Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

A New BC Law for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health

From proteststo scientific analysis, old growth forests have been much in the news in British Columbia in recent months. What does a legal lens bring to this debate?

Past analyses undertaken by West Coast Environmental Law have laid bare the multifaceted ways in which BC’s laws are “hardwired for failure” when it comes to safeguarding the resilience of ecological systems and human communities in the face of cumulative impacts from resource development and climate change. Legal barriers identified include:

  • Historic legal or policy caps on how much land may be protected and/or how great an impact on resource
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Buying Silence With a Bluff: How NDAs Exploit Litigants, With and Without Counsel

The ever-growing use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) prevents those who sign from being able to “disclose” their experiences of reprehensible workplace discrimination. NDAs routinely silence the victims of sexual harassment, racism, bullying, and discrimination (among many other examples: for being pregnant, or requiring mental health leave, etc.).

Of questionable legality, NDAs are routinely demanded by defence lawyers in settlement negotiations. A gag on the victim is an obvious, albeit immoral, “ask” for legal representatives of alleged or actual perpetrators. They don’t want their reputation as a racist or a sexual harasser or a bully following them around, do they?

If . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

PRIDE in the Courts: Judge Deborah A. Batts

Let me tell you about someone I met a couple of years ago. Her name was Judge Deborah A. Batts. In 1994, the Honorable Judge Batts became the first openly gay person to be appointed as an Article III federal judge in the United States. She held this position for over 25 years in the Southern District of New York. As part of the library team in my previous position, we commemorated her 25 years of service with a candid interview during the 2019 Pride month with her fellow openly gay judges also at the U.S. Courts for the Second . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

Measuring Progress on Access to Justice Within Sustainable Development Goal SDG 16.3

In 2015 world leaders, acting through the United Nations, agreed to adopt 17 global objectives known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The overarching objective was, and remains, to make measurable progress toward creating a better world by the year 2030 by reducing poverty, fighting inequality and by addressing the emergency of climate change. Among the Sustainable Development Goals is SDG 16, focusing on peace, justice and strong institutions. SDG 16 seeks to promote “a peaceful and inclusive society for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and to build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

FOIPP Public Interest Override a Dead Letter?

A number of Canadian jurisdictions have a “public interest override” in their Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) legislation.

In Alberta, this imposes a duty on a public body to immediately disclose information that is “clearly in the public interest” despite any other provision in the Act. Section 32 FOIPP reads:

32(1) Whether or not a request for access is made, the head of a public body must, without delay, disclose to the public, to an affected group of people, to any person or to an applicant

(a) Information about a risk of significant harm to

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

USA vs. the International Criminal Court: A Fraught History in the Quest for International Accountability for Atrocity Crimes

The life of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, became easier on 2 April 2021 when United States (US) President Biden lifted harsh economic sanctions against her that had been authorised by former-President Trump on 15 June 2020 and applied on 2 September 2020. Ms. Bensouda’s nine-year term ends in June 2021, and her successor, UK lawyer Karim Khan QC, will begin his term free of the threat of US sanctions against him. Human rights advocates around the world are also breathing more easily now that their efforts to seek accountability for perpetrators of international . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Reflecting on the Site C Dam: An Environmental Lawyer’s Perspective

The work of environmental law in a time of intertwined biodiversity and climate crises is not just an intellectual or professional exercise for me and my colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law. This is particularly the case when decisions are made about mega-projects that fly in the face of law, science and self-determination of Indigenous peoples. Over this past COVID winter, for example, we felt the weight of stress and uncertainty about that fate of the Site C dam.

We wrote about  Site C in August 2016 and since then, the destruction of the Peace River Valley has continued, while . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Assessing the Impacts of Lawyer-Assisted Civil Dispute Resolution

There are important benefits that derive from understanding the impacts of lawyer-assisted civil dispute resolution. In a 2019 article published in the Alberta Law Review, authors Sarah Buhler and Michelle C. Korpan consider this issue as relates specifically to legal representation provided through legal aid and clinic settings in Canada.[1] Underlying the case that the article makes for this type of research is the recognition that this is one of many areas in which there is a considerable lack of justice research in Canada.[2] One of the reasons identified for conducting this kind of research is the effect . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Is the Pintea Decision Ensuring SRLs Are Given Appropriate Judicial Guidance and Support?

Self-represented litigants (SRLs) make up a significant percentage of litigants appearing before the court in civil and family cases. In the NSRLP’s 2013 report data provided by provincial ministries of justice indicated that at least 40% of individuals who appeared in provincial family court and at least 30% of litigants in civil court are self-represented.

These statistics are staggering, and it is no secret that SRLs face unique challenges within the court systems across Canada. Although it is the case that Canadian courts operate with the principle of access to justice as a foundational pillar, the reality is that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Julie Macfarlane’s Going Public: Lessons for Justice System Change

It is very difficult to read about the suffering of someone you admire and care about. And yet, when I finished Julie Macfarlane’s new book, Going Public”, the story of her experiences of sexual abuse and violence, I felt enlightened and uplifted.

Why? I think it is because Julie is vulnerable about her experiences AND uses her professional wisdom, insight and experience to put her stories into a larger context.

“Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage.” Brené Brown

This book is important for many people and groups, including:

  • Survivors, their families and those supporting them
  • Professionals
. . . [more]
Posted in: Dispute Resolution, Justice Issues

4 Ways to Improve Alberta’s Whistleblower Legislation

The following is my oral submission on February 4 to the Resource Stewardship Committee which is currently reviewing Alberta’s Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act:

In my short time today, I would like to focus on measures that will create the trust needed for employees to come forward to report wrongdoing knowing that their jobs will be protected. This is the only way to make this legislation work effectively.

All of us here today, regardless of affiliation, share the values embodied in whistleblower protection. Wasted government resources, corruption, shocking newspaper headlines are not what anyone wants to see. This undermines . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Myanmar Coup: “A Crisis Born of Impunity”

LRWC joins worldwide calls for action
to restore civilian authorities

[Editors note: Column is current to its submission date of 19 Feb 2021]

The military coup in Myanmar shocked the world on the 1st of February, but the junta’s actions since then have surprised no one. International organizations, governments, and civil society organizations around the globe have expressed outrage or at least “concern” about the abrupt halt to Myanmar’s decade of stumbling political reform. Hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar have courageously risen up in nonviolent protest and are calling on the world for help. They . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues