Section 20 is another procedural housekeeping section found under the General Part I section of the Criminal Code. The section validates certain Criminal Code documents issued, executed or entered into on a holiday and reads as follows:
A warrant or summons that is authorized by this Act or an appearance notice, promise to appear, undertaking or recognizance issued, given or entered into in accordance with Part XVI, XXI or XXVII may be issued, executed, given or entered into, as the case may be, on a holiday.
The term “holiday” is not defined in the Criminal Code but is defined in the Federal Interpretation Act under section 35 and includes those non-juridical days in which the courts are closed such as Sunday, Easter Monday and even “any day appointed by proclamation to be observed as a day of general prayer or mourning or day of public rejoicing or thanksgiving.” The definition also includes provincial public holidays and civic holidays.
In terms of the Interpretation Act, a holiday is significant in the computation of time limits. Many legal actions must be taken within a certain period of time to be valid. If such a time limited action is not taken within the proscribed period of time, the action may be statute barred. In those circumstances, the action would be considered legally “dead.” There are, however, some time limits, which can be extended by the Court or even reinstituted in certain circumstances. In any event, a lawyer does not want to miss any time sensitive dates and therefore the calculation of when a matter or document is due is of utmost importance. Section 26 of the Interpretation Act deals with the possibility of such a time limit expiring or falling on a holiday. If that occurs, the matter is considered properly done “on the day next following that is not a holiday.”
However, in the case of the Criminal Code section the concern is less with a time-limited action and more with the issuance, execution, service, and entrance into of particular Code documents on a holiday. In those instances, section 20 preserves the authority and jurisdiction of those documents, including warrants, summons, and appearance notices. Thus, any act done on a holiday in relation to these Criminal Code documents as listed is valid, thus ensuring that those documents also remain valid. No argument can then later be made that the court has no jurisdiction over an accused person who is brought to court under the auspices of a document issued, executed or served on a holiday. Furthermore, no argument can be made that a release from custody is invalid merely because the release documents were issued and entered into on a holiday.
In terms of the history of the section, section 20 was first enacted in the 1892 Code as section 564(3) but only referred to the issuance and execution of warrants on Sunday or a statutory holiday. In the 1953-54 amendments, the authority of the section was broadened and the newly enacted section 20 applied to a warrant or summons. In 1959 (2) was added and validated any bail order made on a Sunday. This is an important addition, as an accused person who is arrested and not released by the police must be brought before a justice for a judicial interim (bail) hearing within 24 hours, if a justice is so available, in accordance with section 503.
In Alberta, for example, the province offers 24-hour bail hearings and therefore, a person may be ordered released on a holiday. This possibility was further taken into account when section 20 was refined by the Bail Reform Act in 1970, which added the further forms of release, such as an undertaking, appearance notice, promise to appear and recognizance, as listed in the present section.