For many, being charged with a criminal offence is the first time a person really interacts with the law. Regardless of the reason – from minor theft to impaired driving – the process can come as a shock to those unfamiliar with how the courts and criminal legislation works.
This unfamiliarity can be made even more complex when it’s an international crime. Not only are Canadian legal principles applied, but so are those of the foreign country. An extradition matter can be quite complex, but there is a basic outline to how it works.
As described on the Government of Canada’s website, extraditions are governed by the federal Extradition Act in conjunction with equivalent treaties in other countries, and our civil rights and freedoms. There are three phases to an extradition matter, visually laid out in an info-graphic on Canada.com.
The process generally starts with a foreign country requesting a person be extradited for an alleged crime. For an extradition to be granted, the crime must, among other criteria, be considered a crime in both countries.
If the courts grant an Authority to Proceed – meaning the criteria for the extradition request to be considered is met – an extradition hearing will be held for the accused in order to determine whether he or she will be extradited.
An extradition judge will determine if there enough substantial evidence for the matter to be considered for trial under Canadian laws. If there is not enough evidence, the accused is generally released. If it is sufficient, the accused may be considered for extradition.
The final phase generally determines whether or not the person should be extradited to the requesting country. There are many factors that could go into this decision, including adherence to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
If you are facing a criminal offence in a foreign country and may be facing an extradition request, it’s best to consult with a criminal defence lawyer experienced with international criminal law and extradition cases. He or she will be able to help you identify your rights, and your legal options at every stage of the process. It’s possible that an accused person may not be surrendered to a requesting country if the Canadian Government finds that doing so would infringe on any rights, or be unsafe or unjust to do so.