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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

Save the Bails

Polar bears are adorable. I have nothing against Beluga whales. But if we save just one thing this year, I hope it’s Ontario’s Bail Program.

To properly grasp the value and importance of the Bail Program it is first necessary to internalize a quick primer on Ontario’s bail situation. Despite a Criminal Code that endorses pre-trial detention only where absolutely necessary for public safety, decades of ‘bail creep’ have made it more or less standard for police officers and crown attorneys to insist on ‘show cause’ hearings in all but the most trifling of cases. Practically speaking this means that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Our Flag and Our Identity

Today is National Flag Day, and the 50th anniversary of the official adoption of the current Canadian flag.

National Flag Day was first instituted in 1996 by Jean Chrétien. On Flag Day in 2007, Peggy Nash attempted unsuccessfully to make it a federal statutory holiday.

Although dealing with the flag itself, and not the celebration of the flag, Parliament passed the National Flag of Canada Act in 2012. The initial version of the Bill included criminal penalties for mistreating the flag, until opposition in the House resulted in amendments stating that Canadians should simply being “encouraged” to display it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous

Family Justice 3.0: a Settlement-Oriented, Lawyer-Facilitated Hybrid Approach

The family justice system as we know it is in crisis. I think we’ve reached consensus on this point, as the truckload of recent reports from the national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, the Canadian Bar Association and a handful of law societies seems to suggest. Whatever disputes are left likely centre on the extent to which the system needs to be rebuilt, how it ought to be rebuilt and how the rebuild will be funded.

In recent commentaries I have expressed the view that how we do family justice needs to be . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Implementation of Recommendations From Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry Report

Just shy of a year after the issuance of the final report and recommendations from the Phoenix Sinclair Inquiry in Manitoba, the province has issued its first status update on the implementation of those recommendations.

The report, Options for Action: An Implementation Report for The Legacy of Phoenix Sinclair: Achieving the Best for All Our Children and Executive Summary were delivered at a press conference yesterday. Following a process of consultation with stakeholders, the implementation team led by consulting firm AMR Planning and Consulting sets out a series of options for action to implement the 31 recommendations that were not . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

New Blog for Legal Education Micro-Charity CLEW

You may remember a guest column posted a few months ago here on Slaw written by John Claydon, titled Canadian lawyers making a difference in Cambodia.

In it, John describes how a five-lawyer Toronto firm, Bennett Gastle, established Cambodian Legal Education for Women (CLEW), a charity that gives full four-year scholarships to young women from rural areas who would otherwise be unable to obtain a university education.

These young women graduate with LLBs from Cambodia’s leading law school, and though most of them will not be able to join the exclusive and expensive Bar, the grads (several dozen . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legislative Intelligibility and the Rule of Law

At some point in our education, we learn that we live in a nomocracy, a society governed by the rule of law. Although the phrase trips lightly off the tongue of judges and deans at call ceremonies, it is in fact a complex and enormously important concept that underpins our system of government and separates Canada from not only North Korea but from more junior democracies, like Thailand and Egypt, prone to coups d’état.

Apart from meaty ideas about fundamental justice, arbitrary decision-making and the independence and interrelationship of the branches of government, the rule of law also describes certain . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Website Relaunch for Provincial Court of BC

The Provincial Court of BC recently announced the relaunch of its website, which had been undergoing incremental change for the past year. In keeping with the scope and reach of the Court and access to justice principles, the new features appear designed to offer accessible public and professional understanding of the Court, its operations, and its initiatives. The redesign features information about alternative dispute resolution, links for self-represented litigants, and updates about Court initiatives, among other things.

It should go without saying that the new site also continues to offer current case law, and I want to highlight the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

The Root of All Growth

Do you ever get that feeling that the universe is trying to communicate some idea or message to you? I do. There are times I find myself besieged with a persistent theme through a range of sources, from my personal reading to blog posts to conversations I’m part of. While I don’t always notice until much later, every so often I snap to attention right away.

This week has been like that. Lately, I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the process of experimenting as a means to uncover a solution to a problem. This is, of course, the . . . [more]

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

We Versus Me: Normative Legislation, Individual Exceptionalism and Access to Family Justice

In many of Canada’s family law courts, especially our provincial courts, the majority of litigants now appear without counsel. This state of affairs should have been a foreseeable consequence of the diminution of legal aid representation in family law cases coupled with the relative absence of market forces impelling private family law lawyers to reduce their rates or embrace new service models, but it is nonetheless where we find ourselves today.

It is easy enough to point to the observable consequences of this superabundance of litigants without counsel – chief among them the increased number of ill-conceived chambers applications, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Some Ground Rules for a Constructive ABS Discussion

As is apparent from the OTLA, and the many comments on my previous post, the upcoming Bencher elections in Ontario finally have an issue that has grabbed the attention of lawyers across the province: Alternative Business Structures.

While this issue may drive better voter participation in the April election, it has also greatly divided the profession in this province.

One can already see the huge generational rift among lawyers; those at the twilight of their careers fighting to retain a 19th Century business model, while younger lawyers want to move the profession into the 21st Century so as . . . [more]

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

Is It Time to Legalize Pot? (And if So, How Do We Do It Right?)

National magazine will host a debate on the first question at the Mid-Winter meeting of CBA Council in February. A panel of experts will outline the pros and cons to set the stage for a lively discussion about an issue that is far more complex than it seems. Is criminalizing marijuana only serving to clog the court system? What about the health risks of “normalizing” marijuana use? And would legalization really push the drug trade to the fringes by handing regulation of sales, quality and advertising to the government?

But beyond these core questions – and aside from the fact . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What If…

In 1998, after five years in private practice, I took a job in public legal education and was soon thereafter introduced to the problems many people have in accessing justice, whether in terms of working effectively with their lawyers, finding a lawyer, paying for a lawyer, or trying to address legal issues without the assistance of a lawyer.

Since that time, I’ve continued to work and volunteer in the non-profit legal sector, frequently with a focus on providing increased access to justice, at least for the lucky few. Next month I’m moving into an interim position directing a pro bono . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues