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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Myanmar Coup: “A Crisis Born of Impunity”

LRWC joins worldwide calls for action
to restore civilian authorities

[Editors note: Column is current to its submission date of 19 Feb 2021]

The military coup in Myanmar shocked the world on the 1st of February, but the junta’s actions since then have surprised no one. International organizations, governments, and civil society organizations around the globe have expressed outrage or at least “concern” about the abrupt halt to Myanmar’s decade of stumbling political reform. Hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar have courageously risen up in nonviolent protest and are calling on the world for help. They . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Exploring the Laws That Protect the Coast and Ocean

Today, I’m pleased to share some reflections from my colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law, and in particular Staff Lawyer Stephanie Hewson, lead author of West Coast’s new resource, the Guide to Ocean and Coastal Protection Law in British Columbia.

. . .

Maxine Matilpi, a member of the Kwakiutl and Ma’amtigila nations and our colleague at West Coast Environmental Law, spent much time in the 1960s in a small Kwakiutl village near Port Hardy called Tsakis. She remembers, “dried salmon stacked like cord wood behind my grandparents’ stove… our grannies and aunties sitting on lawn chairs . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

System Alienation & the Capitol Riot

As we watched scenes of violence, vandalism, and rioting at the US Capitol on January 6th, there was an acute sense of loss of control, not only across the United States but throughout much of the world.

This was a brazen upending of the norms of respect and acceptance of institutional authority that lie, both symbolically and practically, at the heart of democracies around the world. The United States likes to call itself “the greatest democracy” but it is just one of many. Each is less than perfect, but a central article of faith is striving to honour . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Understanding the Need for More Evidence-Based Decision-Making in the Legal Sector and How We Get There

Legal institutions demonstrate both a reliance on and a resistance to evidence-based decision-making. Across all areas of the law, cases are built, argued and decided on evidence that is meticulously gathered and assessed. Rigorous fact-seeking is the standard that gives credibility to law’s oft-cited assurances of impartiality and due process. Yet, the very legal mechanisms for which this standard informs and justifies decisions are often themselves without the data necessary to evaluate the frameworks within which they operate. The result is that there is a lack of data in the legal field in Canada (and elsewhere) on the processes used . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Washington January 6, 2021 Insurrection, and Racism in Canada

[The Full-text of the following summary can be downloaded from the SSRN (Feb. 1, 2021).]

The riotous insurrection at the Washington Capitol building on January 6th is a good example of this truth: “The strength of a nation’s rights, freedoms and rule of law lies not in its Constitution but in its politics.” On January 27, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a “National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin,” warning of, “a heightened threat environment across the United States,” and, “violent riots have continued in recent days,” and, “ideologically-motivated actors” could incite further violence. But President . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Canadian Model for Bridging the Private Governance of Online Speech in the Wake of New Privacy Proposed Legislation

We are witness to a parallel or alternate dimension where the constitutional rights democratic nations have toiled to enshrine and interpret, including freedom of speech, can be effectively – and imperceptibly – bypassed. While this situation prevailed prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has fast-tracked erratic private mediation of expression out of sheer necessity.

Questions respecting social media platforms’ ad hoc or arbitrary reactions to sensitive matters abound, including Twitter’s unprecedented restraint of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden piece and Facebook’s slowdown of the story.

Presumably recognizing some degree of state-like responsibility, platforms are deploying algorithmic decision-making tools and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Justice Is Missing the Boat

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year when much changed. One thing seems to remain constant: the fact that the justice sector is slow to change. As a consequence, it seems to be missing a rather big boat.

Good things often come out of bad things. It is no different with the current crises we face. In its 5 December issue, The Economist carries an article that sets out how the pandemic is leading to unprecedented innovation and investment in the health sector. It sees the dawn of “the next trillion-dollar industry”. Patients are . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

How the Law Abandons Those Who Speak Up in the Public Interest

On December 3, my new report titled Whistleblowers Not Protected: How the Law Abandons Those Who Speak Up in the Public Interest in Alberta was published by the Parkland Institute. The report looks at whistleblowing in a broad sense, meaning anyone who either publicly or anonymously discloses information that is in the public interest.

The report considers not only the gross deficiencies of Alberta’s whistleblower protection legislation but also looks at the need for both anti-SLAPP legislation, and a journalist shield law to protect confidential news sources.

The week before the report, a major controversy erupted in Alberta politics over . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Doing the Two-Step on Uneven Platforms: Successes and Setbacks of Human Rights Advocacy

Human rights advocates are sometimes asked whether human rights advocacy works. Most human rights defenders answer in the form of anecdotes, because empirical research on effectiveness is scarce in a world where human rights advocates have limited resources and are increasingly in danger. This report reviews some 2020 successes and setbacks experienced by the pro bono advocates of Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC). The year 2021 will require renewed energy and resources for visionary and persistent human rights advocacy that makes a positive difference to people at risk.

The gap between international law and reality

It is undeniable that human . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Yours to Discover: The Lack of Evidence Supporting the Conclusions Reached by the LSO Paralegal Licensing Report

On June 26, 2020, the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) released the Family Legal Services Provider License Consultation Paper (FLSPL) for review and comment by the legal profession in Ontario. Prior to the release of the FLSPL the LSO had released the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project Steering Committee’s Report to Convocation entitled “Listening to Ontarians”, which in May of 2010 reported to Convocation that the Committee had identified access to justice as a significant issue facing the public in Ontario.[1]

Access to justice in the area of family law is an issue. Access to justice is an issue . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Name-Calling Aside: The Problem With the “Unrepresented” vs. “Self-Represented” Distinction

Are people coming to court without counsel “self-represented litigants,” or are they “unrepresented litigants”? I shall reveal all below, but frankly, I feel the tendency of the Canadian Bench and Bar to get caught up in assigning separate distinctions to these terms distracts from the important work of understanding the lived realities of these litigants, and working with them to find solutions to our shared and indisputable Access to Justice problem.

All the same, the reason it IS important to address this issue once again is because the language describing those who are in court without a lawyer has been . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Understanding the Impacts of Access to Legal Help

If popular culture is to be believed, the success of a legal dispute is determined foremost by the calibre and character of one’s legal representative; the ability to deliver an inspiring closing argument is a clear signal that a favorable outcome is forthcoming. The recipe, it would appear, is one part institutional knowledge added to one part intuitiveness sprinkled with a dash of showmanship. (A devil-may-care regard for the truth and facts is optional.) Notwithstanding the oft times sensationalistic portrayal of lawyers in film, novels and the news, the role that legal professionals play in securing satisfactory outcomes for people . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues