Wednesday: What’s Hot on CanLII

Each Wednesday we tell you which three English-language cases and which French-language case have been the most viewed* on CanLII and we give you a small sense of what the cases are about.

For this last week:

1. Carter v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 SCC 5

[1] It is a crime in Canada to assist another person in ending her own life. As a result, people who are grievously and irremediably ill cannot seek a physician’s assistance in dying and may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering. A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.

[2] The question on this appeal is whether the criminal prohibition that puts a person to this choice violates her Charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person (s. 7) and to equal treatment by and under the law (s. 15). This is a question that asks us to balance competing values of great importance. On the one hand stands the autonomy and dignity of a competent adult who seeks death as a response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition. On the other stands the sanctity of life and the need to protect the vulnerable.

2. Kopyto v. Law Society of Upper Canada, 2015 ONLSTH 29

[44] The Society maintains that Mr. Kopyto is ungovernable by the Society. This is hardly surprising, since Mr. Kopyto affirms categorically that he is governed by his conscience. Near the conclusion of our lengthy hearing on the merits, he advised the panel that he will be retiring from active paralegal practice, but will continue to help people who require his assistance. If granted a Class P1 licence, his stated intention is to continue to disregard By-Law 4 insofar as it restricts the scope of paralegal practice when his conscience so dictates. If a Class P1 licence is denied, he intends to disregard the law and continue to provide legal services when his help is required.

[45] The panel has no difficulty finding that Mr. Kopyto is ungovernable and that this aspect of his character is inconsistent with a finding that he is presently of good character. A person who asserts he or she will not follow the rules of the paralegal profession they seek to enter is not of good character.

3. Joseph Groia v. The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2015 ONSC 686

[23] The first issue raised by this appeal is the role, if any, that the respondent has to investigate and regulate the conduct of lawyers within the courtroom. It raises an important issue, at least in part, because there has been increasing concern over the last number of years that the conduct of lawyers is becoming less and less civil – both inside and outside the courtroom. This concern has led to many initiatives directed at reinforcing in the minds of all lawyers the need for civility in their dealings with each other, with the courts, and with the public. For example, in 2001, The Advocates’ Society (which is an intervener in this case) published The Principles of Civility for Advocates, which was revised and reissued in 2009.

[24] It is not clear where this increase in incivility comes from. Perhaps it is a result of demands by clients who, completely unfamiliar with what actually constitutes effective advocacy, believe that an aggressive lawyer is an effective lawyer. The more aggressive, the more effective. Given the competition for business, a lawyer may not wish to demonstrate a lack of aggressiveness for fear that such clients will prefer to entrust their matter to other lawyers who mirror the client’s perception of the effective advocate. Perhaps it is also the result of the frequent image of lawyers in television shows, and in other media, where actors portray lawyers in a particular fashion unrestrained by any need to represent reality and without any concern for the reputation of the legal system. Good advocacy often does not make good television.

The most-consulted French-language decision was Carter c. Canada (Procureur général), 2015 CSC 5

[1] Au Canada, le fait d’aider une personne à mettre fin à ses jours constitue un crime. Par conséquent, les personnes gravement et irrémédiablement malades ne peuvent demander l’aide d’un médecin pour mourir et peuvent être condamnées à une vie de souffrances aiguës et intolérables. Devant une telle perspective, deux solutions s’offrent à elles : soit mettre fin prématurément à leurs jours, souvent par des moyens violents ou dangereux, soit souffrir jusqu’à ce qu’elles meurent de causes naturelles. Le choix est cruel.

[2] Il faut déterminer dans le présent pourvoi si la prohibition criminelle qui impose ce choix à une personne viole les droits que lui garantit la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés — le droit à la vie, à la liberté et à la sécurité de la personne (art. 7) et le droit à l’égalité devant la loi (art. 15). Trancher cette question nous oblige à pondérer des valeurs opposées d’une grande importance. D’une part, il y a l’autonomie et la dignité d’un adulte capable qui cherche dans la mort un remède à des problèmes de santé graves et irrémédiables. D’autre part, il y a le caractère sacré de la vie et la nécessité de protéger les personnes vulnérables.

* As of January 2014 we measure the total amount of time spent on the pages rather than simply the number of hits; as well, a case once mentioned won’t appear again for three months.

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