Last Updated on August 21, 2018 by Steven Meurrens

R. v. Boutilier is a 2017 Supreme Court of Canada decision in which the Court had to determine whether Canada’s dangerous offender designation regime is constitutional.

Eric Purtzki is a criminal defence attorney in Vancouver who was counsel to Mr. Boutilier before the Supreme Court.

We discuss how Canada’s dangerous offender designation regime works, the consequences of being designated a dangerous offender, his arguments at the Supreme Court, and the decision.



1:15 – The facts of the case – Mr. Boutilier robs a pharmacy with an imitation firearm. A car chase ensues. He pleads guilty to six criminal charges to this.  The Crown afterwards seeks a designation that Mr. Boutilier is a dangerous offender.  Mr. Boutilier challenged the law on the dangerous offender designation.


2:00 – What are the consequences of being designated a Dangerous Offender?


2:30 – What is the purpose of the dangerous offender designation?


9:30 – What are the requirements to be designated a dangerous offender?


13:30 – What are the statistics of release for dangerous offenders, and how does someone get released from indefinite detention if they are a dangerous offender?


17:00  – When someone enters into a plea bargain, do they know whether the Crown will seek dangerous offender status?  Is the dangerous offender designation ever used as a bargaining tool?


20:30 – Does dangerous offender designation require a Crown application or can a judge impose it?


24:11 – Eric summarizes the arguments that he made at the Supreme Court of Canada regarding that the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code are overbroad and constitute cruel and unusual punishment.


36:20 – Eric offers his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s decision, and how he felt when he received it.  However, in the Lawyers Daily counsel for the Criminal Lawyers Association said that Eric may have lost the battle but won the war given the Supreme Court emphasized the importance of using indeterminate detention as a last resort. Does Eric agree?


40:30 – What happens to all the people in Ontario who received indeterminate sentences under the strict approach that the Ontario Court of Appeal adopted?


42:00 – Eric argued that dangerous offender designation and indeterminate sentences shouldn’t apply except as a last resort based on the likely future risk to public safety. What was the counter argument?  What was the reasoning behind the argument that instead of future risk to public safety that past conduct should be the focus of analysis?


46:20 – If the goal of dangerous offender designation is prevention of risk to the public what role, if any, should the moral blameworthiness of the offender play?