R. v. Strathdee, 2021 SCC 40, October 15, 2021.
The accused was charged with the offence of manslaughter. On appeal, the Alberta Court of Appeal set aside the acquittal and entered a conviction. The accused appealed as of right to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The appeal was dismissed. In a brief oral judgment, the Supreme Court stated:
Mr. Strathdee appeals as of right to this Court under s. 691(2) (b) of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 , on the basis that the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned his acquittal for unlawful act manslaughter and entered a conviction. The trial judge, sitting as judge alone, had acquitted Mr. Strathdee after considering joint/co-principal liability and abetting under s. 21(1) (a) and 21(1) (c), respectively, of the Criminal Code (2019 ABQB 479). The charges against Mr. Strathdee stemmed from a group assault in which several victims sustained multiple injuries and one victim, Mr. Tong, sustained a single stab wound which caused his death.
We agree with the Court of Appeal that there is no basis for the view that the stabbing of Mr. Tong was a distinct act outside the scope of the group attack.
Having regard to the findings of fact in paras. 137 and 156-59 (CanLII) of the trial decision, and the statement of law set out by the Court of Appeal at paras. 61, 66 and 68 of its decision, this Court affirms the result of the Alberta Court of Appeal that Mr. Strathdee is guilty of unlawful act manslaughter.
We also wish briefly to clarify a statement of law in R. v. Cabrera, 2019 ABCA 184, 95 Alta. L.R. (6th) 258, aff’d R. v. Shlah, 2019 SCC 56. Any implication from Cabrera that joint/co-principal liability is automatically eliminated if the evidence demonstrates application of force by only a single perpetrator is not accurate. Joint/co-principal liability flows whenever two or more individuals come together with an intention to commit an offence, are present during the commission of the offence, and contribute to its commission. In the context of manslaughter, triers of fact should focus on whether an accused’s actions were a significant contributing cause of death, rather than focusing on which perpetrator inflicted which wound or whether all of the wounds were caused by a single individual. In the context of group assaults, absent a discrete or intervening event, the actions of all assailants can constitute a significant contributing cause to all injuries sustained. Properly read, the discussion of party liability in R. v. Pickton, 2010 SCC 32,  2 S.C.R. 198, is fully consistent with the foregoing.
Accordingly, we would dismiss the appeal.