Canada has an adversarial legal system in which advocates who represent both sides will argue their case before a jury or a judge.
Your lawyer has a fiduciary duty of loyalty towards you. Your defence counsel must serve you conscientiously. This broad duty of loyalty also encompasses a duty of confidentiality which the defence counsel must abide by. To the best of their abilities, your lawyer must represent you as a client while having your best interests in their mind, which has been codified by rules 3.1-3.4 of the Model Code of Professional Conduct (‘The Model Code’). The Model Code is a uniform national code which applies to lawyers in Canada. Although the Model Code is a uniform national code, provincial law societies have supplemented the Model Code to ensure that it accords with their local circumstances.
Rule 5.1-1 of the Model Code indicates that the defence counsel must fearlessly raise every issue, advance every issue and ask every question that will help your cause and obtain any remedy and defence authorized by law. As such, your lawyer regardless of their personal opinions about your guilt or innocence must defend you as their client.
However, your lawyer is also considered an officer of the Court, which means that the defence counsel also has a duty not to mislead the Court. As such, your lawyer is only permitted to defend and represent you in a way that does not obstruct justice.
S.11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. It is up to the Crown to bring forward its case and establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when the accused brings up a defence, your lawyer needs to prove it on a balance of probabilities, which is a less strict standard than beyond a reasonable doubt.
When you admit your guilt to your lawyer, this does place some strict limitations on your lawyer’s ability to run a defence. For example, your lawyer must ensure that in running your defence they are in no way misleading the Court. However, commentary 10 to rule 5.1-1 of the Model Code indicates that admission of guilt by you to your lawyer does not mean that your lawyer will be obliged to plead you guilty. Your lawyer may still object to the admissibility or sufficiency of the evidence that the Crown has put forward. However, what is not permitted is that your lawyer suggests that someone else did the crime or call on any evidence that your lawyer believes is false such as creating false alibi’s. In situations where you have admitted your guilt to your lawyer, your lawyer should and is entitled to test the evidence put forward by the prosecution and argue that the evidence as a whole is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. Your lawyer should leave it to the trier of facts to decide whether you are guilty or innocent.