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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

The Komagata Maru Remembered

On May 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru sailed into Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet, carrying 376 passengers of Indian origin. However, the passengers on board the Japanese steamer were denied permission to enter Canada. Fears over Asian immigration at the time led the Canadian government to adopt a series of racist exclusionary policies against Chinese, Japanese and Indian migrants.

For two months, passengers of the Komagata Maru sought to defy the Continuous Journey Regulation, adopted solely to exclude them. While the passengers were not allowed to disembark the ship, supporters in Vancouver challenged the regulation on their behalf in court. Ultimately unsuccessful, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

I’m a Non-Engineer

It happened again yesterday in the CBA Futures Twitterchat – the term “non-lawyer” once again reared its ugly head. Granted, it was a Twitter chat with 140 character limits but even so, there must better ways to describe the vast majority of the population who are not licensed to practice law.

I’ve written here previously on my views of this term; since then, I’ve only become more deeply entrenched in my point of view, to the point where use of the term now grinds in my ears like fingernails on a chalkboard. (Incidentally, does anyone under 30 even know what . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law: Future of Practice

Small Claims

Slaw readers likely know that there are special courts in Canada that have the jurisdiction to decide many types of civil claims where the monetary value of the claim is considered small. In my jurisdiction, until July 30, 2014 the upper limit for a Provincial Court of Alberta civil claim is $25,000. The upper limit of $25,000 also applies in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and in the Yukon.

The Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories can hear civil disputes up to $35,000. Until August 1, 2014, the NWT has the highest . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Of Lotus Land and Outdated Bicycle Laws

Here out west you’ll find a “Beads and Granola” culture (thank you, Douglas Coupland), where our mild work ethic, sea-to-sky nature and hospitable year-round climate lures would-be lotus eaters from across the vast confederation. British Columbia’s fresh air and crisp scenery encourages outdoor activities of all kinds. Even our roadways are a balmy, unblemished asphalt invitation for physical enjoyment through bicycling.

So it’s somewhat surprising that despite a progressive vibe, BC’s cycling laws are among the least friendly in the country.

Even as BC’s capitol city boasts astonishing commuter stats—at 5.9% Victoria has basically three times more bike commuters . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions, Substantive Law: Legislation

What Access to Justice Can Look Like

In February 2011, Legal Help Centre (“LHC”) first opened its doors to the public. Since then, more than 5000 individuals have been served through the Centre’s drop-in clinics. The sole criteria to access LHC’s drop-in clinic services is household income <$50,000 per year, ensuring that those who are ineligible for Legal Aid but cannot afford private legal services have a place to go for information and support.

The LHC’s pro bono legal clinic model is unique in Canada in two key ways:

  • LHC was started by and continues to be supported by two universities – the University of Manitoba and
. . . [more]
Posted in: Education & Training: Law Schools, Justice Issues

Professor Joanne St. Lewis: Why I Stood Up to Racist Cyber Libel

The Case:

On June 5th, 2014, a jury ruled in the St. Lewis v. Rancourt defamation action. The decision before the Ontario Superior Court found that, the Defendant’s actions were malicious. They awarded $100,000 in general damages and $250,000.00 in aggravated damages. The Defendant has been ordered to take down his blog articles, cease defaming Professor St. Lewis and to assist in having the materials removed from Google and other search engines. The decision is likely to be appealed by the Defendant and awaits the imprimatur of the Ontario Court of Appeal and perhaps the Supreme Court of Canada. . . . [more]

Posted in: Case Comment, Justice Issues

Of Baked Beans and the Rule of Law

In episode 6 of season 5 of TV’s Mad Men, there’s a scene where the ad agency is trying to sell Heinz a vision for one of its more lacklustre products, oven-baked beans. Peggy, who’s running the pitch, moves through her mock-up cards and at a measured pace a story unfolds. No matter how unglamorous the legume, it’s the advertiser’s job to win her audience over through storytelling. In this case, she describes how the youth lean in towards one another around the campfire. With their backs to the lonely night, Heinz beans brings familiarity. The product is nothing less . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous

Implications of Ontario Election to Legal Sector

As a result of the provincial election this past week, the majority Ontario Liberal Party government will reintroduce the budget they had proposed which had triggered the election. There are a number of features in this budget which focus on the legal system.

The first is increases to legal aid, by increasing the threshold for income eligibility, an increase that has not occurred since the 1990s. This initiative has been commended by the Criminal Lawyers Association,

“We applaud the government’s recognition of the importance of Ontario’s legal aid system,” said Anthony Moustacalis, President of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association.

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law: Future of Practice

A Little Due Diligence, Please

In the last couple of weeks, two laws with contentious moral underpinnings have made headlines. The first is Ottawa’s proposed prostitution laws that criminalize the purchase of sexual services and much of the communication, including advertising, which surrounds it. The other is Quebec’s law legalizing physician-assisted dying, adopted following a free vote with support from all parties in the National Assembly. Both laws raise serious concerns as to their constitutionality and raise an important point about law-making in Canada today: Are our elected lawmakers doing their constitutional due diligence?

Bill-36 was the federal government’s response to last year’s Bedford decision, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

#Yesallwomen/#Notallmen: Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession

How do we understand bad things done to women by men? Through the few men who do them (#Notallmen)? Through misogyny in our culture as a whole? Through the experience of all women living with the risk that such bad things can happen (#Yesallwomen)? The ferocity of recent internet debate on this topic clouds the possibility that harm done by men to women should be understood as about all these things: the men who inflict it, the society in which it occurs and the lives of the women who live with the possibility of that threat.

In this column I . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics, Practice of Law

You Can Vote for the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Readers have until June 30 to vote online for the winner of the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The prize, which is sponsored by ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law, is intended to recognize a work of fiction that best exemplifies the role of lawyers in society. The three finalists this year are:

  • Ronald H. Balson for Once We Were Brothers
  • John Grisham for Sycamore Row
  • Elizabeth Strout for The Burgess Boys

The prize was first handed out in 2011. The winner that year was John Grisham for The Confession.

Michael Connelly  . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous

Justice Clément Gascon

In five days, Justice Clément Gascon of the Cour d’Appel will assume Justice Fish’s seat on the Supreme Court.

The announcement from the Prime Minister’s office is terse:

« Je suis ravi d’annoncer la nomination de M. le juge Clément Gascon à la Cour suprême du Canada. M. le juge Gascon, qui siège actuellement à la Cour d’appel du Québec, possède un important bagage d’expérience et de connaissances juridiques dont profitera grandement cette importante institution canadienne. Sa nomination survient au terme de vastes consultations menées auprès d’éminents membres du milieu juridique du Québec. » –

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions