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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Technologizing Access to Justice

Last month, Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ) and Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General hosted The Final Pitch of the Ontario Access to Justice Challenge. The Challenge sought to “foster the growth and success of startups that are developing products, technologies, processes, and solutions that have a direct positive impact on access to justice in Ontario.” The Challenge began last summer with 29 startups that were ultimately narrowed down to a top five that received a range of incubation supports from LIZ including advisors, workshops and mentorship opportunities.

I had the honour of being one of four judges . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Racing to Nirvana – Legal Research Edition

Will Amazon start delivering packages before you order them? They’re getting close.

Will your autonomous vehicle know your destination before you tell it? Probably, if you are sticking to a routine.

Will legal research databases give you what you need before even you know what that is? Don’t bet against it.

In Tim Knight’s recent Slaw post on the black box of artificial intelligence, he talked about the importance of understanding the “how” of the underlying algorithms as we become more reliant on both their results and their predictive capabilities. Unsaid but implied in Tim’s post was that, yes, these . . . [more]

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How Ongoing Reviews of Federal Environmental Laws Could Change Environmental Decision-Making in Canada

In November 2015, the Prime Minister mandated several Cabinet Ministers to review four of Canada’s environmental laws and processes: the Fisheries Act, Navigation Protection Act, the National Energy Board, and federal environmental assessment processes. The four reviews are ongoing now and will be completed in early 2017.

The West Coast Environmental Law Association has established an on-line hub where individuals and groups can access key information about the reviews, background resources and guidance about how to get involved. This includes our briefs and submissions on Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act reform, as well as recommendations about next generation . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to the Civil Justice System in Canada Is a Concern According to Data From the 2016 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index

According to the most recent World Justice Project Rule of Law Index, Canada ranks 12th overall out of 113 countries included in the survey. Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands rank 1st to 5th, respectively. Canada’s overall index score of 0.81 is tied with the UK and Australia. The US ranks 18th overall. Ranking 12th out of 113 puts Canada near the top of the global ranking. Canada ranks 9th out of 24 European and North American countries and 12th out of 36 high income countries, above the median in . . . [more]

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Protecting the Free Speech of Charities in Canada

Over the years there have been periodic calls for the modernization of Canadian laws regarding the involvement of charities in public debate and public policy development, activities labeled by the Canada Revenue Agency as “political activities.” While legally charities in Canada must devote all of their resources to “charitable activities carried on by the organization itself,” since 1986 section 149.1(6.2) of the Income Tax Act has clarified that a small amount of political activity will be deemed to be charitable (10% of total resources according to current CRA policy), provided that those political activities are “ancillary and incidental to . . . [more]

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The Alan Turing Law: Who’s Pardoning Whom?

The UK government recently announced plans to pass an “Alan Turing law” to pardon men convicted of historical offences related to homosexuality. The bill would pardon about 15,000 living citizens of the UK and posthumously pardon 40,000 (including Oscar Wilde). This follows the 2013 posthumous pardon of Alan Turing, the brilliant codebreaker who greatly contributed to the Allies’ victory in World War II and was rewarded with a conviction for gross indecency and chemical castration before dying by suicide.

Reactions to the proposed law are mixed. While a pardon is better than a permanent stain on one’s memory and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Technology and Access to Justice

Legal Technology is often reported as being intrinsically linked to access to justice. Apps, AI, and digital access suggest an Uber-like ability to receive legal services at the push of a button. A recent Globe and Mail article by University of Ottawa law professor Jena McGill, for example, bore the headline “Better access to justice in Canada? There’s an app for that”. However, while there are increasing numbers of apps and technologies being developed and integrated into the legal world, it is a mistake to assume that technological developments on their own will necessarily improve access to justice for those . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

We Have Pizza, but How Will We Get Grilled Cheese?


What place, you might reasonably ask, does this question have in a column on justice issues?

Bear with me. I’ll get there.

Slaw readers are more aware than the average legal professional about the roles of existing major legal information suppliers (let’s call them Dominos and Pizza Hut) and the efforts of upstarts to do law differently and offer tailored solutions to legal research needs. Though many believe (with some justification) that the pizza on offer from the “Big 2” is great, sometimes the pizza costs too much and sometimes what you need is a grilled cheese sandwich.

Here’s . . . [more]

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Default vs Diversity

I recently attended an access to justice conference where the majority of speakers and attendees were white men. As a South Asian woman my presence felt conspicuous. This circumstance didn’t feel intentional or nefarious, it was clearly a matter of the organizers working within the default mode. The same default that is common not only in the legal world but also in other spheres such as academia and the technology sector.

This default is currently being pierced by humour and frank conversation. Recently, The Globe and Mail launched a new podcast called Colour Code that examines race in Canada. . . . [more]

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The Enbridge Decision and Beyond: Issues to Watch Following Gitxaala Nation v Canada

The length of time that Enbridge Northern Gateway’s oil tankers and pipelines proposal has managed to stay afloat –despite widespread opposition and the lack of any firm commercial contracts for use of its pipelines –once prompted my colleagues here at West Coast Environmental Law to ask, as John Cleese does in the famous Monty Python sketch, whether the Enbridge project was dead or merely resting.

In this vein, the recent Federal Court of Appeal (FCA) decision in Gitxaala Nation v Canada was heralded as a major legal victory for Indigenous peoples opposing the opposing the Enbridge pipelines and tankers . . . [more]

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Blaming the Victim and Concealing the Evidence: How the Crown Mishandled Ivan Henry’s Trial

There has been much buzz circulating recently around the wrongful conviction of Ivan Henry, a BC native who spent nearly 27 years behind bars for a series of sexual assaults he never committed. After being acquitted in 2010 of his 10 convictions, Henry initiated an action against the province of BC for which he sought $43M in damages. In his ruling released on June 8, 2016 Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson awarded Henry just over $8M in damages: $530K in compensatory damages for lost wages, $56,692 in special damages, and $7.5M as vindication of the gross abuse of his Charter rights. . . . [more]

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Law’s Reverse Musical Chair Challenge

Despite recent years of decades-low law school application levels, law school seats are still heavily over-subscribed. Similarly, for those who graduate (which, to be honest, is nearly every single admitted student that manages to pay tuition), the opportunities to be called and to practice as a lawyer is case of too many grads and too few jobs. Yet when it comes to supporting the legal needs of the public, lawyers aren’t even close to filling the chairs that exist, much less the new ones added each day. Worse, we’re increasingly less interested in doing so.

Estimates and sources vary, but . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues