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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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: http://www.slaw.ca/2011/02/07/crime-punishment-in-2011/). 

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

A Pay or Play Proposition for Access to Justice

When people lament the deteriorating state of access to justice in Canada and the unwillingness of cash-strapped governments to address the issue in meaningful ways, their focus often shifts to the role of lawyers in ensuring the delivery of critical legal services. Many observers, including Canada’s Chief Justice and Governor-General, characterize the role as a professional responsibility tied to the collective privilege of an effective monopoly on legal work. Others point to the lack of any moral or practical imperative in the equation, and characterize the role as more of a professional expectation. Given that most but not all Canadian . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Une Stratégie De Médias Sociaux Qui Se Bâtit Pas à Pas . . . | Éducaloi’s Social Media Strategy: A Work in Progress

[ français / English ]

Bâtir une stratégie d’utilisation des médias sociaux n’est pas de tout repos si l’on n’a pas les moyens d’engager des experts pour nous aider. En partageant l’expérience d’Éducaloi, j’espère pouvoir être utile à d’autres personnes ou organismes qui sont en réflexion quant à l’utilisation des médias sociaux.

Il y a maintenant deux ans, Éducaloi a décidé de se lancer sur les médias sociaux. En une seule journée de juillet 2009, nous ouvrions une page Facebook, un compte Twitter et une chaîne YouTube.

N’ayant pas les ressources disponibles ni la possibilité de répondre aux questions juridiques . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Civil Justice and Privacy Complaint Processes

Access to justice issues in the Canadian civil justice system are often framed around affordability, geography, and the quality of service provision. Affordability is most often linked to the high costs of privately provided legal services and the underfunding of legal aid. Geography has recently been shown to be relevant in major studies in Alberta and Ontario, one by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, the other by the Ontario Civil Legal Needs Project. Both emphasized that lawyers and paralegals are overwhelming concentrated in large urban centres. The quality of public service provision has been an issue in the case . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The English Riots: The Autopsy Is Well Underway

In my last column  on 19 August 2011, I commented on the riots that took place in English cities. Soon after the riots, Prime Minister David Cameron, stated his conviction that the riots were the result of a broken society and gangs, which he quickly moved to declare war on. Since then, government, academics and the voluntary and community sectors have been performing an autopsy on the riots and this post outlines with regard to young people’s involvement, some preliminary findings; asks what we can learn from the past and overseas, and what investigations are currently underway.

Ministry of Justice . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Pollution, Hot Spots and Environmental Justice

[with Meredith James]

Is it acceptable for legal pollution levels to be higher in some neighbourhoods than in others? In the US, pollution is often concentrated in areas of colour, including the famous Cancer Alley. Changing this is called “environmental justice”, and is an important priority for US EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

(Ecojustice has framed the same issue as a Charter challenge in its work on behalf of two members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation. It argues that Ministry of the Environment ongoing approval of multiple sources of pollution surrounding their Sarnia reserve violates their rights to life, liberty and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Ferreting Out a Rat

As you can imagine, the personalities you may meet over the course of a career in criminal law can be – ahem – colourful. I have frequently marvelled at some of the outrageous things I have seen defendants and complainants say and do but often forgotten in the rich cast of characters that populate a criminal trial is the crown witness. Commonly relegated to side-show status, in many trials a crown witness deserves top billing on the docket marquee along with the accused and complainant. This is particularly so for that most intriguing of animals – the confidential informant (“C.I.”). . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What GI Joe Taught Me About Access to Justice

Back in the 80’s – well before the availability of such innovative distractions and time wasters as the internet, Netflix, DisneyXD or PVRs – the late afternoon viewing options for pre-teen couch-potatoes were pretty sparse. Worse still, most of what was available often tried to impart important life lessons to impressionable young minds. Anyone remember the ABC After School Specials?

Some of those lessons must have stuck, because I can no longer hear someone say “now I know” (or some such) without reflexively adding the GI Joe inspired response: “and knowing is half the battle!”

So it . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Pro Bono: Ubiquitous Saviour or Reluctant Crutch?

Anyone looking for a sign of the times for the state of access to justice in British Columbia will find at least 100 of them sprinkled throughout the province. In its efforts to provide maximum accessibility to some measure of free legal counsel for low- and modest-income British Columbians, Access Pro Bono (BC’s largest pro bono legal service provider) operates pro bono legal advice clinics in 100 different locations across BC— in communities stretching from the 59th parallel down to the American border, from the Rocky Mountains over to the Pacific shores. Pro bono clinics are now more common . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues