Your relationship with your significant other is usually one of trust. Accordingly, it becomes difficult to testify against the person you are involved with without feeling like you are betraying them.
Would you testify against your spouse if they were accused of a criminal offence?
Most spouses would hesitate to do so and the legal body of Canada is not ignorant to this fact. The exemption for spouses to be compelled to testify against their significant others has existed for quite some time. It originated from British common – law where wives were exempt from testifying against their husbands as they were considered mere extensions of their spouses. Women were not considered to have their own identity. However, times have changed and so has the law.
Although Canada followed suit with British law, it had different reasons for implementing the law. Canadian values exempted spouses from testifying against each other because it was considered a violation of a relationship based on trust. Accordingly, the Canada Evidence Act does not require spouses to testify against each other. Common – law partners were not extended the same courtesy; however, this too has changed.
An Ontario judge has ruled that common – law partners will be extended the same protection. Justice Ferhan Javed argued that denying common – law partners the same immunity as married couples was discriminatory as common – law partners also base their relationships on the same principal of formally married couples, trust. With common – law becoming far more common and accepted in society, it is only fair that laws be followed in the spirit of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and reflect those values. Thus common-law partners are now exempted from testifying against their partners.
Another brick in the wall of discrimination has been knocked down!
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Points of Discussion:
1. Would you testify against your spouse? Why/not?
2. Does your country practice the same laws? Are spouses protected or expected to testify?
3. Do you think the same laws should extend to all family members?