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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Torts and Family Violence: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia

By: Jennifer Koshan and Deanne Sowter, cross-posted to

Case Commented On: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303 (Can LII); 2023 ONCA 476 (CanLII)

Intimate partner violence (IPV) takes many forms, all of which cause harm to survivors (who are disproportionately women and children). In August, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada declared that gender-based violence is an epidemic. However, only certain forms of IPV were subject to legal sanction historically – primarily physical and sexual abuse, although sexual assault against a spouse was only criminalized in 1983 (see Criminal Code, RSC 1985, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

Unforgotten on the Day of the Disappeared: Missing Human Rights Advocates

On August 30th each year, the world is reminded that hundreds of thousands of people in at least 85 countries don’t know where their loved ones are, or even whether they are alive or dead. For the victims of enforced disappearance and their families, every day is the Day of the Disappeared.

The unrelenting uncertainty and anguish of not knowing the truth of what has happened to their family member is a recognized form of torture for both the disappeared and their families. The crime of enforced disappearance cuts off the disappeared from any access to legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Measuring Matters

Some forms of legal research routinely take place in the legal profession. For example, research into the facts of a dispute, prior rulings, relevant regulations, and precedent often informs legal strategy, and generally precedes the presentation of a case or position. Legal research databases that facilitate everyday access to primary and secondary sources of law are staples of today’s law libraries. Legal departments the world over invest—often heavily—in knowledge management systems and legal software expressly to aid in research and curating information. In these ways, and in these spaces, the legal profession embraces research as integral to accessing the law; . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Voices and Visions of the Future: What IPV Survivors Have to Say About the Ontario Court System

To be a victim is one thing. To be a survivor is quite another. In a world where violence against women and intimate partner violence (IPV) runs rampant and unabated, victims are everywhere, seen and unseen. But survivors — those who have endured, who continue to endure, who persevere against adversity — they are everywhere too. They too are unseen, their stories and lives hidden beneath the scars they carry and the pain in their hearts. Their voices, their words, and their lives have informed everything I am about to tell you. These survivors are those who have survived intimate . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada Stakes Out Its Bid for Election to the UN Human Rights Council

Canada has announced its candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council to begin in 2028. According to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, Canada wants to reaffirm its “leadership in championing human rights around the world” given that human rights are under attack globally.

When setting up the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, the UN General Assembly decided that all Council members would be required to live up to “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Canada has a vaunted international reputation for human rights, but closer examination reveals . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

How Well Is Chief Justice Morawetz Overseeing Ontario Superior Court Operations?

As Chief Justice Morawetz enters his 5th year as head of the Ontario Superior Court, it is both appropriate and necessary (given the court’s acknowledged culture of complacency) to ask “how well is he overseeing court operations?” Answering this question with the tools and data presently available is challenging, as Ontario lacks a history of accountability (or transparency) from either the judiciary or the court itself. Yet as the old truism goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

i) The Role and Importance of the Superior Court

Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy has three branches, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Technology Is Changing, and So Should Our Approach to the Self-Representation Problem: Artificial Intelligence for SRLs

By David Lundgren, University of Toronto student Researcher in partnership with the NSRLP

In Canada, self-represented litigants (SRLs) are generally disadvantaged from the onset of their case and throughout the legal process. Litigants are often driven to self-representation by financial constraints or a lack of available resources. Cultural and linguistic barriers, mistrust of the justice system, and negative socioeconomic factors also influence their decision to self-represent. These considerations manifest negatively in SRL experiences and persist throughout cases. In court, self-represented litigants tend to fare worse; they are misperceived as vexatious and misinformed, or simply made to feel they do not . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Sustainability, It’s Not Just About Money: Reflections on Sustainability From the Rural Mobile Law Van

The rural mobile law van began operating in rural Wellington County, Ontario in the summer of 2019 and is now at the mid-point of a three-year extension from 2021 to 2024 in Wellington County and in adjacent Halton Region.[1] Several articles about this project have been published on The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) web site and on Slaw. This article discusses the sustainability of the Law Van project.[2]

When people think about the sustainability of a legal services project they tend to think first in terms of financial sustainability. Does it cost more than the amount . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Letter From the Daughter of an Over-Stimulated Immigrant

“What does it say? I don’t understand”. Children of immigrants are no stranger to this expression. Especially in circumstances where their parents are scrunching their foreheads to understand legal documents laced with technical complexities. Often, these children are the primary point of contact between their parents and professionals, which ultimately makes them responsible for translating and relaying technical information on behalf of their parents who lack native fluency. It is not uncommon to hear of children as early as six years old reading and translating demand letters, financial statements and court documents for their parents who do not understand the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week, Practice of Law

Giving Peace a Chance: Pushing Back on a Chilling Russian Censorship Law

Russia is using the law as a weapon against its own citizens to silence all criticism of its unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine. International attention has been focused on Russia’s high-profile criminal prosecutions of independent journalists and opposition politicians. Comparatively little attention is being paid to thousands of dissenters punished with hefty fines under a new censorship law that forbids the “discrediting” of Russia’s armed forces.

One Russian human rights organization, OVD-Info, is pushing back against the law by facilitating the submission of a battery of complaints to the Russian Constitutional Court. The complainants argue that the law against . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada Made a Splash With Legal and Policy Announcements at Marine Protected Areas Congress

Recently, delegates from around the world visited xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations’ territory in Vancouver to attend the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (“IMPAC5”). Three thousand attendees took part in the week-long event after it was postponed for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada is committed to protecting 30% of land and ocean by 2030 (known as “30 by 30”) – a goal reaffirmed through the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Agreement, which Canada signed in December 2022. Currently though, only about 14% of marine areas have been protected under Canadian law. To meet that goal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Teaching Access to Justice: Some Early Initiatives

The world of legal services is changing. Whether everyone is onboard or not, it is no longer possible to deny the need for non-traditional delivery of services; a different attitude toward clients and justice-system users more broadly is needed.

Given the reality that the vast majority of litigants are no longer able to afford traditional services, there is a growing expectation that clients will be able to access alternative, lower-cost services. As well, changing social norms about the relationships between clients and service providers means that the public expects more collaboration, more respect for their knowledge, skills, and experience, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues