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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

The Belt Challenge and the Need for a Think

This will be a bit of an odd column: I’m going to talk international relations. Yes – I know I am a lawyer and not a foreign policy wonk. But I am worried about Europe. No, I don’t mean Brexit, Greek debts, or German, French and Dutch elections. A much bigger challenge lies more to the South, below Italy’s boot. I call that challenge the Belt. It’s a bit of a crude word, because it gives the impression that it’s a single challenge. It’s not. Justice is a large part of it.

Picture yourself on the top of the Mont . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beyond the Binary

I work in the justice sector managing a collective impact initiative that facilitates collaboration with institutional, political and community stakeholders. Our goal is to develop meaningful, public-focused access to justice solutions for Ontario. The term “innovation” is one that I hear often, delivered with a sense of urgency to catch up, to be more like other sectors and to make better use of technology. This pressure – and the related jargon – can at times obscure what innovation is really about and inadvertently alienate. Of course, innovation is about change but it doesn’t have to entail a scorched earth approach . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Chevron’s Fair Share of Responsibility for Climate Change and Why It Matters

Wildfires. Drought. Flooding. Rising sea levels. Climate change is already reshaping and impacting BC communities in profound and frightening ways. As unchecked fossil fuel pollution continues to push global temperatures ever higher, we are frightened for our communities, for communities around the world, and for the world we leave our children. – Letter to BC local governments from community groups, 25 January 2017

On January 25, 2017, we, along with dozens of organizations from across British Columbia, sent a letter to each and every local government in the province – asking the Mayors and Councils to take action to demand . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What’s Happening in Canada’s Civil Courts?

According to Statistics Canada data from the annual Civil Court Survey[1] over the most recent five years for which data are available, between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of civil cases has fallen. The total number of cases initiated between 2010-11 and 2014-15 declined by 4.7% from 493,785 to 470,622. The total number of active cases declined by 1.5% from 921,328 to 907,206 and the number of active cases with a disposition within the fiscal year declined by 2.8%from 553,597 to 537.909.

The number of general civil cases has declined by 10.0% over the five-year period. Cases involving bankruptcy . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Technologizing Access to Justice

Last month, Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) and Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General hosted The Final Pitch of the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge. The Challenge sought to “foster the growth and success of startups that are developing products, technologies, processes, and solutions that have a direct positive impact on access to justice in Ontario.” The Challenge began last summer with 29 startups that were ultimately narrowed down to a top five that received a range of incubation supports from LIZ including advisors, workshops and mentorship opportunities.

I had the honour of being one of four judges . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Racing to Nirvana – Legal Research Edition

Will Amazon start delivering packages before you order them? They’re getting close.

Will your autonomous vehicle know your destination before you tell it? Probably, if you are sticking to a routine.

Will legal research databases give you what you need before even you know what that is? Don’t bet against it.

In Tim Knight’s recent Slaw post on the black box of artificial intelligence, he talked about the importance of understanding the “how” of the underlying algorithms as we become more reliant on both their results and their predictive capabilities. Unsaid but implied in Tim’s post was that, yes, these . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

How Ongoing Reviews of Federal Environmental Laws Could Change Environmental Decision-Making in Canada

In November 2015, the Prime Minister mandated several Cabinet Ministers to review four of Canada’s environmental laws and processes: the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act, the National Energy Board, and federal environmental assessment processes. The four reviews are ongoing now and will be completed in early 2017.

The West Coast Environmental Law Association has established an on-line hub where individuals and groups can access key information about the reviews, background resources and guidance about how to get involved. This includes our briefs and submissions on Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act reform, as well as recommendations about next generation . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to the Civil Justice System in Canada Is a Concern According to Data From the 2016 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index

According to the most recent World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, Canada ranks 12th overall out of 113 countries included in the survey. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands rank 1st to 5th, respectively. Canada’s overall index score of 0.81 is tied with the UK and Australia. The US ranks 18th overall. Ranking 12th out of 113 puts Canada near the top of the global ranking. Canada ranks 9th out of 24 European and North American countries and 12th out of 36 high income countries, above the median in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Protecting the Free Speech of Charities in Canada

Over the years there have been periodic calls for the modernization of Canadian laws regarding the involvement of charities in public debate and public policy development, activities labeled by the Canada Revenue Agency as “political activities.” While legally charities in Canada must devote all of their resources to “charitable activities carried on by the organization itself,” since 1986 section 149.1(6.2) of the Income Tax Act has clarified that a small amount of political activity will be deemed to be charitable (10% of total resources according to current CRA policy), provided that those political activities are “ancillary and incidental to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Alan Turing Law: Who’s Pardoning Whom?

The UK government recently announced plans to pass an “Alan Turing law” to pardon men convicted of historical offences related to homosexuality. The bill would pardon about 15,000 living citizens of the UK and posthumously pardon 40,000 (including Oscar Wilde). This follows the 2013 posthumous pardon of Alan Turing, the brilliant codebreaker who greatly contributed to the Allies’ victory in World War II and was rewarded with a conviction for gross indecency and chemical castration before dying by suicide.

Reactions to the proposed law are mixed. While a pardon is better than a permanent stain on one’s memory and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Technology and Access to Justice

Legal Technology is often reported as being intrinsically linked to access to justice. Apps, AI, and digital access suggest an Uber-like ability to receive legal services at the push of a button. A recent Globe and Mail article by University of Ottawa law professor Jena McGill, for example, bore the headline “Better access to justice in Canada? There’s an app for that”. However, while there are increasing numbers of apps and technologies being developed and integrated into the legal world, it is a mistake to assume that technological developments on their own will necessarily improve access to justice for those . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

We Have Pizza, but How Will We Get Grilled Cheese?


What place, you might reasonably ask, does this question have in a column on justice issues?

Bear with me. I’ll get there.

Slaw readers are more aware than the average legal professional about the roles of existing major legal information suppliers (let’s call them Dominos and Pizza Hut) and the efforts of upstarts to do law differently and offer tailored solutions to legal research needs. Though many believe (with some justification) that the pizza on offer from the “Big 2” is great, sometimes the pizza costs too much and sometimes what you need is a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues