The parents of a man killed in 2012 joined a protest at the Ottawa courthouse Thursday morning over a judge's decision earlier this week to stay a first-degree murder charge because of delays in bringing the case to trial.

Adam Picard, 33, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of 28-year-old Fouad Nayel in 2012. Picard had been in jail ever since without the case actually getting to the trial stage.

Earlier this week, Nayel's parents — Amine and Nicole Nayel — assumed they were finally going to get a measure of justice because jury selection was starting. They were crushed when the case was stayed by Ontario Superior Court Justice Julianne Parfett, and Picard walked out of the court a free man.

Picard's defence lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon had argued that in light of the Supreme Court of Canada's new rules for what constituted a reasonable time for an accused to be tried, the four years it took to get Picard's case to trial violated his Charter rights. Parfett reluctantly agreed, saying the decision was a difficult one to make.

"The system really failed us," a devastated Nicole Nayel, the victim's mother, told reporters at the time.

On Thursday, about a dozen people protested the ruling outside the courthouse on Elgin Street, holding signs reading "Justice for Fouad," and "You can fix the system but you can't fix a broken heart."

'We don't count for nothing?'

Nicole Nayel said Thursday outside the courthouse that "justice wasn't done in this matter."

"The scale tilted to one side," she said. "We're victims. We had no rights. We didn't get any rights at all from the system and I find it very, very unfair.

Amine and Nicole Nayel

Amine and Nicole Nayel had waited four years for the trial of a man charged with first-degree murder in the death of their son. On Thursday they protested the decision to release him. (Simon Gardner/CBC)

"They counted only how much he was unfairly in jail for four years. How about the victims that have been suffering for four years? We don't count? We don't count for nothing?"

The decision sends a message that the system can be played, Nicole Nayel added.

"So what kind of message are we sending? Outplay the system and go out free on the streets. What's that going to do to our children, what's that going to do to our society here?" she asked.

"We're doing this not only for my son, for us to get justice, but for every other mother in this country. I think they should support us and try to put pressure on politicians on what goes on in a courtroom. ... I didn't know what to expect. Now I know. Victims, they have no rights."

Attorney general questioned at Queen's Park

The family plans to take their protest to Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi on Monday. Naqvi said earlier this week that his ministry is conducting a review of the case.

During Question Period at Queen's Park on Thursday, MPP Randy Hillier asked Naqvi to review the "culture of complacency" that allowed the stay to occur.

"We know the minister has initiated a review of the case, but what is needed is a review of the culture of complacency Justice Parfett indicated," Hillier said.

"How can a Crown object to a motion to expedite an already delayed trial? How can they prosecute thousands of minor, less violent crimes, but disregard murder trials? ... These are the symptoms of the culture of complacency, which starts and ends in the minister's office."

Naqvi replied that the ministry is "actively working with our Justice sector partners to develop strategies to address issues of delay both in the short and the long term."

Steps taken so far include Crowns assessing that status of cases at the Ontario and Superior courts and coming up with strategies to deal with cases in jeopardy, as well as a workshop held in September on planning responses to the Superior Court decision on trial delays, Naqvi said.