Rappelons d’abord que la défense de provocation prévue à l’article 232 du Code criminel ne s’applique que pour faire réduire une accusation de meurtre à une accusation d’homicide involontaire coupable.

  •  (1) Un homicide coupable qui autrement serait un meurtre peut être réduit à un homicide involontaire coupable si la personne qui l’a commis a ainsi agi dans un accès de colère causé par une provocation soudaine.

    Ce qu’est la provocation

    (2) Une conduite de la victime, qui constituerait un acte criminel prévu à la présente loi passible d’un emprisonnement de cinq ans ou plus, de telle nature qu’elle suffise à priver une personne ordinaire du pouvoir de se maîtriser est une provocation pour l’application du présent article si l’accusé a agi sous l’impulsion du moment et avant d’avoir eu le temps de reprendre son sang-froid.

    Questions de fait

    (3) Pour l’application du présent article, les questions de savoir :

    • a) si la conduite de la victime équivalait à une provocation au titre du paragraphe (2);

    • b) si l’accusé a été privé du pouvoir de se maîtriser par la provocation qu’il allègue avoir reçue,

    sont des questions de fait, mais nul n’est censé avoir provoqué un autre individu en faisant quelque chose qu’il avait un droit légal de faire, ou en faisant une chose que l’accusé l’a incité à faire afin de fournir à l’accusé une excuse pour causer la mort ou des lésions corporelles à un être humain.

Dans R. v. Land, la Cour d’appel de l’Ontario revient sur les principes s’appliquant à cette défense. La juge de première instance avait conclu que le critère de vraisemblance n’a pas été atteint et n’a pas soumis la défense de provocation au jury parce que l’accusé avait lui-même initié la confrontation, sachant que l’autre personne était armée. Or la Cour d’appel établit qu’il n’y a pas de règle absolue interdisant la défense de provocation à un accusé qui a lui-même initié une confrontation dont la violence était prévisible. Un nouveau procès est ordonné.

[54]      The trial judge correctly identified the four components of the provocation defence: (1) there must be a wrongful act or insult; (2) the wrongful act or insult must be sufficient to deprive an ordinary person of the power of self-control; (3) the accused must have acted in response to the provocation; and (4) the accused must have acted on the sudden before there was time for his or her passion to cool. The first two components constitute the “two-fold” objective element described in R. v. Tran2010 SCC 58(CanLII)[2010] 3 S.C.R. 350, at para. 25. The latter two components comprise the “two-fold” subjective element of the defence: Tran, at para. 36.



[60]      I do find, however, that the trial judge erred in law in concluding that since Mr. Land initiated the confrontation while armed, anticipating that Mr. Doyon could become violent, there could be no air of reality to his defence. The policy position she used to buttress that conclusion – that provocation should not be available in such circumstances – is also incorrect.

[61]      The trial judge was faced with “self-induced provocation” – a case where the provocative conduct of the deceased came about as a result of the accused initiating an aggressive confrontation: Cairney, at paras. 17, 42. Subsequent to Mr. Land’s trial, the Supreme Court of Canada made clear that the fact that the accused induced the act or words said to constitute provocation does not preclude the defence from being raised. What is prohibited absolutely by s. 232(3) is “manufactured” provocation – inciting the victim to engage in a wrongful act or insult in order to generate an excuse for killing him: Cairney, at para. 31. But beyond this, “[t]here is no absolute rule that a person who instigates a confrontation cannot rely on the defence of provocation”Cairney, at para. 56.

[62]      Rather, “[t]he matter is always one of context”: Cairney, at para. 46. To be sure, the fact that an accused person has incited the provocative act is relevant to both the objective and subjective considerations that make up the defence: Cairney, at para. 47. The instigating role played by the accused may assist in determining whether the accused actually, subjectively expected the victim’s response: Cairney, at para. 43. The instigating role played by the accused may also affect the objective inquiry into whether the wrongful act or insult relied upon as the provocation “fell within a range of reasonably predictable reactions”: Cairney, at para. 44. Yet even the reasonable predictability of the response is not determinative. This may and usually will undermine the defence, but this is not an absolute rule. The reasonable predictability of the reaction remains to be “weighed together with all other contextual factors”Cairney, at paras. 44, 45.

[63]       Just as there is no fixed rule prohibiting self-induced provocation defences, there is no fixed rule undermining the provocation defence where the accused initiated the confrontation while armed, anticipating that the victim could become violent.

[64]      In Cairney, the accused initiated a violent confrontation with the victim, Mr. Ferguson, while armed with a firearm. Yet the court in Cairney did not dismiss the defence summarily. Instead, it asked contextually, “whether there was some evidence upon which a properly instructed jury acting reasonably could have a reasonable doubt that an ordinary person in [Mr.] Cairney’s circumstances – which include having initiated a confrontation at gunpoint – would be deprived of the power of self-control by [Mr.] Ferguson’s insults” (emphasis in original)?

[65]      The answer proved to be no, even though Mr. Ferguson, to Mr. Cairney’s knowledge, had long been physically abusing Mr. Cairney’s “sister”, and Mr. Ferguson rebuked Mr. Cairney’s gunpoint lecture by responding that he would do to her what he wanted. Crucial to that decision, however, was that the immediate threat to Mr. Cairney’s “sister” had passed, Mr. Ferguson’s response in rejecting the lecture was predictable, and he was walking away when Mr. Cairney shot him. The point, however, is that the fact that Mr. Cairney initiated a violent confrontation while armed with a firearm did not, standing alone, undercut the defence.

[66]      Similarly, this court held in R. v. Gill2009 ONCA 124 (CanLII)246 O.A.C. 390, at para. 15, a decision cited with approval in R. v. Buzizi2013 SCC 27 (CanLII)[2013] 2 S.C.R. 248, that there was an air of reality to Mr. Gill’s provocation defence even though Mr. Gill armed himself with a knife after seeing the victim approaching his group in a menacing way with a bottle. While Mr. Gill and any ordinary person would have anticipated the prospect of an escalation in violence by retrieving the knife, the victim’s taunting and violent response of swinging the bottle at Mr. Gill’s head while goading Mr. Gill to stab him was enough to get the defence before the jury.

[67]      The trial judge did not apply the contextual analysis required. She did not closely examine the impact in this case that Mr. Land’s aggression had on the subjective and objective components of the defence. Instead, she accepted, at the Crown’s prompting, the general proposition that the provocation defence is not available in self-induced provocation cases where the accused person arms himself or herself in the expectation that there will be a “threatening response”.

[68]      Moreover, she rejected the invitation of the defence to “fine-tune expectations” to consider whether Mr. Land anticipated that Mr. Doyon would respond by brandishing a sword. For the trial judge, the fact that Mr. Land anticipated violence was enough to nullify the defence. She explained that to indulge Mr. Land’s argument that the sword was a “game-changer” “would create a quagmire in which courts would have to assess whether one type of weapon was within the realm of expectations of violence, or expectations of a certain level of violence, whereas another weapon might not be.”

[69]      In my view, the contextual approach adopted in Cairney required the trial judge to do precisely that. If she concluded that Mr. Land could not have realistically predicted that Mr. Doyon would brandish the sword, the fact that he expected lesser violence would not hamper his defence, for the specific provocative act would be sudden and unexpected. If she concluded that it could reasonably have been predicted that Mr. Doyon would brandish his sword, the trial judge should then have considered that fact along with all other factors in reaching her decision.

[70]      By failing to do so, the trial judge erred in law.