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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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

Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Strategy: Why More Restrictions on Self-Represented Litigants Won’t Work, and Aren’t Justified

Our daily interactions with self-represented litigants (SRLs) from across Canada, along with our continuous tracking of the developing jurisprudence around SRLs, disclose the emergence of a judicial strategy that amounts to a war on self-represented parties in some courts and jurisdictions. The resulting mistrust and anger among many reasonable members of the public should be a cause for alarm among members of the profession.

Not only does this strategy undermine our commitment to a right of access to the courts, and ignore the Supreme Court of Canada’s clear statement in Pintea v John that SRLs cannot and should not be . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Senate Playing With Fire on Environmental Bills

At Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald famously referred to Canada’s Senate as a chamber of sober second thought. One, he said, that “will never set itself in opposition against the deliberate and understood wishes of the people.”

Sir John A. should be turning in his grave.

Say what you will about Canada’s first Prime Minister, he was right about our Senate: it should provide checks and balances on the elected House, while respecting the will of both that House and the electorate. Our democracy – and public trust in the Upper Chamber – depends in large part on that respect. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Alberta’s Whistleblower Legislation

In 2018, Alberta amended its whistleblower protection legislation. It is a modest improvement over previous legislation, and relative to the federal Act. However, in a number of respects, the legislation does not go far enough.

First, a little bit of context. Whistleblowing legislation serves two inter-related purposes: upholding the public interest in exposing serious wrongdoing, while protecting employees who blow the whistle on that wrongdoing. On this last point, the legislation is remedial by protecting the employee from dismissal or reprisal that might otherwise be permitted at common law. In Canada, whistleblowing legislation (which exists in most provinces) . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property, Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Chipping Away at Access to Justice Barriers – One Innovation at a Time

How can we find ways to connect lawyers and paralegals to those who do not have access to legal services? How can we reduce linguistic, geographical, socio-economic and other barriers that make it harder for people in need of legal services to get them? What innovations might help address these challenges?

One area for innovation to facilitate access to justice is regulatory innovation. To make lawyer and paralegal services more accessible to the province’s most vulnerable, the Law Society of Ontario recently implemented a new regulatory framework that enables lawyers and paralegals employed by civil society organizations (CSOs), such as . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice and the Need for Direct Funding of PBO

28,872. That is how many clients Pro Bono Ontario (“PBO”) served across the province in 2018 through services like its Free Legal Advice Hotline, 3 Law Help Centres, 6 medical-legal partnerships, 2 children’s programs and projects serving low-income start-ups and non-profits. In the past decade, demand for PBO’s services has increased by 272%. Yet the same year that PBO helped a record number of people, the charity narrowly avoided closing its court-based centres because the resources afforded PBO to meet these growing needs have barely budged. This is simply not good enough. It is not good enough because the private . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues