Nicholas Mills has pleaded not guilty to criminal negligence causing death in connection with the drowning of 15-year-old Jeremiah Perry on a school canoe trip.
Prosecutors allege Mills neglected or ignored safety rules in planning and leading the July 2017 trip to Algonquin Provincial Park.
The teacher has acknowledged he did not follow some rules he felt did not align with industry standards or common practice.
But he has maintained the trip was safe, and had stricter safety requirements in place than similar excursions in the private sector.
In its closing submissions today, the defence says while Mills’s behaviour is “not immune from criticism,” it is also “nowhere near criminal.”
School board rules shouldn’t be benchmark, defence argues
Defence lawyer Phil Campbell argued Thursday that the rules imposed by the school board shouldn’t be viewed as the benchmark for reasonable behaviour because they go far beyond what others in the wilderness trip industry and the community do on canoe or swimming trips.
Campbell said the legal test for negligence isn’t whether the accused’s actions met some “optimal” standard, but rather whether they met the minimum for what would be reasonable under the circumstances.
He noted a lifeguard, two guides and several experienced swimmers were present at the time that Perry drowned.
The defence also argued the Crown has failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Perry did not know how to swim, which it says is necessary to establish negligence on the part of the teacher.
If Perry knew how to swim, then there would be no issue in letting him swim without a life jacket, as he did that night, Campbell argued.
Court has heard Perry and more than a dozen others had failed a mandatory swimming test held before the trip.
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