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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

BC’s New Civil Resolution Tribunal

BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, passed in May 2012 (not yet in force) sets the stage for an ambitious new tribunal that embraces modern notions of technology and access to justice.

The Civil Resolution Tribunal, expected to launch in the Autumn of 2014, will be North America’s first online tribunal. It will provide an alternative to court for people seeking to resolve small claims and strata property (condominium) disputes in BC. Users will have access to a full array of online tools to help manage and resolve their disputes fairly, quickly and cost effectively.

Online dispute resolution (ODR) processes . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Courts, the Politicians, and the Environment

A lot of government decision-making makes people who care about the environment want to tear out their hair. Sometimes they go further and sue. Does it help?

Suing the government can certainly draw attention to a decision. Sometimes, the subsequent negotiations can lead to a better result. Very occasionally, Canadian courts actually do force a government to to do a better job on an environmental matter. For example, they have required the federal government to actually come up with a plan for protecting an endangered species, as the Species at Risk Act specifically requires them to do. And in Oldman . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

When Is a Crime Not a Crime?

Two tragic deaths, months and thousands of kilometers apart, recently collided in my consciousness as I pondered the topic of my latest contribution to this SLAW Justice Column.

In late March of 2013 a jury found Richard Kachkar not criminally responsible (“NCR”) in the tragic high-profile death of Sgt. Ryan Russel. Kachkar had been charged with murder after an early morning barefoot rampage in a stolen snowplow. By the time the evidence at this trial was done, both the defence and crown psychiatric experts had reached the conclusion that Kachkar was suffering from a serious and debilitating mental illness. The . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Did the National Apologies to Aboriginal People Grant Absolution to the Government?

On June 11, 2008, the House of Commons met in the Committee of the Whole to allow the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, the Leader of the Opposition, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party, and Gilles Duceppe, leader of the Bloc Québecois to each offer apologies for the harm done to First Nations and other Aboriginal students through their residential school experiences.[1]

Two new issues, related but readily distinguishable, have arisen in the past few months, about the residential school experience, neither of which were public knowledge at the time of the apology and certainly . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Sold Out: Trade Trumps Human Rights in Canada’s Relationship With Colombia

By any measure one of the most entrenched and distressing human rights tragedies in the Americas has been the decades of conflict and abuse in Colombia. The statistics are staggering. Highest number of internally displaced people in the world. Most dangerous country on the planet to be a trade unionist. Amidst an enduring crisis that has impacted virtually every part of Colombian society, the plight of the country’s Indigenous peoples is particularly harrowing. Their fate has become so alarming in fact that UN experts and the country’s own Constitutional Court are starting to talk about extermination and possible genocide.

By . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Your Uninsurable Home? What Is Climate Change’s Wild Weather Doing to Insurance?

Across Canada, this year has brought severe storms, floods, wildfires and other catastrophic weather. As people in Calgary, Toronto and other hard hit areas try to rebuild their lives, most of them expect that someone should help them pay for the damage. Oil-rich Alberta has promised $1 billion to support the first phase of recovery and reconstruction. (The actual cost is likely to be much more.) But most people, in most places, need to rely on insurance when disaster strikes. What will happen when they cannot get it?

For the last decade, property insurers have been leading business voices about . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Laws With Blogs

Blogging these days is as natural as breathing. Everyone has a blog. My firm has a blog. You’re reading this column on a blog. Heck, if the television shows my children watch are to be believed, even dogs have blogs. So, it takes something fairly special to attract the cynical interest of an over-blogged lawyer such as myself.

Enter Legal Aid Ontario’s (LAO) new blog – the first ever by a Canadian Legal Aid plan.

The blog bills itself as “stakeholder communication meets social networking” and is seeking to walk a fine line, catching the essence of a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Yes, but Will It Blend? Feedback on the CanLII Beta

Blendtec makes amazing blenders, a fact well understood by millions of YouTube visitors that have seen the blenders make soup or dust out of iPads, glow sticks, bic lighters and many other objects one would not normally place in a blender. No matter your needs or level of sophistication, you can be sure the Blendtec product will deliver on its core promise.

So what is the “will it blend” question for a free, online legal research tool like CanLII? And is there a single answer to the question or are there many?

Common need, diverse practices

Regardless of the level . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Delivering Access to Justice in Aboriginal Communities

At the end of June the Attorney General of Ontario announced that Alvin Fiddler, deputy grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation would co-chair a new panel intended to help rectify the severe underrepresentation of First Nations peoples in Ontario’s justice and jury. The panel will oversee the implementation of seventeen recommendations made by former Chief Justice Frank Iacobucci in his report “First Nations Representation on Ontario Juries”. The report, which was released to the public last February, was initially intended to examine the narrow issue of First Nations peoples and jury representation. However, with Iacobucci drawing the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

As Goes Access to Law School, So Goes Access to Justice – Part II

[This is the second part of my two-part column pondering the relationship between access to law schools and access to justice in Canada. Part I was posted on May 15, 2013 and can be read here.]

As mentioned in Part I of this column, Canadian law schools have made significant strides in increasing their ethnic, cultural, and gender diversity profiles over the past decade. Though much remains to be done to mirror the diversity profile of Canadian society, law schools have been eager to report on their progress. They have been less eager, however, to report on the subject . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Is Discrimination on the Basis of Citizenship Legitimate?

Recently, a private member’s bill was introduced to “remove citizenship” from terrorists, while the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association added further restrictions to the ability of non Canadians to play varsity sports. At the same time, the City of Toronto voted to extend the right to vote to permanent residents, as opposed to restricting it to “citizens”. Are we witnessing the articulation of different conceptions of citizenship? If so, which one is appropriate, legitimate or even moral?

The private member’s bill is grounded in the belief that citizenship is a privilege that can be withdrawn by a State, unhappy with the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada and the Prevention of Torture: Time to End the Foot-Dragging

In 2002 the United Nations adopted an important new human rights treaty focused on preventing torture. A laudable goal to say the least. And one which one would expect Canada would have supported quickly and enthusiastically by ratifying as soon as possible. 67 countries have signed up – about 1/3 of the members of the United Nations – including many of Canada’s closest allies. But more than a decade later, Canada is not yet on that list.

The treaty came in the form of an Optional Protocol to the UN’s existing Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues