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Archive for ‘Justice Issues’

Collaborating to Fill the Gaps

If the current gaps in access to justice across Canada are to be filled, we will need to see a greater degree of collaboration between sectors and professions. As I wrote here, instead of legal services and supports provided in “justice silos,” such supports need to be integrated or provided in concert with other social services.

The National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters recognized the need for greater cross-sectoral collaboration. In their October 2013 report, Access to Civil and Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change (the “Roadmap”), they emphasized that:

“We can and must

. . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Reassessing Manitoba’s Environmental Assessment Process

Manitoba’s Law Reform Commission is currently seeking input into potential reforms to the environmental assessment process that takes place pursuant to the provisions of The Environment Act.  

A discussion paper, Manitoba’s Environmental Assessment and Licensing Regimewas issued late in January for comment. The paper sets out 18 key issues or propositions for consideration:

Issue 1: Should The Environment Act be amended to establish more direct links between the environmental assessment process and principles and guidelines of sustainability provided in The Sustainable Development Act? Are there particular developments for which sustainability principles are most relevant? How would this change

. . . [more]

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

Lawyers Need to Change Too

Two weeks ago, I suggested that Ontario’s courts will need to implement serious change if they intend to carry out the Supreme Court’s directive to facilitate access to justice through summary judgment.

Lawyers undoubtedly need to change too. Historically, there have been many amazing advocates like J.J. Robinette and G.A. Martin that all lawyers should strive to emulate. I wonder whether the next generation of amazing lawyers will be cut from the same cloth. It goes without saying that every effective lawyer obviously needs strong advocacy skills. But when “most Canadians cannot afford to sue when they are wronged . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why the Conservatives’ “Fair Elections Act” Could Be Unconstitutional

 In 2011, Borys Wrzesnewskyj, the former Liberal Member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre, lost his seat to Conservative candidate Ted Opitz by a mere 26 votes. Convinced that procedural irregularities on Election Day had robbed him of victory, Wreznewskyj challenged the result in court.[1]

The case reached the Supreme Court of Canada.[2] Wrzesnewskyj lost.

“The right of every citizen to vote, guaranteed by [Section Three] of the Charter, lies at the heart of Canadian democracy,” wrote Mr. Justice Marshall Rothstein and Mr. Justice Michael Moldaver, for a majority of the Court.[3] As a consequence, the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Legislation

Articling Fees and Access to Justice

Yesterday morning, thousands of third-year law students across Ontario each received invoices totalling $4,859 for the articling licensing process (an increase of 79% from last year’s fee of $2,712). I was one of the lucky ones; after having a brief panic attack, I was able to forward the invoices to the law firm at which I will be articling to have them paid off. But for many, the fees present yet another barrier to entry into an already restrictive profession.

The increased fees, of course, restrict fair access to the legal profession – many students are forced to take out . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training, Justice Issues

The Legacy of Phoenix Sinclair

Phoenix Victoria Hope Sinclair was born in Winnipeg on April 23, 2000. She was apprehended by child welfare authorities at birth, and spent her life in and out of the care of her parents. She died at Fisher River on June 11, 2005 but her death was not discovered until the winter of 2006. Her mother and her mother’s partner were charged and convicted of first-degree murder and are serving life sentences.

In March 2011, an inquiry was called under The Manitoba Evidence Act to look into:

  • the child welfare services provided or not provided to Phoenix and her
  • . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous, Substantive Law

Does a Generational Divide Hamper Change in Legal Services?

My class at University of Ottawa Law is now over. But the thoughts provoked in class hopefully are not. U of O has, probably more so than other Ontario law schools, a social justice/access to justice bent and I have been critical of the CBA’s recent Reaching Equal Justice Report mostly because it is unrealistic and provides little hope for change. So it was interesting for me to see two presentations by students that focussed on ideas that should have been part of that CBA Report.

One student presented ways in which gamification could be used in legal services. It . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training, Education & Training: CLE/PD, Education & Training: Law Schools, Justice Issues, Law Student Week, Legal Information, Miscellaneous, Practice of Law

Ontario’s Minimum Wage Debate and Advisory Panel’s Final Report

The Minimum Wage Advisory Panel’s final report was tabled with the Ontario government on Monday January 27, 2014. The report points out that the minimum wage is not solely a statistical or economic debate, it is also a benchmark, “a wage floor” that establishes a bare minimum for society. While the minimum wage cannot do it alone—child care, affordable housing, tax credits and tax exemptions are also essential—it is also a key component of any realistic anti-poverty strategy, no matter how blunt or inefficient it might be. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Miscellaneous, Substantive Law, Substantive Law: Legislation

She’ll #IdleNoMore

Earlier today, one of our law graduate students gave a delightful performance of a poem, Why I’ll #IdleNoMore. The poem earned Michelle first place in the annual diversity writing contest the University Library sponsors in conjunction with the Provost’s Diversity Research Forum.

Michelle’s performance was evocative and thought-provoking, as is the poem itself: She rapped about the goals of the Idle No More movement, and about activism as an ally of that movement.

As stimulating to me as her performance were the remarks with which Michelle prefaced it. She spoke of how, were it not for her time . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: Law Schools, Justice Issues

Let TWU Have Its Law School

When Trinity Western University (TWU), a Christian-focused post-secondary institution, announced plans to pursue accreditation for a new law school, a tide of opposition swelled from within the Canadian legal establishment and academy.

A near unanimous chorus of professors, Law Deans, and student groups urged the Federation of Law Societies to reject TWU’s application on account of its homophobic “Community Covenant”. After the Federation and the provincial government approved the program last month, a prominent civil rights lawyer threatened to sue.

Personally, I was not bothered by TWU’s application for accreditation. The human rights opposition has insisted that a “one-size-fits-all” approach . . . [more]

Posted in: Education & Training: Law Schools, Justice Issues

Measures to Increase Access to Justice and Public Confidence in Quebec

Access to justice is a quasi-constitutional right in Quebec where the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms guarantees “a full and equal, public and fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.” However, numerous stakeholders, including many in the legal community share a growing concern that access to justice is increasingly posing challenges to those who need it, and obstacles such as time, expense and representation stand in the way of securing this right for all Quebec citizens. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law, Practice of Law: Future of Practice, Practice of Law: Practice Management, Substantive Law, Substantive Law: Legislation