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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Too Easy Rests the Crown

I have been thinking lately that there is a certain similarity between how I observed the Crown operating in the lower courts in the 1970s and how I have observed the Crown working at the highest levels more recently. Let me explain and offer some brief biographical account.

I first started to do a certain kind of paralegal work – what would later be called “Native Courtwork” – making a connection between a Native person accused of an offense and a lawyer willing to represent the accused (and often doing much of the factual research) at Akwesasne, the Mohawk community . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues


A rural property owner faces gun charges after firing warning shots over the heads of a group of thieves making off with his ATV. A goofy misfit faces three years in jail after posing for a Facebook photo holding a loaded gun in his hand. A father gets arrested and strip-searched after his kindergarten daughter draws a blocky picture of him shooting “monsters and bad guys”.

These three men are all victims of one-size-fits-all justice.

Whether it’s a “zero tolerance” approach to gun crimes or domestic assault, mandatory minimum sentences being applied to virtually everything, or blanket policies that demand . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Focusing on Justice System Reforms in the Drummond Commission Report

by Lesley Jacobs*

In all the extensive commentary on the release of the Drummond Commission Report last month, virtually no attention has been paid to the implications for Ontario’s justice system. The Justice system accounts for about 5% of total public sector spending by the Government of Ontario, making it the fourth biggest sector after health, education, and social services. From the perspective of trying to rein in public spending, neglect of the justice system is especially surprising because, as the Report notes, in the past year it has seen the biggest sector increase in spending, almost 11.5%.

The central . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why Charities Should Participate in Public Consultation

With the launch of Conservative Senator Nicole Eaton’s inquiry into the “Involvement of Foreign Foundations in Canada’s Domestic Affairs”, increased scrutiny is being focused on the activities of Canada’s charitable environmental groups. In particular, is participating in public consultations, or encouraging others to do so, a political activity forbidden to charities?

The Conservatives have expressed concern about foreign foundations making donations to Canadian charities to influence Canadian law and policy, and whether this puts undue obstacles in the way of major Canadian energy projects. This was apparently triggered by frustration at the large number of registered interveners in the Enbridge . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

First Nations Leaders and Harper Ministers Meet: Prospects for a Policy of “No-Policy”

Tuesday January 24, 2012, First Nations chiefs from across Canada met with the Prime Minister and an array of his cabinet ministers. Was there an expectation of material results? The chief of Attawapiskat attended; her deputy chief, when interviewed by the C.B.C. asked rhetorically whether anything would be different “tomorrow” because of the meeting.

It may be better that the meeting happened than not having had the meeting. It lends credibility and legitimacy to the demands of First Nations leaders. But there are a series of fundamental obstacles that will prevent significant change until those obstacles are removed. This column . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Rape and Sexual Assault Myths: Examining Their Prevalence in the Criminal Justice System and Greater Society

by Ashley Major

Ashley Major is a Canadian student completing an internship at Independent Academic Research Studies in London, England. Upon the completion of this internship, she will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Human Justice from the University of Regina. She plans to attend law school in the future, specializing in human rights law. Her main focus is on addressing human rights violations against women, particularly sex trafficking.

In Canada, there have been discussions as to whether or not we live in a “rape culture”. Although difficult to define, this term refers to a society in which . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Visiteurs Internationaux Sur Un Site D’information Juridique: Des Visiteurs Non Désirés?! | International Visitors to a Legal Information Website: Unwelcome Guests?

[ français / English ]

Comme vous le savez peut-être, Éducaloi est un site d’information juridique grand public qui explique le droit en vigueur dans la province du Québec au Canada. Cette phrase peut sembler anodine, mais chacun de ces mots compte. Dans cette chronique, je vous expose un problème lié à cette première affirmation, auquel nous avons récemment fait face.

La partie « site d’information juridique grand public », vous comprenez. Nous informons le public sur leurs droits et leurs obligations, et ce, dans un langage simple et accessible. Là où ça se corse, c’est dans la seconde partie . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Multidisciplinary Approach to Meeting Family Justice Needs

In most provinces as well as nationally, rethinking access to justice for meeting the legal needs of Canadian families is a central policy agenda item. Law reform commissions as well as self-standing initiatives such as the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters have made this sort of rethinking a priority for moving forward. One of the most innovative new approaches is a multidisciplinary approach to meeting family justice needs. This approach stresses both the diversity of the legal needs of Canadian families and the fluidity of those needs. Sometimes, among professionals, there is an . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Missing Link?

For many members of the general public seeking to understand the law, Wikipedia is the first and perhaps only stop. Others may go further and eventually come across equally accessible but considerably more reliable sources – online or otherwise. In any event, there is often a gulf between where the general public goes to understand the law and where the understanding is available.

Based on observations of a little experiment in contextual-linking, small efforts can go a long way toward bridging that gulf.

Contextual-linking is different from promotional or advisory linking such as is found on the “links” page of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Environmental Assessment, Public Participation and Sustainability: Foreigners Keep Out?

[And by Meredith James]

According to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver,

Anyone looking at the record of approvals for certain major projects across Canada cannot help but come to the conclusion that many of these projects have been delayed too long. In many cases, these projects would create thousands upon thousands of jobs for Canadians…Unfortunately, there are environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block this … Their goal is to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth. No forestry. No mining. No oil. No gas. 

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Crime & Punishment in 2012

It’s that time of year again. Judges and lawyers have returned to court sporting freshly bronzed bodies, and Ontario’s RIDE program has tucked away the bulk of its breathalysers until the summer cottage season. A perfect time to transition from reflections of the past to contemplation of the future. And so I bring you my second annual Crime & Punishment Predictions. (If you’re wondering how plausible a prognosticator this Prutschi fellow is, you may peruse my previous perennial predictions here: 

5. A Return to the 11(b) Crisis

For nearly a decade appellate courts have been discreetly warning their . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Specific Claims: The Alice in Wonderland Dimension of the Canadian Judicial System, Part 2

In the Specific Claims Branch process, of course, the Crown is obliged to disclose nothing whereas the claimant has to disclose virtually its whole case.

Mr. Justice Harry Slade,
of the Supreme Court of British Columbia
and Chair of the Specific Claims Tribunal Canada
in testimony before the Commons Committee on Aboriginal Affairs
13 March 15, 2011 at 051:3-14

Readers with particularly good memories may recall that in a late September issue of SLAW I introduced the topic that I call “the Alice in Wonderland Dimension …” by outlining some of the challenges of pursuing claims of Aboriginal rights, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues