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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Fisheries Act: Weaker or Tougher?

(and by Meredith James)

With Bill C-38, the omnibus Budget Implementation Act, Bill C-38, the Conservative government will bring sweeping changes to Canada’s environmental landscape. To make approvals easier for oil sands projects and related pipelines, the Fisheries Act will be particularly affected. Major changes will dramatically narrow what a reduced corps of fisheries officers will attempt to protect. However, while there will likely be even fewer prosecutions, penalties for those that convicted will soar.

According to the federal government, the purpose of these changes in is “to focus …on the protection of fish that support commercial, recreational . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Justice System Is Not About Other People

I met with my client after supper on a Friday in the vestibule of a church. It was near my place and, it being a pleasant spring evening, I walked there, pushing my then-infant daughter in her stroller. He was a regular at this particular church, and Fridays were reserved for family social events. His young children were also at the church – a rare and special occasion, authorized in this instance by the family court. The child welfare officer was due to return shortly so we chatted only briefly before he signed over his $2700 tax return and rejoined . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Aging Gracefully

Recently while sitting in a packed courtroom in Newmarket agonizingly waiting for my brief ‘speak-to’ matter to be called, I began to question one of our statutory traditions and the grace towards our elders that it mandates.

Don’t get me wrong. Since I was a child it has been ingrained upon me to honour and respect my seniors. I’ve crossed my share of streets hand-in-hand with little old ladies and vacated countless seats on sardine-stuffed subway cars but something about watching counsel be called in order of their year of call smacks of anachronism and inefficiency.

Although not applied in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What Part of “No” Don’t You Understand, O Gracious Crown?

In the thesis I’m in the midst of writing, about burdens of proof in litigation between First Nations and the Crown pursuant to s.35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982, I argue that the Crown invariably takes a position that denies any meaning to the guarantees of Aboriginal and treaty rights in that section, contrary to numerous Supreme Court decisions.

I’ve just come across a statutory example of the same sort of conduct in the Proceedings of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, from May 31, 2010, almost two years ago.

In 2088, Parliament amended the Canadian Human Rights Act ( . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Pro Bono Meets “Low Bono” at Big BC Law Firms

In the black and white world of organized pro bono legal services, something is either pro bono or it’s not. Legal services are provided for zero compensation, or they’re not considered pro bono. This absolutist perspective is crude and fully disconnected from the simple translation of pro bono from Latin as “for the good”, but necessary to give relevance and integrity to pro bono as a functional concept. If the concept is stretched to include contingency fees or unpaid bills or reduced rates, then it ceases to have reliable meaning for lawyers and their clients. So for pro bono . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Twitter, Facebook and the Rule of Law

To have a country governed by the rule of law and not the rule of man requires that the law be known. As few communication networks are as efficient for disseminating information as social media networks, it should not be that surprising that Twitter, Facebook and other networks can very effectively serve that objective.

Twitter and Facebook will not and should not supplant the role of government and the courts to make the law known, but even the law makers themselves can and are making increasing use of social media to augment their efforts.

#TellVicEverything

Before adopting too pious a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

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

One-Size-Fits-None

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