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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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

Carl – a New Name in the Promotion of Access to Justice

Call me Carl.

For a week in August, I played the role of law student intern to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. My kids were thrilled because it meant they could call me Carl – just like the student intern to Major Monagram on the Disney XD cartoon Phineas and Ferb. While I was not blessed with a theme song like my namesake, I did get a great experience and possibly an early peek on New York state’s latest advance in the promotion of access to justice.

It was only weeks after my experience . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Who Should Meet the Legal Needs of Ordinary Canadians?

Last week, the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, chaired by Justice Tom Cromwell, released for public consultation two of four reports from its working groups. The work of the Action Committee is guided by a vision of Canadian society where:

  • Justice services are accessible, responsive and citizen focused;
  • Services are integrated across justice, health, social and education sector;
  • The justice system supports the health, economic and social well-being of all participants;
  • The public is active and engaged with, understands and has confidence in the justice system and has the knowledge and attitudes needed
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Hazardous Waste and Biased Samples

One of our current cases deals with a question that is critical to everyone in the waste business: can biased sampling make a waste “hazardous”?

Approvals typically require waste management companies to manage wastes based on “representative samples”. Thirty years of guidance documents, and several cases, have also held that waste must be characterized as hazardous, or not, based on “representative samples”. The US Environmental Protection Agency noted, since 1986, that inaccurate and imprecise sampling can cause a solid waste to be inappropriately judged hazardous.

The Ministry of the Environment, like the US EPA, defines “representative sample” as . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Perennial Access to Justice Policy Challenge: Are We Finally at a Crossroads?

At the Canadian Bar Association 2012 annual meeting in Vancouver, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin again made the case that access to justice is probably the most urgent policy challenge facing Canada’s justice system. The Chief Justice argued,

Being able to access justice is fundamental to the rule of law. If people decide they can’t get justice, they will have less respect for the law. They will tend not to support the rule of law. They won’t see the rule of law, which is so fundamental to our democratic society, as central and important.”

This message is one that she has . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Proof and Causation: When Courts and Scientists Disagree

[This column was written with the asstance of Meredith James.]

One of the challenges in environmental work is the inconsistent and erratic relationship between law and science. To be effective, environmental policy needs to be based on good science, which is why current government cuts to key environmental research are so harmful, in both the short and the long run. But even when good science exists, the law struggles to properly incorporate it, and sometimes science can’t (yet?) answer the questions the courts are interested in. What should happen then?

Criminal cases

The courts sometimes seem to have a poor . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Home on the RangeFindr

Legal research is often the bane of a criminal lawyers’ existence. Whenever I glance at the mountain of paperwork that forms the spine of a civil case I give a reassuring nod of my head secure in my early career decision to abandon corporate commercial litigation for the more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants lifestyle of a criminal barrister.

And yet, arriving in court without a meticulously researched legal position is less fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants and more akin to showing up before the bench without any trousers at all.

Sentencing law in particular raises a unique challenge for the busy criminal practitioner. While textbooks can provide . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Immovable Object, Meet Irresistible Force

For over 30 years, every Canadian law student has read these words:

Mr. Pettkus and Miss Becker came to Canada from central Europe, separately, as immigrants, in 1954. He had $17 upon arrival. They met in Montreal in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Pettkus moved in with Miss Becker, on her invitation. She was thirty years old and he was twenty-five. He was earning $75 per week; she was earning $25 to $28 per week, later increased to $67 per week.

To protect their privacy interests, is it too late to re-style the case P (L) v. B (R)?

I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Sentries of Injustice: Fees and Costs

Few people welcome the experience of arguing in court over intensely personal issues. Fewer people would pay a single nickel for the experience. With the very odd exception, ordinary people appear in court because they have no real choice in the matter. A mother fights for the custody of her infant son out of concern for his safety. A factory worker seeks wrongful dismissal damages to pay his mounting bills. A disabled man resists eviction from his subsidized apartment to avoid homelessness. And yet in spite of these common scenarios and the human need to correct actual or perceived injustice, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Pour Des Raisons Technologiques… Et Juridiques! / a Website Overhaul… for All the Right Reasons

[ français / English ]

Pour toutes sortes de raisons, il est temps d’une grande refonte de la présence Web d’Éducaloi. En effet, nous travaillons depuis plusieurs mois à refondre le site Web d’Éducaloi tout en travaillant également à refaire l’image de marque de notre organisme qui existe depuis l’an 2000. La mise à jour de notre image de marque vise à s’assurer que le grand public et le milieu juridique comprennent mieux qui nous sommes et ce que nous faisons. Aussi, elle vise à augmenter la notoriété d’Éducaloi dans la population québécoise. Ces deux grands chantiers se font en . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

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