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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Moral Relativism and the Gaza Crisis: Whither Canada’s Voice for Human Rights?

This summer’s conflict in Gaza and southern Israel was wrenching. Day after day it did not let up. Rockets launched from Gaza. Relentless aerial bombardment by Israeli forces in Gaza. More rockets from Gaza. Missiles and ground assaults by Israeli forces. All of that in a wider context of serious and longstanding human rights violations, including the collective punishment of the Gaza blockade; and very legitimate security concerns. Against this loud and angry backdrop the toll on civilians, overwhelmingly Palestinian civilians, was heartbreaking. In a corner of the world that has been enmeshed in decades of repression, terrorism, reprisal, defence . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Should Children Have a Right to a Healthy Environment?

On June 17, 2014, several environmental groups in New Brunswick circulated for comment a draft environmental bill of rights for children. Called “A Bill of Rights to Protect Children’s Health from Environmental Hazards,” it is the first of its kind in Canada. If passed, the law would confer on every child “the right to protection from environmental hazards,” meaning

a hazard that impairs or damages the environment or changes the environment in a manner that may threaten human health, including physical and mental well-being, and includes a “contaminant” as defined by the Clean Environment Act;

The teeth of the bill . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

This One’s About Rock ‘n’ Roll, Comic Books and Bubble Gum

It is unlikely that when Canadian rockers Headstones released the song “When Something Stands for Nothing” in 1993 that they did so as a political comment on the continuing relevance of the Magna Carta to the laws of the United Kingdom and her colonies. So I may have been in alone in thinking of this song when reading a David Allen Green blog post on the Financial Times site entitled “The myth of the Magna Carta”. Mr. Green (lawyer, blogger, author and popular legal Twitterer under the handle @JackofKent) describes the most referenced of the three . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice Commissions: Learning to Work Collaboratively on Difficult Justice Problems

Two weeks ago, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters released the Colloquium Report. This document captures the action-oriented strategies, reforms and innovations from leaders in the access to justice field in response to the recommendations made by the Action Committee in their final report, A Roadmap for Change (see a SLAW summary here).

One of the institutional and structural goals discussed in the Colloquium Report was to “Create Local and National Access to Justice Implementation Mechanisms”, such as the recently-formed Access to Justice Co-ordinating Committee in Nova Scotia. The report looked to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Killing Terrorism: The Selective Deployment of Deferred Capital Punishment to Deter Terrorism

As I write this, Israel is again engaged in defensive military operations in a renewed attempt to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in the Palestinian territories. This latest chapter in the vast novel of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict began with the kidnapping and murder of three young Israeli civilians by alleged Hamas terrorists. It spiralled further out of control when a gang of Israeli youth reacted to the murders by perpetrating their own barbaric vengeance against an innocent Palestinian teen who was kidnapped and burned to death. Although the suspects in the murder of the Palestinian were quickly arrested and charged by Israeli . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Northern Gateway: Approval Without First Nations Consent Violates International Law

There has been much debate about the federal government’s decision on June 17th to give a green light to the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline project. And there is obviously much more ahead. This will certainly be a summer of discontent in the communities along the pipeline’s proposed route and elsewhere in British Columbia and across Canada; with plans for rallies, protests and blockades already coming together. There is much to come in the courts as well, with several legal challenges already underway and others soon to follow.

There is, to say the least, much fodder for both protests and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Recent Trends in Legal Aid

The most recent legal aid data are now available in tabular form on Cansim rather than in the familiar publication , Legal Aid in Canada: Resource and Caseload Statistics, which has been discontinued. Keeping track of trend and change in legal aid has never been more important. Legal aid is by far the largest part of the access to justice landscape in Canada. Even with constraints of the current fiscal realities, or perhaps because of them, legal aid systems have the infrastructure, the expertise and the resources to contribute significantly to expanding access to justice in Canada.

The good news . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada’s Inconsistent Approach to Species at Risk

When it comes to protecting species at risk, and fulfilling mandatory obligations under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), it seems the Federal Government must be goaded into action by litigation brought by conservation groups. Two recent cases highlight government foot-dragging in developing plans to protect species that are at urgent risk, due in part to a lack of “organizational capacity” (i.e. staff cuts). The government will rarely disclose whether a protection plan is even in the works.

The Federal Government did, however, find the time and resources to swiftly downgrade the status of the North Pacific Humpback Whale from . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

TWU Law and the New Segregation

As a Bencher of the Law Society of BC, I voted against the accreditation of TWU Law. I was on the losing side of a 20-7 vote. The next day, my wife and I left for a road trip through the American South.

We started in Chicago, marveled at its architecture for a few days and then took an overnight train to Memphis. From there, we drove down the eastern bank of the Mississippi through the “cradle of the civil war” and over Cajun swamps to our final destination of New Orleans. We drove through the rural sun-baked squalor of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Anonymous Until Proven Guilty

Legendary reporter Christie Blatchford has long been feared by Toronto-area criminal defence lawyers. I personally have experienced a clawing sense of unease on those occasions when I have glanced over my shoulder before embarking on a difficult cross-examination and noted her at the front of the public gallery, pen poised to scratch furiously into notebook. Blatchford’s style for many years has been incisive, descriptive, graphic, and often ruthless when she (more often than not) reaches the conclusion (usually well in advance of the trial judge or jury) that your client is a fiendish monster. So legendary is her vitriol and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Google, González and Globe24h

Romania joined the European Union in 2007. Accordingly, its citizens can presumably benefit from the recent ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU compelling search engines to comply in certain circumstances with requests from individuals to “de-link” search results where their privacy interests are implicated. But what rights, if any, are possessed by a Canadian who carries out a vanity Google search of their name and discovers that a Romanian website has republished personal details from a Canadian court case that is on the internet, yet “practically obscure” through its unlinked presence on CanLII? This is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Intelligence-Sharing and Complicity in Torture

Ten years ago the Canadian government launched a public inquiry to look into whether the actions of Canadian officials had contributed to the torture and other grave human rights violations that a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, had experienced while he was illegally imprisoned in Syria for a year in 2002 and 2003. How deeply disappointing, therefore, that ten years on we seem to be losing ground in addressing one of the most distressing revelations coming out of that inquiry: the insidious connection between shoddy, even unlawful, intelligence-sharing practices and torture.

Maher Arar had been arrested in September 2002 by US . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues