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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Yes, but Will It Blend? Feedback on the CanLII Beta

Blendtec makes amazing blenders, a fact well understood by millions of YouTube visitors that have seen the blenders make soup or dust out of iPads, glow sticks, bic lighters and many other objects one would not normally place in a blender. No matter your needs or level of sophistication, you can be sure the Blendtec product will deliver on its core promise.

So what is the “will it blend” question for a free, online legal research tool like CanLII? And is there a single answer to the question or are there many?

Common need, diverse practices

Regardless of the level . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Delivering Access to Justice in Aboriginal Communities

At the end of June the Attorney General of Ontario announced that Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation would co-chair a new panel intended to help rectify the severe underrepresentation of First Nations peoples in Ontario’s justice and jury. The panel will oversee the implementation of seventeen recommendations made by former Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci in his report “First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries”. The report, which was released to the public last February, was initially intended to examine the narrow issue of First Nations peoples and jury representation. However, with Iacobucci drawing the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

As Goes Access to Law School, So Goes Access to Justice – Part II

[This is the second part of my two-part column pondering the relationship between access to law schools and access to justice in Canada. Part I was posted on May 15, 2013 and can be read here.]

As mentioned in Part I of this column, Canadian law schools have made significant strides in increasing their ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity profiles over the past decade. Though much remains to be done to mirror the diversity profile of Canadian society, law schools have been eager to report on their progress. They have been less eager, however, to report on the subject . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Is Discrimination on the Basis of Citizenship Legitimate?

Recently, a private member’s bill was introduced to “remove citizenship” from terrorists, while the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association added further restrictions to the ability of non Canadians to play varsity sports. At the same time, the City of Toronto voted to extend the right to vote to permanent residents, as opposed to restricting it to “citizens”. Are we witnessing the articulation of different conceptions of citizenship? If so, which one is appropriate, legitimate or even moral?

The private member’s bill is grounded in the belief that citizenship is a privilege that can be withdrawn by a State, unhappy with the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada and the Prevention of Torture: Time to End the Foot-Dragging

In 2002 the United Nations adopted an important new human rights treaty focused on preventing torture. A laudable goal to say the least. And one which one would expect Canada would have supported quickly and enthusiastically by ratifying as soon as possible. 67 countries have signed up – about 1/3 of the members of the United Nations – including many of Canada’s closest allies. But more than a decade later, Canada is not yet on that list.

The treaty came in the form of an Optional Protocol to the UN’s existing Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Who Pays When Polluters Can’t?

In theory, Canadians are pretty comfortable with the polluter pay principle, at least when it applies to other people. (We do not seem to feel the same way about carbon taxes.) In theory, the polluter-pay principle ensures that polluters, rather than the public or the immediate victims of pollution, bear the cost of repairing damage done to the natural environment.

As described by the Supreme Court of Canada in Imperial Oil Ltd. v. Quebec (Minister of the Environment):

In fact, that principle has become firmly entrenched in environmental law in Canada. It is found in almost all federal and

. . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Mandatory Dispute Resolution and the Question of Resources

In Wright v. Wright [2013] EWCA Civ 234, the English Court of Appeal suggested that it may be time to review the rule articulated nearly a decade ago in Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust [2004] EWCA Civ 576 to the effect that a court cannot order unwilling parties to participate in mediation.

The dispute in Wright involved two unrepresented businessmen who had a falling out after years of successful collaboration. The litigation had been hard-fought and protracted. The court observed that the case involved “a breakdown of trust and friendship” and observed that “mediation is the obvious . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Of Taj Mahals and Strip Malls

A professional friend of mine in the health-care field once confided to me his very wise approach to automotive shopping. “You want to be classy. Refined. Executive. I can’t show up in an old econo-box and still expect the patients to trust and respect me” he said. “On the other hand, there’s a balance. You don’t want to be so classy, refined or executive that your patients leave your office through the parking lot wondering why they’re paying you so damn much.” Kia and Porsche? Not so much. Stylish but sensible Acura? Just right.

It turns out that courthouses can . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beware of Obviosities: Can the Obvious Ever Be a Settled Question?

A long time ago – sometime back in the last millennium, as a I recall – Michael Enright, the C.B.C. host and motorcycle rider – during yet another debate on gun control, said of the bill then before Parliament, “I should think it would be an obviosity.” Besides any other criticism of this neologism, the case for (or against) gun control is anything but obvious. Any legislative proposal that divides the country almost evenly in half does not deserve to be called an “obviosity.” I have not heard this noun used since, and I remain, by and large a keen . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

As Goes Access to Law School, So Goes Access to Justice – Part I

[The memosphere strikes again! Between submission and publication of this column, Omar Ha-Redeye posted a very informed and insightful Slaw entry entitled, "Access to Justice Starts With Legal Tuition". Playing Bell to my Meucci (that reads rather strangely), Omar covers much of the same analytical territory as me—with the bonus of journalistic rigour. Still, I like to think that both posts deserve your attention.]

A lot happens in a year, and the Quebec student protests that dominated the news last spring are a distant memory now. The students went back to school, Quebec elected a new government that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Closing Canada’s International Human Rights Implementation Gap

Canada is far from perfect when it comes to its domestic human rights record. Obviously the scale and gravity of concerns do not compare with tragedies unfolding in countries like Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo, the threat to survival faced by so many of Colombia’s Indigenous nations or the relentless discrimination women endure in Afghanistan. But the concerns are nevertheless very real and longstanding, ranging from the alarmingly high and entrenched levels of violence experienced by Indigenous women to punitive new immigration detention laws; from the failure to tackle homelessness in the country to national security practices that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Immigration Reforms : “Good for Canada” or Bad for Democracy?

In January 2012, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that his government would reshape the immigration system to make it “good for Canada”. This begged the questions whether the immigration had been “bad for Canada” up to now and whether this reshaping was necessary. Nevertheless, the government did proceed to institute a series of reforms that have now become part of Canadian law. Since 2012, we have seen increased Ministerial powers to bar individuals from entering Canada for vague public policy consideration, increased Ministerial powers to declare arrivals “irregular” and imprison the arriving . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues