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CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES - Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Legal rights - Procedural rights - Right to an interpreter

Thursday, October 12, 2017 @ 8:32 AM  


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Appeal by the accused, Gill, from convictions for sexual offences. The accused was born in India and came to Canada in 2011. His primary language was Punjabi. He had some facility with the English language, with basic verbal skills. The accused was charged with the aggravated sexual assault and choking of his domestic partner, in addition to breach of a non-communication order and obstruction of justice. At the preliminary hearing, the appellant had the assistance of a court-appointed interpreter who provided word-for-word interpretation. A pre-trial conference determined an interpreter would provide assistance to the accused at trial on an as-needed basis, as opposed to on a word-for-word basis. The Crown received assurances that the change in degree of interpretation from the preliminary hearing was consistent with the accused's requirements. A series of interpreters assisted the accused throughout the trial. The trial proceeded, involving multiple witnesses. At the conclusion of trial, the accused's request for a mistrial or stay of proceedings on the basis that inadequate interpretation gave rise to a breach of his s. 14 Charter rights was refused. The accused appealed the resultant convictions.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The interpreter assistance provided to the accused met the legal standard provided for in the Tran decision. The fact that the first interpreter was not a trained court interpreter did not render him incompetent to perform the task. The transcript did not reveal concerns regarding the quality of the interpretation of testimony. Where imprecisions arose from the interpretation, matters were suitably clarified in subsequent discussion. In addition, on occasions where no interpreter assistance was received, the accused had properly waived his s. 14 right to such assistance. The accused failed to establish that the waivers were not in accordance with his instructions, or that he lacked understanding as to their purpose or effect.

R. v. Gill, [2017] S.J. No. 410, Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, G.R. Jackson, R.K. Ottenbreit and J.A. Ryan-Froslie JJ.A., September 13, 2017. Digest No. TLD-October92017008