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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Leaks to Media May Decrease After Vice Media Decision

The two biggest political scandals in the news right now – the Mark Norman trial, and the Trudeau/SNC-Lavalin controversy – were exposed by a reliable source who secretly shared information with a journalist. Increasingly this is only viable way that scandals are brought to the public’s attention in this country.

More traditional methods of uncovering corruption – access to information laws, and whistleblower protections that are supposed to encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing – are increasingly irrelevant. As to the former, we know that much information is categorically off limits, delayed, destroyed, not recorded, or access . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics, Legal Information

“The Most Significant Access to Justice Gathering in a Decade”

David Steven, the head of the secretariat of the Task Force on Justice, wrapped up three days of meetings in the Peace Palace on the challenge of delivering on Sustainable Development Goal 16.3. He looked at a fulfilled and tired audience at the end of the 9th edition of the Innovating Justice Forum, the Justice Partnership Forum, and a ministerial meeting.

The gathering produced an important political document that can now be invoked and used to guide strategy making and implementation: the Hague Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

When the Badly-Behaved Party Is Opposing Counsel

We are hearing more and more often from SRLs about “sharp practice” when they face a lawyer on the other side of their case.

There are many common elements to these reports, which I find to be largely credible. SRLs believe that their unfamiliarity with the legal system, combined with the tendency of some judges to assume the worst of them – that their cases are without merit, or that they are “vexatious” and abusing the process when they make honest mistakes and misjudgments – is being exploited by counsel on the other side as a matter of strategy.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

We Should Start Making a Business Case for Legal Aid in Canada

In countries that were early adopters of legal aid governments became major funders of legal services. This remains the case in many countries today. Funding programs that facilitate access to legal services for low-income populations was established in these years as a responsibility of the government. In nations in which the state does not accept access to justice as a government responsibility or simply cannot afford to do so, organizations with global reach, among other groups and bodies, have often stepped in to support initiatives that promote access to legal help, information, empowerment and other forms of dispute resolution. Whether . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Testing Our Assumption: Challenging Fossil Fuel Companies Helps Solve Climate Change

A growing number of communities, and lawyers, around the world are focusing their attention on global fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are legally liable for their products’ contribution to climate change and at least partially responsible for resulting climate-related costs. Other legal investigations and cases emphasize that the companies misled the public and their shareholders about the global risks of fossil fuel use, and that these actions have slowed progress on climate policies around the world.

Broadly, communities are asking:

  • Do oil, gas and coal companies bear some legal responsibility for selling products that they have known for decades
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Justice Pas-À-Pas: Bringing Key Perspectives to Bear on the Common Legal Problems of Franco-Ontarians

Last week, several access to justice champions involved in delivering legal aid services in the province participated in a panel on TVO’s The Agenda. In this segment, panelists discussed how critical Ontario’s legal aid system is to access to justice, not only for those who are marginalized but also, fundamentally, to a fair and participatory justice system. Julie Mathews, Community Legal Education Ontario’s (CLEO) executive director and a featured panelist, highlighted the importance of ensuring that people – particularly those who are marginalized – are able to understand and exercise their legal rights. Good legal aid includes understandable, accessible, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why BC’s New Environmental Assessment Act Is Worth Celebrating

Last month, BC’s Bill 51, the Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) received Royal Assent. The new EA Act will replace BC’s 2002 environmental assessment law and will likely come into force in late 2019, after consultation on key regulations.

At a time when the proposed new federal Impact Assessment Act – a relatively modest proposal still making its way through the Senate – is more likely to be in the news, BC’s innovative new environmental assessment law has largely flown under the radar.

Here’s why it is worth celebrating.

Advancing Reconciliation and Sustainability

BC’s new EA Act requires the Environmental . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Self-Represented Litigants in the Courts: How They Are Shaping the Jurisprudence

What happens to a system of expert legal adjudication when in some courts, up to three in four litigants are advocating for themselves without the assistance of counsel?

The influx of self-represented litigants (SRLs) into the family, civil and appellate courts (family: 50% across the country, up to 80% in some urban courts; civil between 30-50%; appellate around 30%) is transforming the justice system. And not, as many would say, in a good way.

Judges struggle to find a balance between appropriate assistance and explanation (as the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Pintea v Johns now requires,) and not . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Problems Canadians Experience in Key Areas of Life May Be Greater Than We Think

Millions of Canadians live with serious debt, persistent housing problems and face ongoing issues with unemployment. These problems have profound effects on their quality of life. They signal lives of adversity that are impacted by the economic and social constraints that these problems impose.

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s (CFCJ’s) 2014 national survey of Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice[1] asked over 3,000 adults in Canada about their experiences with these markers of adversity. Separate from experiences of civil justice problems within the three-year reference period of the survey, participants were asked:

  • Looking back over the
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Self-Represented Parties and Sharp Practice by Counsel – Should We Be Thinking Differently?

War is the means by which nation states have sometimes resolved their differences. Litigation is the means by which people in our society sometimes resolve their differences. In both cases, there is value in prescribing the rules of engagement.

As wars between sovereign states have become less common and wars between sovereign states and insurgencies have become more the norm, the traditional rules of war seem to have become less relevant. This is presumably because rules that work to govern combat between traditional armies don’t effectively address asymmetric disputes where conventional militaries face off against “guerrillas”, “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

New Book: The Fundamentals of Statutory Interpretation

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my new book that will be published by LexisNexis on November 30. More information about this book can be found here.

There are times when judges interpret statutes in ways that defy common sense. A notorious example was raised during the Senate confirmation hearings of eventual U.S. Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch in which he was pressed by Democratic members to defend his dissent in Trans Am Trucking. In what is known as the “frozen trucker case”, he denied a trucker the benefit of protective legislation permitting an employee to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

Ontario’s Third Annual Access to Justice Week Begins on Monday, October 22

Improving access to justice is about pushing boundaries in our understanding of key issues at the forefront of the justice sector. It’s about engaging in discussions to move the dial forward, to break down barriers and develop meaningful solutions. This cannot happen in the justice sector alone. It takes stakeholders and experts from a diverse range of backgrounds, each with their own unique relationship to the law, to bring their perspectives and experience forward.

How does a senior investigative correspondent for the CBC understand mental health challenges in the justice system? How can we close the gap in representation in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues