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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Baltimore Aerial Surveillance: What Canada Can Take From the Recent Decision

On June 24, 2021, in Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle v Baltimore Police Department,[1] the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit On Rehearing En Blanc decided that Baltimore’s use of an aerial surveillance pilot program violated the Fourth Amendment.[2] The court remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. In this article, I describe the technology that was used in Baltimore, review what transpired leading up to the decision, explain the decision, and suggest insights that Canada may take from the decision.

The Program

In March, 2020, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) decided . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Technology

Protect Afghanistan’s Truth-Tellers: Human Rights Defenders in a World of Diplomatic Doublespeak

In 2021 the world has witnessed the abject failure of international organizations to curtail even the most grave human rights violations, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (“atrocity crimes”). The situation in Afghanistan is one case in point.

In countries around the globe, international human rights law is routinely violated with impunity. Many are wondering what “human rights” mean when politicians and diplomats toss out the term with ease while remaining reckless or complicit in the face of human rights violations and atrocities.

Canada must act urgently to match words with actions

There increasingly grave concerns . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Memoirs of an Unwitting SRL

[Jeff Rose-Martland is a writer and SRL from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and member of NSRLP’s Advisory Board.]

Envision a self-represented litigant. Did you get a picture of someone in court, poorly dressed, who doesn’t know what they are doing? I see that, and I am an SRL. The more-accurate mental image of a person at their dining table struggling with legal documents until the wee hours rarely comes to mind. Possibly because it’s draining to even consider, let alone do. In point of fact, a courtroom may not even be involved; there are a variety of circumstances that will turn . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Can We Get There From Here?

One of my favorite jokes involves a visitor lost in rural Scotland. The tourist comes upon a farmer and asks the farmer for directions to Edinburgh. The farmer pauses, appears deep in thought, and then says[1] “I don’t think that I would start from here”.

Challenges to reform

I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast series called Revolutions that discusses the English, American, French, Haitian, 1848 European, Spanish American, Mexican, and Russian revolutions[2]. The series is interesting in its consideration of the transition from feudal to industrial economies and the parallel development of liberal and socialist thought. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why I Am Still Constantly Shocked by the Way the Justice System Works

As I approach my fifth anniversary working for the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) I find myself feeling reflective.

I could not have anticipated ending up working in the legal sphere, in the world of “access to justice.” Until 5 years ago I’d never heard that phrase, or had any real understanding of the justice system. My background is in libraries, among other things, and I’d never been involved in any kind of legal proceeding. So although I was well-educated and informed in general, and aware of many social justice issues, my knowledge of the legal world was (like the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A New BC Law for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health

From proteststo scientific analysis, old growth forests have been much in the news in British Columbia in recent months. What does a legal lens bring to this debate?

Past analyses undertaken by West Coast Environmental Law have laid bare the multifaceted ways in which BC’s laws are “hardwired for failure” when it comes to safeguarding the resilience of ecological systems and human communities in the face of cumulative impacts from resource development and climate change. Legal barriers identified include:

  • Historic legal or policy caps on how much land may be protected and/or how great an impact on resource
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Buying Silence With a Bluff: How NDAs Exploit Litigants, With and Without Counsel

The ever-growing use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) prevents those who sign from being able to “disclose” their experiences of reprehensible workplace discrimination. NDAs routinely silence the victims of sexual harassment, racism, bullying, and discrimination (among many other examples: for being pregnant, or requiring mental health leave, etc.).

Of questionable legality, NDAs are routinely demanded by defence lawyers in settlement negotiations. A gag on the victim is an obvious, albeit immoral, “ask” for legal representatives of alleged or actual perpetrators. They don’t want their reputation as a racist or a sexual harasser or a bully following them around, do they?

If . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

PRIDE in the Courts: Judge Deborah A. Batts

Let me tell you about someone I met a couple of years ago. Her name was Judge Deborah A. Batts. In 1994, the Honorable Judge Batts became the first openly gay person to be appointed as an Article III federal judge in the United States. She held this position for over 25 years in the Southern District of New York. As part of the library team in my previous position, we commemorated her 25 years of service with a candid interview during the 2019 Pride month with her fellow openly gay judges also at the U.S. Courts for the Second . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

Measuring Progress on Access to Justice Within Sustainable Development Goal SDG 16.3

In 2015 world leaders, acting through the United Nations, agreed to adopt 17 global objectives known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The overarching objective was, and remains, to make measurable progress toward creating a better world by the year 2030 by reducing poverty, fighting inequality and by addressing the emergency of climate change. Among the Sustainable Development Goals is SDG 16, focusing on peace, justice and strong institutions. SDG 16 seeks to promote “a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

FOIPP Public Interest Override a Dead Letter?

A number of Canadian jurisdictions have a “public interest override” in their Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) legislation.

In Alberta, this imposes a duty on a public body to immediately disclose information that is “clearly in the public interest” despite any other provision in the Act. Section 32 FOIPP reads:

32(1) Whether or not a request for access is made, the head of a public body must, without delay, disclose to the public, to an affected group of people, to any person or to an applicant

(a) Information about a risk of significant harm to

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

USA vs. the International Criminal Court: A Fraught History in the Quest for International Accountability for Atrocity Crimes

The life of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, became easier on 2 April 2021 when United States (US) President Biden lifted harsh economic sanctions against her that had been authorised by former-President Trump on 15 June 2020 and applied on 2 September 2020. Ms. Bensouda’s nine-year term ends in June 2021, and her successor, UK lawyer Karim Khan QC, will begin his term free of the threat of US sanctions against him. Human rights advocates around the world are also breathing more easily now that their efforts to seek accountability for perpetrators of international . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Reflecting on the Site C Dam: An Environmental Lawyer’s Perspective

The work of environmental law in a time of intertwined biodiversity and climate crises is not just an intellectual or professional exercise for me and my colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law. This is particularly the case when decisions are made about mega-projects that fly in the face of law, science and self-determination of Indigenous peoples. Over this past COVID winter, for example, we felt the weight of stress and uncertainty about that fate of the Site C dam.

We wrote about  Site C in August 2016 and since then, the destruction of the Peace River Valley has continued, while . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues