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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

A Historic Verdict

History was made on June 26, 2020, in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision in R. v. Theriault.

It was a very detailed and meticulous decision that was well over 300 paragraphs long. It cited nearly 50 cases, and carefully went through the evidence and the law. But that’s not what made it noteworthy.

For the first time in Canadian history, the verdict was read out loud and live-streamed via Zoom on YouTube, to a massive audience. Over 20,000 people were reported to watch the verdict, which consisted of a judge reading his decision into a screen for the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

“You… Are Your Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keepers”: Now Is the Time to Move From Words to Deeds

Reflections on the 19 June 2020 UN Human Rights Council resolution on systemic racism, police brutality, and unlawful suppression of peaceful protest.

“Black Lives Matter. Indigenous Lives Matter. The lives of people of colour matter.” – Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, 17 June 2020

The brutal torture and murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, in the United States (US) on 25 May 2020 has sparked global outrage about systemic racism and impunity for police violence against Black people, Indigenous Peoples and people of colour. Protestors have taken to the streets in thousands of places around . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Quarantine Diaries: Law Students Reflect on Their New Reality

[This post was a collaboration written by Julie Macfarlane, along with NSRLP research assistants Katie Pfaff, Negin Shahraki and Arathi Arit.]

How are students in law school coping with the impact of the lockdown on their studies, their lives, and their feelings of well-being and optimism?

I asked our NSRLP research assistants for their thoughts and reflections on what it was like to finish out last semester – and anticipate beginning next semester – in a virtual learning space. Below, three 1Ls share their hopes, their challenges, and their ongoing questions about what happens next.

Katie Pfaff

When the announcement . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Unintended Consequences of Innovation

The Legal Health Check-Up (LHC) is an innovation that has been successfully implemented by several community legal clinics in Southwestern Ontario. Reviewing the outcomes of the LHC over the past 5 years reveals how this innovation has had transformative impacts on service delivery in 3 community legal clinics in Ontario. The LHC was first piloted by Halton Community Legal Services (HCLS) between October 2014 and January 2015, after which it became a permanent component of the delivery approach. Three other clinics began experimenting with the LHC at about the same time. Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, the Legal Clinic of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

More Problems With Conflict of Interest Legislation Revealed in Recent Alberta Controversy

In prior posts, I have highlighted problems with conflict of interest (or ethics) legislation regulating politicians in Canada. In particular I have commented on how legal privilege (for example cabinet confidence in the SNC Lavalin controversy) thwarts investigations. I have also highlighted the loophole in ethics rules (and their interpretation by some commissioners) that exempt political gain as an interest that may conflict with a member or Minister’s duty to serve the public interest.

A recent controversy in Alberta politics has exposed more loopholes in ethics rules. Part of that controversy was that Alberta Health Minister Shandro, who is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

Having a Beer in the Driveway and the Rule of Law: Responding to COVID-19

The response to COVID-19 has many legal elements but it also raises ethical and philosophical issues. There is an age-old dispute in legal philosophy between “legal positivism” and “natural law”. In a nutshell (and with apologies to legal philosophers), positivism is the view that law is nothing more than the law on the books, i.e. the law that has been promulgated by duly authorized legislative authorities. In contrast, natural law espouses that law must contain some moral content, be it religious or some other higher principles (e.g. human rights). This was brought home to me by a sudden spat in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Recreating Canada

This pandemic is a stark reminder of how our economies and societies are interdependent, and how the well-being of humans, other living beings, and ecosystems, are deeply connected. Only a healthy planet can support healthy people. Once this situation passes, humanity will be called to reflect on its relationship with nature and redouble its commitment to safeguarding the natural world and rebuilding a healthy and equitable planet for all.

-Dr. Grethel Aguilar, Acting Director General, International Union for the Conservation of Nature

It is a time of intensity, of worry, of loss, of the sense that nothing may ever be . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Importance of Civil Justice Indicators

Law touches many aspects of daily life. We skim and (hastily) agree to user agreements in order to stream music and videos online, sign lease agreements for housing, hydro contracts for hot water and electricity, and employment contracts that outline terms and conditions for work. The everyday legal problems landscape is rife with disputes with employers and neighbors, arguments over money owed, contentious divorces, and many other civil justice problems. The recent economic and social pressures created by the COVID-19 crisis have certainly not improved things. Everyday legal problems carry legal ramifications and profound personal, financial and social consequences. Much . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What Does COVID-19 Tell Us About Our Response to the Access to Justice Crisis?

As I am writing this, everything else has been knocked out of the news and our consciousness by the emergence of COVID-19 as a pandemic.

As we struggle to cope with COVID-19 we are facing hard questions – sometimes choices – as members of our own communities, as Canadians, and as world citizens.

  • How well does our existing infrastructure – health care, labour rights, social services – mitigate some of the impact of the virus?
  • Did our civic governments take enough notice of the earlier warning signs of the pandemic and respond in time?
  • Are we doing enough to protect
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

It Kind of Works

You can’t really miss it: a huge square concrete wall full of graffiti. In the middle, a dignified sign in UN blue & white. Casa Justitia Cuidad Bolivar. This is not a chique neighbourhood. Small taxi’s, old trucks, and most people take the bus. There’s also the cable car to get to the higher parts of the barrio. The building is attached to the municipal offices. Local justice and administration, hand in hand. Around them, the small shops and café’s that form the livelihood of some and a critical service for others. This is down-town, everyday life.

Houses of Justice . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Building Momentum for Bail Reform – a Creative Design Challenge

A puzzling question: where on a Saturday morning might you find 35 creative professionals – designers, artists, writers, technologists, and more – donating their time and expertise to help generate support for bail reform in Ontario?

The answer: why, of course, you’ll find them squeezed into a conference room at the Law Society of Ontario!

On Saturday February 1st, a diverse group of creatives – armed with coffee, muffins, flipcharts, sticky notes, and sharpies – excitedly dove into a 6-hour design sprint to find new ways to create enthusiasm for bail reform.



The Law & Design CoLab’s fourth . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Harry LaForme on Failure to Appoint Indigenous Judges

In a recent Law Society continuing education program on Indigenous Law Issues 2019, former Justice Harry LaForme offered a critique on the failure to appoint indigenous persons to the bench. In so doing, he made pointed comments regarding J0dy Wilson Raybould, Beverly McLachlin and Kim Campbell, three key influencers in making such appointments. He described the performance of Wilson Raybould as “sad”, and the reported statements of McLachlin and Campbell as “patronizing” or worse.

(LaForme’s remarks may be reviewed in full on the unique service provided by the Law Society which provides web access to continuing education programs offered . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues