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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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

Exploring the Laws That Protect the Coast and Ocean

Today, I’m pleased to share some reflections from my colleagues at West Coast Environmental Law, and in particular Staff Lawyer Stephanie Hewson, lead author of West Coast’s new resource, the Guide to Ocean and Coastal Protection Law in British Columbia.

. . .

Maxine Matilpi, a member of the Kwakiutl and Ma’amtigila nations and our colleague at West Coast Environmental Law, spent much time in the 1960s in a small Kwakiutl village near Port Hardy called Tsakis. She remembers, “dried salmon stacked like cord wood behind my grandparents’ stove… our grannies and aunties sitting on lawn chairs . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

System Alienation & the Capitol Riot

As we watched scenes of violence, vandalism, and rioting at the US Capitol on January 6th, there was an acute sense of loss of control, not only across the United States but throughout much of the world.

This was a brazen upending of the norms of respect and acceptance of institutional authority that lie, both symbolically and practically, at the heart of democracies around the world. The United States likes to call itself “the greatest democracy” but it is just one of many. Each is less than perfect, but a central article of faith is striving to honour . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Understanding the Need for More Evidence-Based Decision-Making in the Legal Sector and How We Get There

Legal institutions demonstrate both a reliance on and a resistance to evidence-based decision-making. Across all areas of the law, cases are built, argued and decided on evidence that is meticulously gathered and assessed. Rigorous fact-seeking is the standard that gives credibility to law’s oft-cited assurances of impartiality and due process. Yet, the very legal mechanisms for which this standard informs and justifies decisions are often themselves without the data necessary to evaluate the frameworks within which they operate. The result is that there is a lack of data in the legal field in Canada (and elsewhere) on the processes used . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Washington January 6, 2021 Insurrection, and Racism in Canada

[The Full-text of the following summary can be downloaded from the SSRN (Feb. 1, 2021).]

The riotous insurrection at the Washington Capitol building on January 6th is a good example of this truth: “The strength of a nation’s rights, freedoms and rule of law lies not in its Constitution but in its politics.” On January 27, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a “National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin,” warning of, “a heightened threat environment across the United States,” and, “violent riots have continued in recent days,” and, “ideologically-motivated actors” could incite further violence. But President . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues