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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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 in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

To Be, or Not to Be, Métis?*

The Supreme Court’s decision in Alberta (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development) v. Cunningham has left me scratching my head a bit. It overturned an Alberta Court of Appeal decision that seemed quite sensible to me. (One of the things that got me thinking about “double dipping” – since it was one of the respondents’ arguments.)

The case arose because the Cunninghams, long-time residents of an Alberta Métis settlement, were removed from the settlement membership list after they registered as Indians. The Cunninghams had sought to be registered under the amended Indian Act in order to get access to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Traduction Ou Adaptation | Translation or Adaptation

[ français / English ]

Le locuteur de plusieurs langues peut généralement comprendre la complexité du travail de traduction. Il sait qu’un bon traducteur ne va jamais traduire mot à mot une phrase d’une langue à l’autre. Il faut plutôt refaire la phrase selon la structure grammaticale de la langue de traduction, les sens différents d’un mot dans cette langue ou les expressions idiomatiques propres. Sans oublier que parfois, la phrase originale contient des référents culturels qui n’auraient pas de sens dans l’autre langue.

Lorsqu’on fait de la vulgarisation et de l’information juridique, c’est encore plus complexe. Souvent, afin de . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Aboriginal Land Claims: The Alice in Wonderland Dimension of the Canadian Judicial System

When I first began working with First Nations political organizations, a childhood friend who had become a rising star in the Ottawa public service told me, “Indian Affairs (DIAND) is the funny farm of the civil service.” Sadly, in the several decades since that conversation very little has changed. On the contrary the very qualities that won DIAND that award have, more recently, made Aboriginal land claims process, and particularly “specific claims” the Alice in Wonderland (AIW) of the Canadian Judicial System. It is this dubious quality, and particularly its significance for the judicial system that I want to share . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Self Incrimination When They Make You Talk

The police cannot force someone to talk and then use the answers against them; can environmental regulators do so?

The courts have always allowed them to. In 1969, the Ontario Court of Appeal convicted Strand Electric [1968 CarswellOnt 291, [1969] 1 O.R. 190, [1969] 2 C.C.C. 264] of failing to maintain a scaffold in good condition contrary to the Construction Safety Act. The only evidence against the company was an oral statement made by its supervisor to a government inspector, a statement that he was required to make under the Act. The Court ruled that since the Company had a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Rethinking the Civil Justice System Funding Paradigm: Cutting Costs by Improving Investment

In the various provincial election campaigns across the country, there is little attention being paid to the funding of the civil justice system. Among elected officials, the dominant paradigm is one that sees funding of the civil justice system as an obligatory expense for the government. The costs appear unlimited and ever increasing. The challenge within this paradigm is how to minimize this expensive item while still meeting their basic obligations. The results are evident in court delays, the ever increasing number of self-represented litigants, increasing restrictions on access to legal aid, and a myriad of unresolved civil disputes in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Ontario’s Ignition Interlock Program – Facts & Figures

Back in August 2010, Ontario joined the ranks of Provinces who took advantage of amendments to the Criminal Code permitting the creation of reduced suspension terms with ignition of Interlock programs for impaired drivers. When I last wrote about this topic many of the day-to-day details of the program were unclear. With the program having just celebrated its first anniversary, the time is ripe for a short retrospective on how far we’ve come.

First, the basics. The Criminal Code sets out a mandatory twelve month licence suspension for anyone convicted of impaired driving offences. Prior to the enactment of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

L’éducation Citoyenne, L’affaire De Tous ?!? / Citizenship Education: Everyone’s Business?

[ français / English ]

Trop de gens se désolent du manque de conscience citoyenne de certains de nos jeunes, du manque d’implication de nos concitoyens dans les affaires publiques, de la lassitude et de l’incompréhension généralisée face au fonctionnement de nos institutions. Il me semble que nous faisons face à un problème croissant de citoyens qui ne comprennent pas notre système et son fonctionnement.

Cependant, et trop souvent dans le travail que nous faisons chez Éducaloi, certains membres du public voient d’un mauvais œil que nous recevons des fonds des gouvernements dans notre travail… Comme si le fait que . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Illegitimacy of Illegitimacy:  Bastards, a Group Most Subject to Civil Disabilities

Canada – either the Government or the Parliament of the day – has issued public apologies for its treatment of various groups, primarily ethnic communities for the mistreatment they endured in the hands of previous Governments: Japanese Canadians during WWII; Italian and Ukrainian Canadians during WWI.

Certainly the most dramatic apology was the one offered to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada for the mistreatment of their children over many decades through the residential schools run by various churches under contract with the federal government. Some other time I would like to argue that Parliament needs also to apologize for the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues