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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Anti-Wind Litigation: Is There an End in Sight?

After nearly two years of vigorous anti-wind litigation in Ontario, anti-wind activists have failed to satisfy any court or tribunal that wind energy development in accordance with government standards will cause serious harm. Many wind projects have been approved, and wind-based electrical generation is growing fast. However, the same concerns keep being raised, and we know of no Ontario wind farm that has obtained its approval without the cost and delay of litigation.

Renewable energy approvals in Ontario

Ontario was the first Canadian jurisdiction to set up a special approvals regime for renewable energy, through the Green Energy Act. To . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Predictions: Crime & Punishment in 2013

Another year is in the history books as the creaking structure of the Canadian justice system stumbled along under the weight of crushing new legislation and in the face of chronic underfunding. What does 2013 portend? Read on for some predictions of trends to watch for in the New Year.

1. Prison Overcrowding

About a decade ago prison overcrowding was a major news headline in jurisdictions across the country as an under-funded system struggled to deal with a growing population and a steady increase in the number of incarcerated persons. A multi-faceted approach that included an increase in non-custodial sentences . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Chicken Little, Pandora[1] Et A. v. the Federal Court

There is a virus going around which incites selected journalists and commentators to lambaste the Courts for certain decisions, particularly constitutional decisions, and more particularly decisions about Aboriginal peoples. (For the moment I am refraining from saying “Aboriginal or treaty rights” for reasons that will become evident a short distance below.) It is always an advantage enjoyed by those who want to indulge in such lambasting not to have read the decision, or to have followed the proceedings, either in that Court or any other Court or any public inquiry or parliamentary committee that may be studying related issues. Indeed, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

McJustice – Who’s Lovin’ It?

This column is an unintended and rather abstract follow-up to my last column entitled “Self-Represented Litigants Are Not Things” on the need for reformers to better consider the unique “real life” perspectives of lay litigants when redesigning justice system rules and processes. (It also marks the first time that I have written a column using the first person singular— a monumental occasion for me in overcoming anal retentive tendencies and long-misplaced notions of “proper” writing style.)

My involvement in the upcoming Vilardell v. Dunham appeal and extended reflection on the difficult task of facilitating fair and efficient resolutions to messy . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Looking Back to the Future

This has been quite a rule of law year. One peak was in August 2012, when the United Nations General Assembly devoted its first-ever opening debate to the rule of law and adopted a Declaration on the Rule of Law at the National and International Levels. As Juan Botero, director of the World Justice Project poetically described it to me: “193 government leaders walked up to the podium and said rule of law is good. And that is good.”

It is. But it could have been better. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a report called Delivering Justice . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Pioneer of the Justiciable Problems Approach to Access to Justice in Canada Moving to the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice

Ab Currie, currently Chief Research Advisor and Principal Researcher: Legal Aid and Access to Justice, in the Federal Department of Justice, is leaving the Government of Canada to join the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) as the Senior Research Fellow. CFCJ is Canada’s leading non-governmental independent think tank devoted to research and policy development on access to civil justice and civil justice reform. Dr. Currie will also hold a visiting appointment at the Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, where CFCJ is currently housed. He will be fully engaged at the CFCJ by April 1, 2013.

Ab Currie, originally . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Lethal Buildings: Litigation to Protect Migratory Birds

Written with Meredith James

It’s a horror story – the beautiful glass-walled building you may work, shop or live in are killing millions of migratory birds. Many SLAW readers are likely familiar with the distressing thud of a bird breaking its neck or wing on those lovely glass panes, often at night when building lights are left on.

At least 1 million migratory birds die in Toronto alone each year due to collisions with buildings. The birds become confused by reflections and lights in urban areas and fly into windows at full speed. Often killed or badly injured, they fall . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Extorting Justice

Let me start by saying I don’t condone shoplifting. Seen as a mere nuisance by some, the ‘five-finger-discount’ is a petty crime that exacts a heavy toll year after year on retailers – be they big box chain stores or mom and pop corner varieties. The cost is initially born by the store-owner but ultimately passed along to lawful consumers by way of increased prices to account for the overhead costs of security and the loss of inventory.

Many shoplifters are doubtless serial offenders with a pathological disrespect for the lawful property rights of others. However, in my experience having . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Canadian A2J Technology Deficit?

With all the excitement of a cosplay buff just ahead of Comic-Con, I anxiously awaited the Law via the Internet conference held in early October at Cornell University in picturesque Ithaca, NY. The 3 day event included the annual get together of the Free Access to Law Movement, CanLII’s peer group from around the world, as well as 30+ papers, presentations and panel discussions from a highly varied cross-section of legal information innovators. Sporting attire appropriate to the occasion (I went with a look that screamed I’d-prefer-to-dress-like-I-have-tenure-but-I-just-came-from-a-grant-request-meeting) I took it all in with a mix of delight and dissatisfaction.

On . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Self-Represented Litigants Are Not Things

There was a minor kerfuffle a few months ago over a new course offering at UBC Law. LAW 481C.002 – Access to Justice and the Future of the Legal Profession drew its three listed faculty members from the Vancouver office of an old-guard national law firm with ample apparent concern for the future of the legal profession, but little discernible track record of proactivity, innovation or anxiety around the access to justice issue. Most notably, the course faculty included a former BC Attorney General who had orchestrated a 40 percent cut in legal aid funding a decade prior, and who . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Notes for a Pre-History of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Last week, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours digging through old Debates of the Senate so that I could pinpoint references I had made in my current thesis to material I read 30 or 40 years ago. One of the points for which my browsing these old debates brought to mind was that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has what I will call a “pre-history” that is very little known.

(I generally dislike the term “pre-history” because I’ve mainly encountered it in the context of Indigenous experience before the coming of the white man. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Time to Give Spanking the Boot?

Everyone in civil society instinctively knows you can’t hit your spouse. You can’t punch your waitress. You can’t kick your cab driver. We know these things without having to read section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada that governs assaults. And yet, if you never dusted off the old Criminal Code and turned to section 43 you might not assume that it’s OK for a parent, schoolteacher, or anyone “standing in the place of a parent” to use “force by way of correction” that is “reasonable under the circumstances.”

The so-called “spanking law” has been challenged and upheld as . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues