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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Protecting Employment Advice From UK Legal Aid Cuts

I was recently asked which one area of civil legal aid I would protect from the upcoming spending cuts in the UK. It is difficult to single out one area of law, but I think I would protect employment advice in the civil legal aid budget for three reasons:

The rise in unemployment 

In the last three years there has been a substantial rise in unemployment and The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development predicts that in 2011 over 200,000 people in the UK will lose their jobs. This increases the probability that the number of people requiring advice regarding . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The R Word

Racism is like alcoholism — you can’t deal with it until you admit that you have a problem with it. Somehow the same people who might agree that Canada is filled with systemic discrimination, in virtually every institution or sector imaginable, also seem to believe that no one is a racist. (Well, maybe those boot-wearing, skinhead white supremacists, but no one else.)

No one in government, education, law, health-care, business, or social services even wants to hear the words “racism” or “racist” – they are just too harsh. How then can we deal with the harsh and deeply entrenched reality . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Algonquin Park and the Crown Forest (Un)Sustainability Act

In 1994, Ontario adopted the grandly named Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA). A long, bruising environmental assessment (the Timber Management EA) had shown that we were ravaging Crown forests with a short term focus on extracting the most timber now, damaging the future of the forests and everything that lived there. It will be better now, the government said. The CFSA begins with impressive (if wordy) promises:

    1. The purposes of this Act are to provide for the sustainability of Crown forests and, in accordance with that objective, to manage Crown forests to meet social, economic and environmental needs of

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Aid Link: Supporting the UK Legal Aid Sector Through Innovation and Co-Operation

In my last post on young people’s legal capability, I explored how NGOs such as PLEnet and IARS are piloting innovative Public Legal Education (“PLE”) programmes to enable individuals to take control of their own legal problems. One of the main arguments that I made for PLE is the long term pecuniary advantage to be gained from empowering (young) people to resolve their own legal problems before they reach the stage at which the state might need to step in and provide legal aid funded support. I also made the point that PLE is not a panacea that completely . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Ringmaster of the Media Circus

While being a criminal lawyer is unlikely to make you the most affluent guest at a dinner party, it does often mean that you’ll have the most interesting work stories to tell. However, those very same fascinating tales that so enrapture your listening audience often make you the target of the unflinching gaze of the news media. Being able to competently respond to media attention on your cases is an essential skill for lawyers in any field where the bright light of journalism might shine.

Traditionally, there have been two schools of thought on lawyer/media relations.

The strong silent type . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Now We All (Sort Of) Support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Because international law supported European assertions of sovereignty over Indigenous territories beginning in the 15th century it’s appropriate for international law to deal with the issue of Indigenous rights now. The current situation of Indigenous peoples was created by international law. European nations created an international law that allowed European powers to divide up and colonize the rest of the world and profit from it. Europe exported enough of its population to at least some of the colonies in the Americas and the Pacific that when they were decolonized, Europeans or their descendants continued to govern on the basis . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The BP Commission and the Impossibility of Managing

Morally, legally, financially, environmentally: can we really create huge unprecedented risks in pursuit of our own comfort, and manage them successfully? I am coming to agree with Thomas Homer-Dixon that our destructive capacity has far outstripped our ability to manage or even understand it:

As our world has become more complex, we have, in fact, moved from a world of risk to a world of uncertainty. In a world of risk, we have data at hand that allow us to estimate the probabilities that any given system we are working with will evolve along certain pathways, and we can also

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Crime & Punishment in 2011

January was all about lists. Every blog, publication, and column uses this season to either reflect on the year that was or look ahead to the year that will be – and I want in on the prognosticating party. Thus I give to you, fair SLAW reader, my picks and predictions for the top five trends to watch in Canadian criminal justice in 2011. To build the anticipation, I have listed my picks in reverse order. No cheating by scrolling straight to the bottom of the page.

5. Increased emphasis on case management.

For a number of years, governments have . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canadian Forum on Civil Justice Moving to York University

York University is the new home of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice. The Forum is moving to York from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law and will partner with the York Centre for Public Policy & Law (YCPPL) and Osgoode Hall Law School on various socio-legal research initiatives.

“The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice is considered a leader in interdisciplinary research on civil justice,” says Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies Professor Lesley Jacobs, who teaches law & society and political science and is the director of the YCPPL. “It is a non-profit, independent, national organization established . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Climate Change Fix Threatens Indigenous Peoples

And by Nkasi Adams

[Here at the University of Saskatchewan I have the pleasure of supervising graduate students working in the areas of Canadian Aboriginal law and international Indigenous rights. Last year Nkasi Adams, the first Indigenous woman to graduate from law school in Guyana, joined us at the University of Saskatchewan to pursue an LL.M. focussing on the tensions between Indigenous peoples’ rights and international measures to deal with climate change. I’m happy to have her provide most of the ideas and information for this month’s column. It’s something we don’t know enough about here in the north. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legally Incapable: Is Now the Crucial Time for Investment in Public Legal Education for Young People?

It would not be a gross generalisation to say that many in the legal profession in the UK would wince at the idea of young people being taught to use the law as a tool to manage their affairs and claim their rights. Common reactions may well focus on the old adage that “a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing”, or the absurdity of young people needing to know anything about the law. But, in these gloomy economic times when young people’s (particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds) debts spiral, their advice and support services downsized or removed, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Public Commission on Legal Aid in B.C. Hears Rural Perspectives

Over the past few months I have had the privilege to be involved in an important project in British Columbia known as the Public Commission on Legal Aid (“Public Commission”).

Although the scope of the Public Commission is province wide and therefore includes cities and communities of all sizes, I have been personally interested to hear the unique challenges faced by those in rural communities in regards to legal aid. Commissioner Leonard Doust, Q.C. will be releasing an official report of his findings sometime in 2011; however, I wanted to take the opportunity now to share some background on the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues