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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

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environmental law occurred over the past four years, most notably through two omnibus budget bills in 2012 that repealed or amended most of Canada’s most significant environmental laws.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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Access to Justice: After the Machines Take Over

“The traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems.” This is the central message of The Future of Professions, a new book from Richard and Daniel Susskind. Machines, they argue, will take over much professional work. Even when the machines cannot do so alone, the Susskinds expect that they will allow laypeople, paraprofessionals, and the clients themselves do the necessary work.

One way or the other, highly-trained and expensive human professionals will be mostly cut out of the value chain. The future of the professions, in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Law in the Age of Justin Trudeau

Whether you greeted the ascendancy of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals with rainbow-tinted visions of angels and unicorns or you prophesied Canada’s sulfuric descent into a pit of doom, all agree on one inviolable truth: change is coming.

Trudeau, and his newly appointed Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, face a ticking clock on a phalanx of legal challenges and legislative amendments many of which require immediate attention.

Marijuana

Whether it’s legalization or some form of decriminalization, this is a promise that Trudeau’s youthful fans – who turned out to vote for the party in record numbers – are not likely to sit quietly . . . [more]

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Attn. Fossil Fuel Companies – the Risk of Climate Lawsuits Is Getting Harder to Ignore

In a recent speech to the world’s insurance companies, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England (and formerly of the Bank of Canada), warned of the risks of lawsuits “by parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change [who] seek compensation from those they hold responsible.”

While not presenting such lawsuits as a sure thing, Mr. Carney alluded to multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the Asbestos industry and said that the risks of such litigation “will only increase as the science and evidence of climate change hardens.”

West Coast Environmental Law made a . . . [more]

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Access to Justice Reform and the Data Deficit- Some Lessons Learned

On September 15, 2015 the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) published Civil Non-Family Cases Filed in the Supreme Court of BC – Research Results and Lessons Learned. This study is one piece of a larger, five year “Cost of Justice research initiative being undertaken by CFCJ with the goal of defining the economic and social costs of justice on two fronts: the cost of delivering access to justice, and the cost of not delivering access to justice.

The study was conducted by Focus Consultants of Victoria, B.C. in 2014 and 2015 in the Supreme Court of . . . [more]

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Unaffordable Legal Services Is a Federal Election Issue: A Message to the Candidates

The following national problem should be part of every party’s federal election platform: the majority of the population cannot afford legal services at a reasonable cost—the legal advice of a lawyer is not affordable.

This is the most serious and damaging problem that Canada’s justice system and the legal profession have ever faced.

The abundant in-depth analytical literature provides this definition of the problem: “The majority of the population cannot obtain legal services at reasonable cost.” Or, the legal profession has priced itself beyond the majority of the population.

It is a problem caused by the obsolescence of the . . . [more]

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Oil Pipelines and Climate Change: Eyes Wide Shut

Will the National Energy Board (“NEB”) listen to evidence about climate change when deciding whether to permit an oil pipeline? No, no, and no.

The federal Conservatives have dramatically narrowed Canada’s environmental laws, in a concerted effort to force through approval of oil pipelines, to get Alberta’s bitumen to international markets. They did this through the infamous Omnibus Bills, especially C-38[1] in 2012. Among these changes were amendments to the National Energy Board Act[2] (the “NEB Act”), to limit public participation in NEB hearings. Now, Canadian courts have rejected constitutional challenges to these amendments.

Who will the NEB . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Making Tough on Crime Count

Budgets have no bottoms. Promises know no bounds. No baby has gone un-kissed. It must be Federal election time in Canada.

With political pandering at a fever pitch and politicians tripping over themselves to promise the earth, moon and stars to an election-weary electorate, it is an ideal time to exercise some wish-list thinking when it comes to criminal justice reform.

For all the bumps and bruises suffered by the ruling Conservatives at least one aspect of their message continues to garner broad popular support – ‘tough-on-crime’. With the outlier exception of legalizing marijuana, only the most suicidal politician would . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Problems and the Poor

The Legal problems of Canadians are not evenly distributed. Data from the 2014 CFCJ survey – Everyday Legal Problems in Canada – indicates that a disproportionate percentage of persons who experience legal problems bear the burden of a significant amount of all legal problems— 10% of persons who have at least one legal problem experience 1/3 of all legal problems. Additionally, data indicates that a large cross-section of persons who experience legal problems are among the poorest in Canadian society. The CFCJ survey also confirms that overall, there is a high prevalence of everyday legal problems within Canadian society, with . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues