In R v Anthony-Cook, the Supreme Court in a unanimous judgement authored by Moldaver J. has settled the test to be applied where a judge is faced with a joint submission he or she has difficulty accepting. This case has important implications for accused and their counsel in negotiating a Plea bargain with the Crown in criminal and quasi-criminal, regulatory prosecutions.
Joint submissions are the culmination of the plea bargaining process in criminal cases. They are the result of discussions and negotiations, often with the assistance of a judge conducting pre-trial conference. The Crown inevitably focuses on the seriousness of the allegations and the harm to the alleged victims. The defence will focus on numerous considerations including mitigating factors, circumstances of the accused, evidentiary problems with the Crown’s case and remedial steps taken by the accused. Sometimes the negotiations involve consideration of what’s often referred to as a “rehabilitative remand” where the accused is given time to undergo a restorative justice program, make restitution, or initiate procedures to prevent the harm caused from reoccurring.
Introduction: The Bill C-45 Initiative
Effective corporate compliance to prevent regulatory risk requires a foundation of legal understanding. While corporate accountability and criminal liability has been a recent focus of legislation, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, the modern legislative framework for holding corporations criminally responsible for the wrongdoing was enacted over a decade ago with the passing of Bill C-45 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Criminal Liability of Organizations).
These amendments to the Criminal Code (“Code”) expanded the range of individuals whose acts and omissions could result in corporate criminal liability from those who were “directing minds” to the current standard descried in the Code as “senior officers”. Somewhat surprisingly, there have been few cases interpreting the new Code provisions and considering the scope of individuals that may be “senior officers” for the purposes of the Code. The limited jurisprudence does affirm the increased risk of criminal liability for corporations arising from the Bill C-45 amendments. Decisions from the Courts of Appeal for Ontario and Quebec indicate that courts will interpret the term “senior officer” broadly, encompassing certain lower level managers as well as those employees who manage an important aspect of the corporation’s business.
Replacement of “Directing Mind” with Statutory Formula
The historical and political impetus for Bill C-45 was the 1992 Westray mine disaster, where 26 miners were killed in Pictou County, Nova Scotia. No individuals or corporate employer was ever convicted of a criminal or occupational health and safety regulatory offence. In response to a public inquiry, failed legal proceedings and union lobbying, Bill C-45 was passed to amend the Code to facilitate the conviction of organizations for criminal offences.
Under the former identification theory, a corporation faced criminal liability for the criminal acts of a “directing mind” of the corporation. At common law, the directing mind was defined as a person with:
authority to design and supervise the implementation of corporate policy rather than simply to carry out such policy. In other words, the courts must consider who has been left with the decision making power in a relevant sphere of corporate activity.
The amendments were designed to remedy the inherent limitations of the attached to the “directing mind” paradigm and to better align the Code with the reality of modern, large corporations. As a result, Bill C-45 introduced the defined term “senior officer”. Under the Code, “senior officer” is:
- a representative who plays an important role in the establishment of an organization’s policies; or
- is responsible for managing an important aspect of the organization’s activities; and,
- in the case of a body corporate, includes a director, its chief executive officer and its chief financial officer.
Despite internal safe guards and the best efforts of mining companies and their executives, criminal investigations can arise in relation to operations at home or abroad. How a company responds to a criminal investigation or to possible internal criminal misconduct, can have a serious legal and reputational impact, particularly since changes to Canadian law have made it easier for prosecutors to convict corporations and their officers of criminal wrongdoing. Today at Fasken Martineau’s PDAC 2016 seminar, Peter Mantas and Norm Keith of Fasken Martineau and Sandy Boucher of Grant Thornton discussed how proactive a mining company should be during the critical period after suspected criminal wrongdoing is discovered.
On December 10, 2015, SNC-Lavalin announced that it had signed the first-ever administrative agreement with the Government of Canada under the Integrity Regime.
The Integrity Regime, in effect since July 2015, bars companies and their related legal entities from bidding on government contracts if they are charged with or convicted of certain criminal or administrative charges. SNC-Lavalin is currently battling fraud and corruption charges filed in February, 2015 regarding three of its legal entities. This administrative agreement allows it to bid and win government contracts as it signifies the government’s satisfaction with SNC-Lavalin’s ethics and compliance programs.
SNC-Lavalin had to undertake and institute a comprehensive ethics and compliance program. Some of the measures it took include an antitrust and competition policy, a whistleblowing policy, a political contribution policy, appointing compliance officers in every business sector, and obligatory compliance training and certification for all employees.
This is a significant step towards addressing what many companies and legal advisors believe to be a harsh policy. Until now, the Integrity Regime allowed very little discretion to the government to create an alternative to debarment of the accused, pending a judicial decision on criminal charges. While on its face, the Integrity Regime remains rigid, in practice, it now appears that companies facing criminal charges or under investigation may have other options.
On July 3, 2015, the Government of Canada introduced a new and controversial procurement policy with serious repercussions should a company be charged with certain criminal offences.
The Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada’s (PWGSC) Ineligibility and Suspension Policy  states that if a person or company is charged criminally, they may be barred (also known as “debarment”) from doing business with the federal government for up to ten years.
For individuals and corporations who do, or want to do, business with the Canadian government, this policy is a game changer. Such companies must now consider if and how they can avoid being charged.
Many companies already take steps to avoid criminal prosecution. But in an increasingly complex business world, where companies have operations globally, the risk of running afoul of the law, both at home and abroad, cannot be eliminated. Recent changes to Canada’s Criminal Code, which have expanded who within a company can create criminal liability for a corporation, have increased this risk.