R. v. Oakes, [1986] 1 SCR 103

In R. v. Oakes, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a Court of Appeal decision striking down a clause of the Narcotic Control Act which presumed that an individual in possession of drugs had the intent to traffic. This reverse onus, the Court ruled, was contrary to the presumption of innocence in Section 11(d) of the Charter, and was not a reasonable limit on the legal rights of the accused and therefore could not be saved by Section 1.

The Oakes case is significant in that it has created a framework for the use of Section 1, establishing that in order for an infringement of Charter rights to be reasonable, the government must prove that:

“First, the measures adopted must be carefully designed to achieve the objective in question. They must not be arbitrary, unfair or based on irrational considerations. In short, they must be rationally connected to the objective. Second, the means, even if rationally connected to the objective in this first sense, should impair “as little as possible” the right or freedom in question. Third, there must be a proportionality between the effects of the measures which are responsible for limiting the Charter right or freedom, and the objective which has been identified as of “sufficient importance”.”

This is probably the most widely-cited test in Canadian constitutional jurisprudence, and has been used in virtually every case where the limits to Charter protections are tested.

Decided by the Supreme Court of Canada on February 28, 1986
Click here for the full text of the decision

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Filed under Section 1: Reasonable Limits, Section 11: Legal Rights, Section 11(d): Presumption of Innocence

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