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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Legal Technology and Access to Justice

Legal Technology is often reported as being intrinsically linked to access to justice. Apps, AI, and digital access suggest an Uber-like ability to receive legal services at the push of a button. A recent Globe and Mail article by University of Ottawa law professor Jena McGill, for example, bore the headline “Better access to justice in Canada? There’s an app for that”. However, while there are increasing numbers of apps and technologies being developed and integrated into the legal world, it is a mistake to assume that technological developments on their own will necessarily improve access to justice for those . . . [more]

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We Have Pizza, but How Will We Get Grilled Cheese?


What place, you might reasonably ask, does this question have in a column on justice issues?

Bear with me. I’ll get there.

Slaw readers are more aware than the average legal professional about the roles of existing major legal information suppliers (let’s call them Dominos and Pizza Hut) and the efforts of upstarts to do law differently and offer tailored solutions to legal research needs. Though many believe (with some justification) that the pizza on offer from the “Big 2” is great, sometimes the pizza costs too much and sometimes what you need is a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s . . . [more]

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Default vs Diversity

I recently attended an access to justice conference where the majority of speakers and attendees were white men. As a South Asian woman my presence felt conspicuous. This circumstance didn’t feel intentional or nefarious, it was clearly a matter of the organizers working within the default mode. The same default that is common not only in the legal world but also in other spheres such as academia and the technology sector.

This default is currently being pierced by humour and frank conversation. Recently, The Globe and Mail launched a new podcast called Colour Code that examines race in Canada. . . . [more]

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The Enbridge Decision and Beyond: Issues to Watch Following Gitxaala Nation v Canada

The length of time that Enbridge Northern Gateway’s oil tankers and pipelines proposal has managed to stay afloat –despite widespread opposition and the lack of any firm commercial contracts for use of its pipelines –once prompted my colleagues here at West Coast Environmental Law to ask, as John Cleese does in the famous Monty Python sketch, whether the Enbridge project was dead or merely resting.

In this vein, the recent Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision in Gitxaala Nation v Canada was heralded as a major legal victory for Indigenous peoples opposing the opposing the Enbridge pipelines and tankers . . . [more]

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Blaming the Victim and Concealing the Evidence: How the Crown Mishandled Ivan Henry’s Trial

There has been much buzz circulating recently around the wrongful conviction of Ivan Henry, a BC native who spent nearly 27 years behind bars for a series of sexual assaults he never committed. After being acquitted in 2010 of his 10 convictions, Henry initiated an action against the province of BC for which he sought $43M in damages. In his ruling released on June 8, 2016 Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson awarded Henry just over $8M in damages: $530K in compensatory damages for lost wages, $56,692 in special damages, and $7.5M as vindication of the gross abuse of his Charter rights. . . . [more]

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Law’s Reverse Musical Chair Challenge

Despite recent years of decades-low law school application levels, law school seats are still heavily over-subscribed. Similarly, for those who graduate (which, to be honest, is nearly every single admitted student that manages to pay tuition), the opportunities to be called and to practice as a lawyer is case of too many grads and too few jobs. Yet when it comes to supporting the legal needs of the public, lawyers aren’t even close to filling the chairs that exist, much less the new ones added each day. Worse, we’re increasingly less interested in doing so.

Estimates and sources vary, but . . . [more]

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Human-Centered Design and the Justice System: Lessons From the Field

For the past two years, through my roles at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution (Winkler Institute) and the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) I have been working on applying the principles of human-centered design to the justice system. For those who may be unfamiliar, human-centered design (HCD) is a design method used to develop products and services from the perspective of those who use them. It is an intentional process, but also a creative one. It involves immersing yourself in the problem you are trying to solve, working with the people experiencing the problem, experimenting with solutions, and, . . . [more]

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Working Towards a Next-Generation Environmental Assessment Law for Canada

Environmental Assessment (EA) is a critical part of our repertoire of environmental law tools, designed to allow us to “look before we leap” into activities with potentially significant effects on the environment. A massive overhaul of Canada’s Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 2012 resulted in the elimination of over three thousand assessments of proposed projects and activities, reduced public involvement in environmental decision-making and weakened environmental protection. EA processes and decisions have been increasingly subject to lawsuits, criticism and protests, with the target of dissent being either the project (say, Kinder Morgan’s controversial proposed oil sands pipeline) or the . . . [more]

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You Can’t Modernize the Courts on a Shoestring

With technology investments, approved budgets quickly become historical artifacts as changing project requirements and unexpected turns lay waste to the best laid plans. While the answer isn’t to close your eyes and keep your wallet open, it surely can’t be the opposite – to limit funding to such an extent that viable paths to improvement or success are foreclosed before the first dollar is spent. Yet in a 2016 federal budget that forecasts a $30 billion deficit, a mere $1 million has been allocated to investment “in information technology infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the efficiency of the federal court system”. . . . [more]

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Revitalizing Environmental Governance in Canada

Massive shifts in Canadian environmental law occurred over the past four years, most notably through two omnibus budget bills in 2012 that repealed or amended most of Canada’s most significant environmental laws. The legal and practical impacts of federal deregulation, however, have had an important counterpoint in the dynamic revitalization process that another area of law has been undergoing in Canada today: the legal traditions of Indigenous peoples.

Stepping into the void of inaction or deregulation by other levels of government, in recent years First Nations have banned proposed heavy oil pipelines from their territories, denied consent to . . . [more]

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Access to Consumer Justice – What We Need to Know

One of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s primary mandates is improving access to justice. How do consumer issues relate to access to justice? For consumers, access to justice is partly about holding retailers and suppliers accountable for the promises they make and for the safety of their products and services. In 2014, the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) conducted the “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada” survey with over 3000 participants across Canada. According to the CFCJ data, access to consumer justice is an issue. While formal justice mechanisms for . . . [more]

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Climate Change 2016

Canada entered 2015 internationally condemned as a climate laggard, and enters 2016 with a new government that received praise for its role in the Paris Climate negotiations. But the country’s work on climate change is far from done. The government has promised, within 90 days after the Paris talks, to sit down with the Premiers to develop a national framework on climate change.

In this post we review the Paris Agreement, its strengths and shortcomings, and what it means for Canada.

Evaluating the Paris Climate Agreement

In December the nations of the world gathered in Paris to negotiate a new . . . [more]

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