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Evidence - Statutory Admissibility

. R. v. Becker Bros. Trucking Inc.

In R. v. Becker Bros. Trucking Inc. (Ont CA, 2021) the Court of Appeal considered an HTA evidence provision (similar to many under regulatory statutes) that allowed certified copies of documents submitted by Ministry officials to be accepted as authentic (the documents submitted in this case were attached to a certified cover page rather than being certified individually). The Court of Appeal avoided the issue of whether such documents were admissible as 'certified' but held them admissible by virtue of the cover page 'statement' [under HTA 210(7), below]:
[7] The copies of the Ministry documents presented as evidence by the prosecution purported to be “certified” copies of Ministry records of the truck and trailer ownerships and the Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator's Registration information. The copies of the Ministry documents were stapled to a cover sheet, which cover sheet included the Ministry of Transportation seal, the signature of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, the date, and a certification recital.

[8] The certification recital included the following wording:
I hereby certify that the paper or papers annexed hereto constitute true statements containing information from the records of the Ministry of Transportation required to be kept under the Highway Traffic Act.
....

[18] Turning first to the certified copies of the documents from the records of the Ministry, s. 210(7) of the HTA reads:
A copy of any document filed in the Ministry under this Act, or any statement containing information from the records required to be kept under this Act, that purports to be certified by the Registrar under the seal of the Ministry as being a true copy of the original shall be received in evidence in all courts without proof of the seal, the Registrar’s signature or the manner of preparing the copy or statement, and is proof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, of the facts contained in the copy or statement.
....

[22] However, we do not need to decide whether copies that are certified by cover page are certified documents under s. 210(7) of the HTA because the documents admitted into evidence were certainly certified “statements” within the meaning of s. 210(7). Without question, a typed document duplicating the content of a Ministry document would have qualified as a “statement”. It would be illogical if a document that states that appended photocopies are from the Ministry records did not similarly qualify as a “statement containing information from the records”. That is what was offered into evidence in this case. Indeed, the certification by the Registrar referred to statements containing information from the records of the Ministry. The documents attached to the certificate appeared, on their face, to be such statements and the cover page formed part of that statement. The Registrar’s signature, and the seal of the Ministry, were on the first page of each such document. The documents were therefore admissible.

[23] Another relevant consideration on this issue is that subsection 210(7) only makes the documents presumptively admissible. The subsection contains an express provision that, if contrary evidence is led, then the documents are not proof of the facts contained in the statement. Thus, a person charged with an offence is protected from a certified document that is inaccurate. As earlier noted, no such contrary evidence was led in this case.



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