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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Putting a Price on Innocence

Having been a criminal defence lawyer for over fifteen years, there’s no better professional feeling than the teary-eyed embrace of a client after hearing a “not guilty” verdict. As wonderful as it is to bask in the glow of a job well done, feelings of elation tend to fade quickly followed closely by some variant of the question, “now who is going to pay for the hell I just went through?”

Clients who pose that question often have in mind a particular witness or complainant who was the driving force behind the prosecution. Inevitably, disappointment follows after the client is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Time to Close Canada’s Worrying, Growing National Security Review and Oversight Gap

Human rights violations are always most likely to occur when no one is watching over the police, soldiers and guards who have the power and potential to commit abuses. That is certainly even more the case when secrecy is prevalent; which obviously describes the world of national security investigations and operations. That is why human rights organizations, experts and bodies – national and international – have long stressed that effective review and oversight must be central to the imperative of ensuring that human rights protection is not sacrificed in any country’s rush to uphold national security.

We have had ample, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Anti-Wind Cases Lose Constitutional Challenge

According to the Energy & Policy Institute, Ontario is a world-wide hot-spot for litigation opposing wind energy. Opponents of wind power often have a heartfelt and deeply held belief that wind farms threaten their health and property values. But they have lost all Ontario legal cases based on concerns about human health, now including a constitutional challenge.

Wind farms have been actively expanding in Ontario since the Ontario Green Energy Act, 2009, took away municipal power to block wind farm development, and a Feed in Tariff for selling the resulting power provided a solid economic case. Such farms . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

For Justice Innovators, Asking the Right Questions Is Key

“Answers are closed rooms; and questions are open doors that invite us in.”
~ Nancy Willard

In my last couple of posts (here and here) I’ve been exploring some of the conditions needed for justice innovation. I’ve looked at why including users in the design of new justice solutions is important, and I’ve discussed why I believe we need to rethink some of our problem solving approaches. In my last post in this innovation series, I want to talk about the “art of questioning” and how asking the right questions can help us become more empathetic, creative and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

ABS D.O.A.? Idk

Is the debate over Alternative Business Structures in the legal profession dead on arrival before it truly begins? I don’t know.

Among the most active participants in the current debate, things are hardly over. But from my perspective, the volume and passion of the opponents of ABS is such that much of the potential discussion risks foreclosure. If ya ain’t fer us (the opponents), yer agin’ us!

The opponents raise many valid concerns that warrant further exploration, most significantly the risk to the public interest if a lawyer’s duty to the client and her ethical obligations could be comprised by . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Syrian Refugee Crisis: Where Is Canada?

Around one-half of all Syrians have been forced to flee their homes because of the unending, devastating civil war, mass human rights violations and acts of terrorism that have been their unrelenting reality for close to four years now.

The UN estimates that 7.6 million Syrians remain internally displaced within the country, unable or unwilling to escape into neighbouring countries. Another 3.8 million have fled the country as refugees, the overwhelming majority in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Turkey alone now shelters 1.6 million Syrian refugees. And the one million Syrians in Lebanon now make up approximately one-quarter of that country’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Creating the Conditions for Justice Innovation: How (NOT) to Solve Complex Problems

‘…now is not a good time for control freaks” – Eric Young

In my last post for Slaw I wrote about the importance of creating the conditions for justice innovation by building the skills needed to work in multidisciplinary teams and collaborate rather than “consult” with justice system users. In this post I want to focus on another important part of creating the conditions for justice innovation, in particular how we might support innovators by rethinking our problem solving approaches and the methods we use to evaluate justice innovation initiatives.

How we evaluate the success (or failure) of a project . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Liar, Liar Pants on Fire: Study Proves Children as Young as Two Capable of Lying

Kids lie.

Anyone who doesn’t accept this as a statement of fact either isn’t a parent, or is in for a terrible surprise one day from their cherubic little angel.

It isn’t every kid who is a pathological lying demon-spawn nor do those kids who do have a tendency to gild the lily do so on every occasion but the common mythology that children of a certain age aren’t either capable of, or pre-disposed to, fabrication is just that – a myth.

When a child prevaricates about canine homework consumption, the lie is easily brushed aside. No harm, no foul. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Stay of Environmental Order Pending Appeal? Not Likely.

Does the public interest in environmental protection allow the sacrifice of the innocent? The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, and the Environmental Review Tribunal, think it does.

Few people, however innocent, can afford to appeal environmental orders, if they must also comply with the order throughout the appeal, with no prospect of recovering the funds even if the order is found to be illegal. A recent decision of the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) shows how difficult it has become to obtain a stay pending appeal of environmental orders in Ontario, with no immediate prospect of improvement. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Unconscious Barrier to Equality

Before reading: (1) think of four colleagues (some male and some female), and (2) consider the first adjective that pops into your mind to describe each of those colleagues. Now continue reading.

….

I am a feminist. I know, I just heard a collective internal groan from the internet. But, like most feminists (and most people), I’m not a bra-burning, Thai fisherman pant-wearing, men-hating, razor-neglecting aggressor. Rather, I hold the simple belief that women and men should be treated equally. (And I am happy to report that I am part of a significant majority in Western society.) Unfortunately, I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Citizenship Act Reforms: Unjust and Insecure

In the wake of the attacks in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa in October, and against the backdrop of the sudden and very terrifying rise of the Islamic State in Syria and northern Iraq this year, there is renewed fear and anxiety about terrorism, at home and abroad.

The Islamic State (varyingly known as IS, ISIS and ISIL) has been responsible for unimaginable acts of cruel violence and widespread human rights abuse against women and girls, followers of other religious sects or faiths, ethnic minorities and western hostages. Amnesty International researchers catalogued the horrors in a number of grim reports in recent . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Drowning in Alphabet Soup

“You need to return on a Wednesday at 9:00am or a Friday at 2:00pm.”

“Excuse me?”

“Oh wait, sorry. You’re client’s last name begins with ‘G’. That’s a Tuesday matter.”

“But I’m back here this Monday…”

“Oops. Hang on. It’s a domestic. Thursdays at 10:00am. Definitely Thursday.”

***

The above is a pretty faithful recounting of nearly every day in set-date courts across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and, perhaps to a lesser extent, across Ontario. I don’t have a sufficient personal sample size to gauge whether the alphabet soup insanity that has infected my home province has spread its . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues