R.C.M.P. Seminars 4 and 5 — Attendee information

Many years ago, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Crime Detection Laboratories1 sponsored a series of Seminars relating to forensic science and two of those events, RCMP Seminars 4 and 5, focused on forensic document examination; a.k.a., questioned document examination.

The first seminar, #4, was entitled “The Examination of Questioned Documents” and it was held May 10-11, 1956 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada at R.C.M.P. Headquarters.  In 1958, again in Ottawa and at the same location, seminar #5 was held Oct 27 through Nov 1. The second seminar was entitled “Questioned Documents in Crime Detection”.  Both seminars were attended by several R.C.M.P. examiners and many invited guests from various laboratories around the world as well as several well-known private examiners. The event produced several interesting papers and each of the resulting books of proceedings included a photograph of attendees together with their names and affiliations. Each of the proceedings was published by the Federal Queen’s Printer, Ottawa, Canada.

A number of document examiners have asked about the photograph and attendees because often the photograph has been distributed without the accompanying attendee information.

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Impinging on the Court’s authority

One of the strangest arguments I have heard raised in argument against the logical approach is that it means the expert’s testimony will end up impinging upon the authority of the Court. I have heard this a few times recently. It is particularly troubling that this has come from lawyers. Unfortunately, this has always happened in a venue where I could not actually discuss the matter with them.

As an objection to the logical approach, this is the strangest argument I have ever heard, without a doubt. In fact, proper application of the logical approach is one of the few ways to ensure that this will not happen.

To clarify, it is important to first understand the concept of “usurping the role of the Court” which means, in essence, to improperly influence the court’s procedures and decision-making, often by speaking inappropriately to or about the ultimate issue. Or, in other words, to impinge on the Court’s authority. To be sure, there is a legitimate concern that this might happen, particularly when the court is listening to an expert. As a result, it has been discussed literally for years. This is certainly not a new idea.

In fact, it can be found in various codes and directives regarding expert evidence. Indeed, Justice Sopinka noted this issue in the 1994 R. v. Mohan ruling when he stated, in part, “There is also a concern inherent in the application of this criterion that experts not be permitted to usurp the functions of the trier of fact.” 

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