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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Where Is Canada?

Around one-half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes because of the unending, devastating civil war, mass human rights violations and acts of terrorism that have been their unrelenting reality for close to four years now.

The UN estimates that 7.6 million Syrians remain internally displaced within the country, unable or unwilling to escape into neighbouring countries. Another 3.8 million have fled the country as refugees, the overwhelming majority in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Turkey alone now shelters 1.6 million Syrian refugees. And the one million Syrians in Lebanon now make up approximately one-quarter of that country’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Creating the Conditions for Justice Innovation: How (NOT) to Solve Complex Problems

‘…now is not a good time for control freaks” – Eric Young

In my last post for Slaw I wrote about the importance of creating the conditions for justice innovation by building the skills needed to work in multidisciplinary teams and collaborate rather than “consult” with justice system users. In this post I want to focus on another important part of creating the conditions for justice innovation, in particular how we might support innovators by rethinking our problem solving approaches and the methods we use to evaluate justice innovation initiatives.

How we evaluate the success (or failure) of a project . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire: Study Proves Children as Young as Two Capable of Lying

Kids lie.

Anyone who doesn’t accept this as a statement of fact either isn’t a parent, or is in for a terrible surprise one day from their cherubic little angel.

It isn’t every kid who is a pathological lying demon-spawn nor do those kids who do have a tendency to gild the lily do so on every occasion but the common mythology that children of a certain age aren’t either capable of, or pre-disposed to, fabrication is just that – a myth.

When a child prevaricates about canine homework consumption, the lie is easily brushed aside. No harm, no foul. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Stay of Environmental Order Pending Appeal? Not Likely.

Does the public interest in environmental protection allow the sacrifice of the innocent? The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and the Environmental Review Tribunal, think it does.

Few people, however innocent, can afford to appeal environmental orders, if they must also comply with the order throughout the appeal, with no prospect of recovering the funds even if the order is found to be illegal. A recent decision of the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) shows how difficult it has become to obtain a stay pending appeal of environmental orders in Ontario, with no immediate prospect of improvement. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Unconscious Barrier to Equality

Before reading: (1) think of four colleagues (some male and some female), and (2) consider the first adjective that pops into your mind to describe each of those colleagues. Now continue reading.

….

I am a feminist. I know, I just heard a collective internal groan from the internet. But, like most feminists (and most people), I’m not a bra-burning, Thai fisherman pant-wearing, men-hating, razor-neglecting aggressor. Rather, I hold the simple belief that women and men should be treated equally. (And I am happy to report that I am part of a significant majority in Western society.) Unfortunately, I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Citizenship Act Reforms: Unjust and Insecure

In the wake of the attacks in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa in October, and against the backdrop of the sudden and very terrifying rise of the Islamic State in Syria and northern Iraq this year, there is renewed fear and anxiety about terrorism, at home and abroad.

The Islamic State (varyingly known as IS, ISIS and ISIL) has been responsible for unimaginable acts of cruel violence and widespread human rights abuse against women and girls, followers of other religious sects or faiths, ethnic minorities and western hostages. Amnesty International researchers catalogued the horrors in a number of grim reports in recent . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Drowning in Alphabet Soup

“You need to return on a Wednesday at 9:00am or a Friday at 2:00pm.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh wait, sorry. You’re client’s last name begins with ‘G’. That’s a Tuesday matter.”

“But I’m back here this Monday…”

“Oops. Hang on. It’s a domestic. Thursdays at 10:00am. Definitely Thursday.”

***

The above is a pretty faithful recounting of nearly every day in set-date courts across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and, perhaps to a lesser extent, across Ontario. I don’t have a sufficient personal sample size to gauge whether the alphabet soup insanity that has infected my home province has spread its . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What If?: Hypothetical Questions About Improving Access to Justice

I’m current reading (and loving) the book “What if?” by Randall Monroe of xkcd fame. The subtitle tells you what the book is about: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. As with xkcd itself, the beauty of the book is the depth of thought and extrapolation beyond the facile that goes in to answering such questions as “what would happen if everybody on earth jumped at the same time” or “what would happen if a baseball pitcher threw the ball at 9/10 the speed of light”? I’m inspired in this column to pose my own “what . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

TWU Law and the New Reality

As a Bencher of the Law Society of BC, I voted against the accreditation of TWU Law on two occasions—first in the original Benchers’ debate on the subject in April, and then again in September following a Special General Meeting of BC’s lawyers. Both votes were defeated.

Between the two votes, I penned a Slaw column entitled TWU Law and the New Segregation. It was lauded in some corners for capturing the evolved public interest in equal treatment of LGBTQ people, and panned in others for being long on emotion and short on analytical rigor. The latter view noted . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Are Faster Horses Our Future?

When I sat down to write this post, it was going in a whole different direction. Given the hot topics of innovation and the future of the legal industry, I was thinking I might add to the growing discussions around the recommendations of the CBA Futures Report (see here, here and here).

Then, about half way down the social media rabbit hole I was following as part of my “blog research”, I came across this interview (thanks @karenskinner) with Alex Novarese, editor-in-Chief of Legal Business, discussing the future of the legal industry in the UK. In the interview . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Moral Relativism and the Gaza Crisis: Whither Canada’s Voice for Human Rights?

This summer’s conflict in Gaza and southern Israel was wrenching. Day after day it did not let up. Rockets launched from Gaza. Relentless aerial bombardment by Israeli forces in Gaza. More rockets from Gaza. Missiles and ground assaults by Israeli forces. All of that in a wider context of serious and longstanding human rights violations, including the collective punishment of the Gaza blockade; and very legitimate security concerns. Against this loud and angry backdrop the toll on civilians, overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians, was heartbreaking. In a corner of the world that has been enmeshed in decades of repression, terrorism, reprisal, defence . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Should Children Have a Right to a Healthy Environment?

On June 17, 2014, several environmental groups in New Brunswick circulated for comment a draft environmental bill of rights for children. Called “A Bill of Rights to Protect Children’s Health from Environmental Hazards,” it is the first of its kind in Canada. If passed, the law would confer on every child “the right to protection from environmental hazards,” meaning

a hazard that impairs or damages the environment or changes the environment in a manner that may threaten human health, including physical and mental well-being, and includes a “contaminant” as defined by the Clean Environment Act;

The teeth of the bill . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues