|This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2020. (Rev. # 84586)|
Informations and Indictments
Criminal charges are set out in written form, either through an Indictment or an Information. An Indictment is the form of a charge typically handled in superior court while an information is the form used in provincial court.
Section 2 defines "indictment" stating:
Under the English common law, there was a system of laying indictments that would permit an indictment against an accused by either a grand jury or coroner's inquest. Section 576 abolished these modes of laying indictments.
Section 785 defines "information":
An information is a accusation sworn by a peace officer. (s. 507, 508, 788, 789 and Form 2) The indictment is an unsworn accusation.(s.566,580, 591 and Form 4)
The purpose of an information was described as;
- to commence the proceedings until the accused is arraigned or the charges dismissed;
- to inform the accused of the allegations against him or her;
- to indicate that an allegation has been made under oath before a justice of the peace; and
- for a summary conviction offence, to indicate to the accused that the information was sworn within six months after the time when the subject-matter of the proceedings arose: s. 786(2) of the Criminal Code.
Validity of the Information or Indictment
Sections 580 to 601 sets out the criteria for a valid information.
An indictment should be in conformity with Form 4.
The more modern approach to validity of an information is more focused on substance rather than technical form considered in the older approach.
The date "is relevant and material only when the issue of limitation periods arises" Where the date is in error, it may be that the proper date can be inferred.
Where the date of the information has been amended without any indication of the circumstances creates a nullity. 
It is often said that an information that contains on its face contained a contradiction that was an impossibility is a nullity. 
- Presumptions and Burdens
There is a rebuttable presumption that a justice of the peace will only operate within their authority.
There is a presumption that an information is valid on its face.
The onus is upon the accused to establish on a balance of probabilities that the information is defective.
- see s. 580 "An indictment is sufficient if it is on paper and is in Form 4."
- R v Sault Ste. Marie, 1978 CanLII 11 (SCC), 40 CCC (2d), per Dickson J (9:0), at 353
- R v Dean, 1985 CanLII 1142 (AB QB), 36 Alta LR (2d) 8 (Q.B.), per McFadyen J
- R v Howell, 1978 CanLII 692 (AB QB), 14 AR 299, per Robotham J
- R v George, 1993 CanLII 4609 (NS SC), 340 APR 30, per MacLellan J
- R v Justice of the Peace; Ex Parte Robertson,  1 OR 12 (CA)(*no CanLII links)
R v Kamperman, 1981 CanLII 3159 (NS SC), , 48 NSR (2d), per Glube J, at para 9 ("There is a presumption that the information is valid on its face and the onus is upon the accused to rebut that presumption ")
R v Awad, 2013 NSPC 82 (CanLII), per Whalen J, at para 51 aff'd at 2015 NSCA 10 (CanLII), per Beveridge JA
R v Peavoy, 1974 CanLII 1665 (ONSC), 15 CCC (2d) 97, per Henry J
R v Vanstone, 1982 Carswell Alta. 626(*no CanLII links) , at para 30
Kamperman, supra, at para 9 ("There is a presumption that the information is valid on its face and the onus is upon the accused to rebut that presumption ")
Motion to Quash the Information
Where the process required by s. 504 to 508 is not complied with and it results in a loss of jurisdiction allows the accused to apply to quash the information.
Types of Errors
- Defects to the Jurat
A "jurat" is the part of an information where a judicial officer certifies the document. Where the jurat is missing, or where parts of the information were not seen by the judicial officer who certified the document, the result can be a nullification of the document.
Under s. 841(3) the boiler-plate or pre-printed portion of the information or indictment must be in both french and english. The failure to have an information comply with s. 841 does not render the information a nullity. Deficiencies can be corrected through amendment under s. 601. There is some suggestion that it will only be a nullity where there is prejudice to the accused.
Section 841 will not apply for summary proceedings.
- Lost Information
A trial for a regulatory offence can still proceed despite the information having been lost. 
While it is acceptable for an affiant to sign by way of a rubber stamp, it is not permitted for an authorizing justice to use a stamp as it is "irreconcilable with the solemnity and importance" of the oath swearing process.
http://www.duhaime.org/LegalDictionary/J/Jurat.aspx Duhaime's Law Dictionary: "jurat"
- e.g. R v Yerxa, 1991 CanLII 6234 (NB QB), 285 APR 24, per Dickson J
cf. R v Shields,  OJ No 2534 (Ont.Dist.Ct.)(*no CanLII links)
- information a nullity, suggests all document must be bilingual
R v Noiseux (1999) 135 CCC (3d) 225(*no CanLII links) - this also applies to release documents
- R v Goodine, 1992 CanLII 2618 (NS CA), 71 CCC (3d) 146, per Hallett JA
R v Sorensen, 1990 CanLII 6852 (ONSC), 59 CCC (3d) 211), per Then J
- R v Joudrey (1992), 309 APR 117 (NSPC)(*no CanLII links)
- R v City of Toronto, 2011 ONCJ 131 (CanLII), OJ No 1293, per Green J
- R v Welsford, 1967 CanLII 36 (ON CA),  2 OR 496, per McGillivray JA
Effect of Defects and Nullities
Where a defect is found, the information cannot stand. It may only be amended within the authority of the Criminal Code.
Absent an information being a nullity, s. 601 gives the judge powers to cure defects.
Any amendment to fix a defect must be done before the conclusion of trial.
- Laying of an Information and Issuing Process
- Direct Indictments
- Form and Content of Charges
- Joinder and Severance of Charges
- Amendments to Charges