Rarotonga, 2010

Simon's Legal Resources


ADMINISTRATIVE LAW | SPPA / Fairness (Administrative)

home / about / Democracy, Law and Duty / testimonials / Donate law books! / Conditions of Use

Criminal - Right to Silence

. R. v. Guillemette

In R. v. Guillemette (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered whether a defendant's silence at trial can be used to infer guilt:
The Cross-Examination: Using Silence as a Sword

[36] The right to silence exists at common law and is conferred by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: see R. v. Turcotte, 2005 SCC 50, [2005] 2 S.C.R. 519, at paras. 41-42; R. v. Hebert, 1990 CanLII 118 (SCC), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 151, at p. 164. With few exceptions, such as where an alibi defence is raised, silence cannot be used to incriminate an accused or to impeach an accused’s credibility: Turcotte, at paras. 48-50. Indeed, to do so would render the right to silence into an “illusory right”, converting the decision not to speak to the police into a sword from which an inference of guilt could be taken: Turcotte, at para. 44. In other words, taking guilt from silence has the effect of transforming the right into both a “snare and a delusion”: R. v. Chambers, 1990 CanLII 47 (SCC), [1990] 2 S.C.R. 1293, at p. 1316.

[37] Accordingly, leaving aside exceptions to the rule, such as an alibi defence, the prosecution cannot suggest that the accused’s silence prior to trial informs the veracity of the accused’s testimony at trial: see R. v. Poirier (2000), 2000 CanLII 3294 (ON CA), 146 C.C.C. (3d) 436 (Ont. C.A.), at para. 18. To do so would clearly turn the right to silence into a snare by placing the accused in an intolerable situation of having asserted a constitutional right to silence, only later to learn that an inference of guilt could be taken from the assertion of that right.
. R. v. Bokhari

In R. v. Bokhari (Ont CA, 2018) the Court of Appeal discussed the implications of silence on a criminal defendant's guilt:
[3] The testimonial silence of an accused cannot give rise to an inference of guilt: R. v. Noble, 1997 CanLII 388 (SCC), [1997] 1 S.C.R. 874, at paras. 79-82. Even so, once “uncontradicted evidence points to guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”, the accused’s silence will sometimes mean that he has failed to “provide any basis for concluding otherwise”: Noble, at para. 82. See also: R. v. Ibrahim, 2014 ONCA 157, 318 O.A.C. 1, at para. 41.


The author has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this Isthatlegal.ca webpage.