Thursday, February 12, 2015

Failing to provide necessities of life

R. v. S.J., 2015 ONCA 97:

[47]       The offence of failing to provide necessaries of life first appeared in 1892 in the first Criminal Code.  English 19th century legislation dealing with the protection of servants, apprentices, and inmates of penal and other institutions was the likely origin of s. 215: R. v. Peterson (2005), 34 C.R. (6th) 120, leave to appeal to S.C.C. refused, [2005] S.C.C.A. No. 539 (Ont. C.A.), at para. 65 (Borins J.A. dissenting on sentence).  Although the language has changed somewhat since 1892, the core of the legislation remains the same: where a person is in the charge of another, and unable to withdraw himself from that charge and to provide himself with the necessaries of life, the person having charge has a duty to provide necessaries of life: Peterson, at para. 65.  Certain relationships and legal duties are described in s. 215.  As noted in R. v. A.D.H., 2013 SCC 28, [2013] S.C.R. 269, at para. 67, the essence of the s. 215 offence is the imposition of legal duties arising out of defined relationships.[2]  

[48]       Where such a duty arises, a uniform minimum level of care is prescribed.  In R. v. Naglik, [1993] 3 S.C.R. 122, at pp. 141-142, Lamer C.J.C. considered the standard of care reflected in s. 215:  

The accused's conduct in a particular circumstance is to be determined on an objective, or community, standard.  The concept of a duty indicates a societal minimum which has been established for conduct: as in the law of civil negligence, a duty would be meaningless if every individual defined its content for him or herself according to his or her subjective beliefs and priorities.  Therefore, the conduct of the accused should be measured against an objective, societal standard to give effect to the concept of "duty" employed by Parliament.

Section 215 is aimed at establishing a uniform minimum level of care to be provided for those to whom it applies, and this can only be achieved if those under the duty are held to a societal, rather than a personal, standard of conduct.  While the section does not purport to prescribe parenting or care-giving techniques, it does serve to set the floor for the provision of necessaries, at the level indicated by, for example, the circumstances described in subs. (2)(a)(ii).  The effects of a negligent failure to perform the duty will be as serious as an intentional refusal to perform the duty.  [Emphasis in original.]

No comments: