Police Free 43 People from Human Trafficking Ring
Forty-three Mexican men aged 20 to 46, who had paid traffickers to bring them to Canada so they could seek education and employment opportunities, were forced to work as hotel cleaners in Collingwood, Innisfil, Oro-Medonte and Cornwall for less than $50 a month. The traffickers were not arrested or charged with any crimes. The victims were all offered employment and lodging at a local resort.
February 12, 2019
Ontario and Saskatchewan in Court Over Carbon Tax
The province of Saskatchewan argued to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeals that the federal government should not be able to impose a carbon tax on unwilling provinces, which also include Ontario and New Brunswick. Representatives for the federal government argued that it is a “regulatory charge,” not a tax, and that carbon emissions fall within federal jurisdiction because they are a matter of “national concern.”