This was the first major case in which a piece of legislation was struck down as a result of the legal rights protected by the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada found problems with a section of the Combines Investigation Act which granted prior authorization for warrantless searches by the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission.
This legislation was challenged by Southam Inc., and ultimately struck down by the Supreme Court, in an early demonstration that Canada’s judiciary intended to take its new found Charter mandate seriously. Warrantless searches are prima facie unreasonable, the court concluded, and cannot be reasonably justified except in very limited circumstances.
In addition to its early, precedent-setting nature, Hunter v. Southam is significant in that it applies the protection against unreasonable search and seizure to a corporate entity (i.e. the Southam Newspaper Company), showing that Charter protections can apply more broadly than just to individuals.
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