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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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]

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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]

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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

The Importance of Evidence-Based Practices in Civil Justice System Reform

In a previous column, we described the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s Inventory of Reforms, a freely accessible, online database that contains descriptions of civil justice system reform initiatives from across Canada. The importance of this information is not only in letting people within a jurisdiction know what is changing, but also letting all jurisdictions across the country see what is being tried elsewhere. The natural extension of this is the ability to identify the most effective reforms so that they can be highlighted and applied elsewhere, though this function is naturally the most challenging to put into . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Playing With Parole

Does tinkering with our long-standing parole system actually increase public safety?

In Oliver Stone’s recent sequel to the classic film Wall Street, we are treated to a scene of Gordon Gekko standing in line awaiting his release after years in jail. The camera is focussed tightly on Gekko’s soft but slightly wrinkled hands as he accepts the return of items in his property bag that were seized from him two decades ago when he began his incarceration. “One watch. One ring. One gold money clip with no money in it,” the desk officer intones. The camera then pulls out . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Cumulative Pollution a Charter Breach?

Ecojustice, formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund, has launched a lawsuit on behalf of Aamjiwnaaang First Nation members, Ron Plain and Ada Lockridge, alleging that the cumulative effects of government approved pollution in Sarnia’s Chemical Valley amounts to a violation of their human rights under sections 7 and 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The case is an application for judicial review, attempting to strike down Ministry of the Environment action that allowed Suncor to increase production (and presumably emissions) from its refinery in Chemical Valley. Suncor had been required to limit production at the facility . . . [more]

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Aboriginal Admissions to Law School

The Program of Legal Studies for Native People (PLSNP) was founded in 1973 to encourage Canadian law schools to admit Aboriginal law students to law school, and to encourage Aboriginal students to study law. As far as anyone could tell, at that time you could count the number of Aboriginal lawyers and Aboriginal law students in the country on your fingers. After nearly 40 years, has the need for the PLSNP disappeared?

I’d say there are at least two answers to that question. First, I’d say that it is impossible to know, because no one keeps track of the actual . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Law and (In)humanity

In an earlier column I noted that we use the idea of justice in two different ways. According to the first, to call something just is to praise it morally and to call it unjust is to condemn it. This, the general sense of justice, does not signal any particular grounds for praise or condemnation: ‘just’ is little more than a thumbs-up, ‘unjust’ a thumbs-down. But we also use ‘justice’ in a second, more specific, way, to pick out a particular virtue that arrangements might have or lack. This is what Justinian’s Digest has in mind when it tells us . . . [more]

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Why Should the Government Be Above the Law?

In Friends of the Earth – Les Ami(e)s de la Terre v. Canada (Governor in Council) 2009 FCA 297 [leave to appeal dismissed 2010 CanLII 14720 (S.C.C.)] , the Federal Court of Appeal let the Canadian government get away with open defiance of a statute of the Parliament of Canada,the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, 2007 (KPIA).

According to the federal government, its defiance is no business of the courts, because the obligations in the KPIA are “not justiciable”. The Federal Court of Appeal agreed, but with the thinnest of justifications.

This country signed and ratified an international convention on the . . . [more]

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The Cost of Justice – Weighing the Costs of Fair and Effective Resolution to Legal Problems

Equal access to a civil and family justice system that can uphold rights and fairly and effectively resolve disputes is a fundamental and far-reaching component of democratic societies. It influences our lives every day via contracts and credit situations, the ownership and distribution of property, family relationships and their breakdown, personal injury, benefit entitlements, human rights, and various corporate arrangements.

At the most basic level, the civil justice system exists to provide people with access to knowledge about their rights, and if necessary to a means of enforcing them (Civil Justice Advisory Group, 2005, p.20).

Although the civil . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues