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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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

Behind the Blue Box: Culture Clash and the Cost of Recycling

Across Canada, municipalities run Blue Box programs to collect recyclable materials and to divert them from landfill. The Blue Box is a popular and important environmental initiative, but Blue Box systems have become surprisingly expensive. Early hopes were that Blue Box programs could be funded by selling the recaptured material, but that turns out to cover perhaps a third of the cost. Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) reported verified net Blue Box costs of about $237 million for 2012 in Ontario alone, after all revenue but before prior year adjustments.

So, who should pay that $237 million? Municipalities and their taxpayers? . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Redefining Social Media Success Through a Closer Look at the Stats

Organizations pursuing civil justice objectives need a website. On this point, there can be no doubt. Often operating with constrained budgets, these organizations need an efficient and appealing means to inform stakeholders and attract supporters and, in this regard, nothing can be more cost effective than a website. It’s now an article of faith that promotion of that website and engagement of those stakeholders also requires an active social media presence. But do the facts support that view?

Based on analysis[i] of social media engagement with CanLII (a free-to-access legal information site containing nearly 1.3 million court and tribunal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What Actually Happens to Cases Filed in the Superior Courts?

While we don’t have much by way of empirical data about what actually happens to claims filed in the superior courts, we do know that only about 2% to 5% of these cases are ultimately resolved by way of trial.[1] In light of this fact, the conclusion is sometimes drawn that at least 95% of filed cases settle – that is, resolve without trial. Research completed over the last few years however, should serve to displace this assumption. Research into the nature and scale of unmet legal need and into the phenomena of self represented litigants, makes it clear . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Bogus Rhetoric About Bogus Refugees

It is time to take a stand against all the bogus rhetoric about bogus refugees.

Our current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, has unfortunately taken a shine to making frequent use of the pejorative, inflammatory and meaningless term. That was certainly the case last month when he decided to take Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews to task for her decision to step in and provide essential health care coverage for large numbers of refugee claimants who had been cut out of the federal government’s longstanding refugee health care program.

On January 22nd he chided Minister Matthews, complaining . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Call to Arms and More Ikea Monkeys

Short of a historic influx of legal aid funding to pave the way forward, any trans-Canada highway to equal justice must be cobbled together piece by piece, steppingstone by steppingstone. Progress is likely to be slow and painstaking, but should eventually come from a mix of incremental enhancements and bold reforms. In the spirit of resolute movement forward, I offer two ideas imported from the old world—one relatively challenging and the other relatively mundane—for balancing the scales of justice for Canadian civil and family litigants:

  1. embrace the civil law principle of equality of arms; and
  2. introduce legislation permitting pro bono
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

When Should the Polluter Pay for Pollution That Was Legal at the Time?

In a landmark lead paint liability case, the Superior Court of California has held three of five paint companies liable for public nuisance. The court ordered them to clean up lead paint in California residences painted before 1978, at a total cost of $1.15 billion. The use of lead in interior residential paint was permitted until after 1978, i.e. the manufacture and sale of lead paint was legal when these homes were painted. See People v. Atlantic Richfield Company, et al. Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, Case No. 1-00-CV-788657

Could this happen in Canada? It is possible. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Crime & Punishment in 2014

Trilogies seem to be all the rage these days. Did a book a fraction of the length of The Lord of The Rings trilogy really need to be bisected into a bloated three-part epic about a band of short-statured heroes on a quest to slay a dragon? Probably not but it will be at least another year before we see the end of the newly expanded Hobbit theatrical release. So what to do with this, the fourth in my annual Crime & Punishment retrospective? A prologue seems out of place…does anyone really want to hear my predictions for criminal justice . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Accessing Legal Information in Our Evolving Digital World

Public legal education and information (PLEI) has a long history in Canada, but recently has received greater emphasis as a key component in the reinvigorated debate over access to justice. Three aspects of this debate are especially important to explain the increased interest in PLEI. The first is that a major catalyst for this debate has been the increasing number of self-represented litigants (SLRs). It is obvious that if SLRs are going to engage the justice system, they need some degree of legal education and information. Second, a central theme in the current access to justice debate has been the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Netflix Sub-Genres and Self-Represented Litigants

From my holiday viewing habits, Netflix now seems fairly (and justifiably) certain that I will be intrigued by content categories such as “Crime Comedies”, “Absurd Satires”, “Witty British TV Shows” and “Critically-Acclaimed Movies from the 1980s”. A recent article in The Atlantic tells us that Netflix has nearly 77,000 micro-genres and still deeper micro-tagging and rating of the underlying content. This data, combined with monitoring of viewing and clicking activity allows Netflix to, in the words of Netflix’s VP of Product Todd Yellen, put “the right title in front of the right person at the right time.”

The Netflix magic . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues