Ms. Karuna Ramakrishnan, LL.B. graduate 2004, Queen’s University(presently articling student, MAG)Ms. Joanna Harris, LL.B. candidate 2005, Queen’s UniversityMuch of the research that is referred to in this Brief was carried out by theChild Witness Project at Queen’s University. Funding support for the ChildWitness Project has been provided by the Social Sciences and HumanitiesResearch Council of Canada. The views expressed here are those of theProject members, not those of Queen’s University, the Ministry of theAttorney General or the Council. The Project’s website ishttp://law.queensu.ca/faculty/bala/witness/witness.htm
We are an interdisciplinary research team based primarily at Queen’sUniversity, studying issues related to the competence, reliability andcredibility of child witnesses. The principal investigator of the Project andprincipal drafter of this brief is Prof. Bala, a Law Professor whose main areaof study is legal issues related to families and children (resume attached). This Brief on Bill C-2 deals only with the sections of the Bill governing thetestimony of child witnesses, including the proposed reform of s. 16.1 of the
Canada Evidence Act,
as this has been the area in which we have focussedour research. However, Prof. Bala is willing to answer questions at theCommittee Hearing on other aspects of the Bill. The research that has been conducted at Queen’s University and elsewhereestablishes that:
Children can be as reliable witnesses as adults, and often haveessential evidence for the criminal justice process.
There is no relationship between children’s ability to answerquestions about such abstract concepts as “truth” and “lie,” andwhether they will actually tell the truth or lie.
If a child promises to tell the truth, the child is more likely to tellthe truth, even if the child cannot give a definition of themeaning of a “promise.”
The closed circuit television, screen and videotape provisions of the
have facilitated the giving evidence by childrenin the criminal justice system without compromising the rights of accused persons, but they are insufficiently used.In the Fall of 2003, we submitted a Brief on an earlier version of BillC-2 (Bill C-20). That Brief focused on the reform of the provisions of the
Canada Evidence Act
s. 16 dealing with the competency inquiryfor child witnesses. Our Brief was influential and there weresubstantial improvements in that Bill as a result of the Committeehearings. Unfortunately, that Bill died on the Senate order paperwhen the election was called in 2004.
Brief on Bill C-2, Child Witness Project (Bala)March 4, 20052