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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

The Federal Election and Stakeholder Culture

Elections remind us that in a democracy, voters are “stakeholders” who can evaluate the potential of government platforms.

We might not share or even understand other people’s use of their vote in an election, but we all appreciate that it is a legitimate right and a critical part of being Canadian. The right to vote is a value that supersedes how any one individual might use their vote, as non-partisan voter registration organizations have recognized.

We are committed to the idea that we are all stakeholders in governance, whether we might disagree about how an individual vote is used, or . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

#LegalAidMatters – What Are You Going to Do About It?

In a pro bono clinic that I started in Saint John, N.B., I came across Robert. Robert had worked in a flooring warehouse for eight years, and to his surprise, was suddenly fired, out the door with two weeks’ severance pay. He was worried he’d lose his apartment because that wasn’t enough to cover his expenses while he found another job, but he couldn’t afford a lawyer to find out about his rights. Robert came to the clinic and learned that he was entitled to quite a bit more, which we were able to easily get for him because the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Aid Expenditures Over Time in Canada: A Complex Story

Although legal aid funding remains a challenge, and in many jurisdictions is under threat, a global interest in access to justice has gained momentum in recent years. In part, this interest is built around United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 with the involvement of new and influential players in access to justice such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. Some countries in which legal aid is a recent development have introduced national legal aid legislation and are making progress toward national systems. On . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What the Law Society Should Be Doing: Standing Up to Tyranny

In the Law Times article “Diversity and inclusion fundamental to the OBA” (July 3, 2019), Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Malcolm Mercer said that the Statement of Principles “genuinely divides” people in the profession. The statement suggests that the legal and paralegal professions, numbering over 52,000 lawyers and 9000 paralegals, are aboil with conflict over the Statement. In fact, in 2017, the first year the Statement was required, Law Society statistics (evidence) show that 98% of lawyer members indicated in their annual reports that they have such a statement. The Ontario Bar Association, comprising more than 10,000 members, supports it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

SNC-Lavalin Report Reveals Limitations of the Ethics Office

By all accounts, last week’s Ethics Commissioner Report on the SNC-Lavalin controversy was a bombshell, condemning as it did Mr. Trudeau’s improper attempts to infringe the prosecutorial independence of the Attorney-General’s office.

But other than revealing the extraordinary access of SNC-Lavalin to the highest ranks of government and the magnitude of the combined efforts to obtain a deferred prosecution agreement that would dismiss foreign corruption charges against the company, we learned very little we did not know before.

Indeed, the most striking part of Mr. Dion’s report is that he was denied access to important information that would bring all . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

Canada’s New Impact Assessment Act Is Only as Good as the Extent to Which It Will Apply

In June, the federal government passed Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Along with its companion Bill C-68, C-69 seeks to make good on a number of federal government commitments to restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards under the Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act, modernize the National Energy Board, and restore credibility and public trust in federal environmental assessments.

However, regulations proposed under the new Impact Assessment Act . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Fixing a Problem That We Don’t Fully Understand

Evidence-based research in law is necessary. Without it we rely on assumptions and anecdotes which, however practical or logical they may seem, can lead to egregious and unanticipated outcomes. At best, this might mean misunderstandings about the effectiveness of legal services; at worst the result could be misspent resources that make legal services even more inaccessible than they are now. Take the following as an example. One of the main arguments in favor of expanding the types of legal services that paralegals are authorized to provide is the lower cost of paralegal services relative to the cost of legal services . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What It Really Means for Lawyers to Commit – and to Refuse to Commit – to Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity

The public interest in a commitment to equality

The Law Society of Ontario’s (LSO) Statement of Principles (SOP) is intended to ensure that lawyers regulated by the LSO commit to equality, diversity and inclusivity. These are all rights guaranteed to Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The purpose of the SOP is to give each lawyer a responsibility to acknowledge this and, by implication, implement it (there is no monitoring by the LSO, and each firm is responsible for its own strategy).

The public should see itself reflected in the legal profession. The alienation and disillusionment experienced by . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Fertility Law in Canada Is Changing: Understanding the Legal Impacts

Fifteen years after the Assisted Human Reproduction Act was introduced, Health Canada has finally released the long-awaited regulations under the Act regarding the reimbursement of surrogates and donors. The new regulations come into force on June 9, 2020. They will have a significant impact on individuals who use assisted reproductive technologies and the fertility lawyers who advise them.

The Federal Government’s intention behind the new regulations is to further protect the health and safety of Canadians who use or are born through the use of assisted reproductive technologies like invitro fertilization and surrogacy. The Minister of Health has expressed that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Reforming Ontario’s Family Law Justice System

Despite the best efforts of our dedicated and tireless Family Court judges, they are becoming overwhelmed. There are many reasons for this phenomenon I am sure including the fact that governments across Canada spend roughly only 1% of their annual budgets on the justice system[1]. One of them is what has been termed the rise of the “self represented” litigant. Self represented litigants are not necessarily a problem despite what you might hear in the media and read in studies[2] undertaken to try understand the reasons behind their “rise” and to offer to solutions to deal with . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

How Can We Talk About It?

We urgently need to figure out how to talk about justice systems at the highest political level. As I have said before in this column: globally, justice systems are not delivering. Read the report of the Task Force on Justice. We need to make them better. That requires a new type of justice leadership and a new way of talking.

On 19 and 20 June the ministers of justice of the G7+ met for two days in The Hague. The fact that they met made me rejoice. You can’t have enough ministers of justice sharing experiences and getting . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The T-Shaped Factor: An Exposure to Tech in Law School

For this month’s CFCJ Slaw blog, we asked Saba Samanian, a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School to provide her perspective on a topic related to the future of the legal profession. Read on to learn what she has to say about law, technology, access justice and how she is thinking about her responsibility to be technically competent as she enters the profession.

As a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, and as someone who has an interest in technology and innovation, I often find myself thinking about how the two can intersect. While I have been looking . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues