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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Mapping Legal Needs and Existing Legal Services in Alberta

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) focuses its research on access to justice and legal services. The justice system in Canada is not, of course, one united system but a set of institutionalized processes with overlapping provincial, territorial, and federal jurisdictions. There are civil, family, criminal and administrative divisions and both substantive and procedural laws that must be applied to each situation. Courts and Tribunals attached to this system are increasingly dealing with problems arising from Canada’s failure to solve resistant social problems. Yet, to achieve access to justice for all Canadians, legal services must be delivered as part . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Just Compensation for Public Works

Public works often impose heavy losses on those in private property nearby. Under what circumstances should they be compensated? That should have been the question in Heyes v. Vancouver, now Susan Heyes Inc. (Hazel & Co.) v. South Coast B.C. Transportation Authority 2011 BCCA 77. Alas, it was not – Heyes was decided on whether the transit builders had been at fault.

Ms. Heyes’s company designed, made and sold maternity clothing in Cambie Village, Vancouver. Her business was severely disrupted during construction of the Canada Line, a regional transportation system connecting downtown Vancouver, the City of Richmond and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Integrated Domestic Violence Court – One‑Stop Courthouse Shopping

Regular readers of my SLAW column will know that, while I’m an ardent supporter of initiatives that enhance the efficiency of our criminal justice system, I am also a regular critic of how that same system deals with the deluge of domestic-related charges that clog our courts on a daily basis. For these very reasons, a promising new pilot project has recently caught my attention.

The Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV) has ambitious plans to combine cases from two of Toronto’s busiest courthouses: the criminal courts of The Old City Hall and the family courts housed at 311 Jarvis Street. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice in Rural and Remote Communities: Where to From Here?

It is a well-documented and oft-lamented fact that the problem of limited access to justice is far worse in the rural and remote areas of Canada than in its cities and suburbs. Previous Slaw blog entries have outlined the multitude of distance-related obstacles that prevent many rural and small-town Canadians from finding quick and affordable resolutions to their legal problems. Geographic restrictions do not apply to legal problems, however. Wherever you find personal and business relationships, you will find legal problems. They stretch freely across the country—from “sea to sea to sea,” as Canadian politicians like to say these days. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Protecting Employment Advice From UK Legal Aid Cuts

I was recently asked which one area of civil legal aid I would protect from the upcoming spending cuts in the UK. It is difficult to single out one area of law, but I think I would protect employment advice in the civil legal aid budget for three reasons:

The rise in unemployment 

In the last three years there has been a substantial rise in unemployment and The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development predicts that in 2011 over 200,000 people in the UK will lose their jobs. This increases the probability that the number of people requiring advice regarding . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The R Word

Racism is like alcoholism — you can’t deal with it until you admit that you have a problem with it. Somehow the same people who might agree that Canada is filled with systemic discrimination, in virtually every institution or sector imaginable, also seem to believe that no one is a racist. (Well, maybe those boot-wearing, skinhead white supremacists, but no one else.)

No one in government, education, law, health-care, business, or social services even wants to hear the words “racism” or “racist” – they are just too harsh. How then can we deal with the harsh and deeply entrenched reality . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Algonquin Park and the Crown Forest (Un)Sustainability Act

In 1994, Ontario adopted the grandly named Crown Forest Sustainability Act (CFSA). A long, bruising environmental assessment (the Timber Management EA) had shown that we were ravaging Crown forests with a short term focus on extracting the most timber now, damaging the future of the forests and everything that lived there. It will be better now, the government said. The CFSA begins with impressive (if wordy) promises:

    1. The purposes of this Act are to provide for the sustainability of Crown forests and, in accordance with that objective, to manage Crown forests to meet social, economic and environmental needs of

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Aid Link: Supporting the UK Legal Aid Sector Through Innovation and Co-Operation

In my last post on young people’s legal capability, I explored how NGOs such as PLEnet and IARS are piloting innovative Public Legal Education (“PLE”) programmes to enable individuals to take control of their own legal problems. One of the main arguments that I made for PLE is the long term pecuniary advantage to be gained from empowering (young) people to resolve their own legal problems before they reach the stage at which the state might need to step in and provide legal aid funded support. I also made the point that PLE is not a panacea that completely . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Ringmaster of the Media Circus

While being a criminal lawyer is unlikely to make you the most affluent guest at a dinner party, it does often mean that you’ll have the most interesting work stories to tell. However, those very same fascinating tales that so enrapture your listening audience often make you the target of the unflinching gaze of the news media. Being able to competently respond to media attention on your cases is an essential skill for lawyers in any field where the bright light of journalism might shine.

Traditionally, there have been two schools of thought on lawyer/media relations.

The strong silent type . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Now We All (Sort Of) Support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Because international law supported European assertions of sovereignty over Indigenous territories beginning in the 15th century it’s appropriate for international law to deal with the issue of Indigenous rights now. The current situation of Indigenous peoples was created by international law. European nations created an international law that allowed European powers to divide up and colonize the rest of the world and profit from it. Europe exported enough of its population to at least some of the colonies in the Americas and the Pacific that when they were decolonized, Europeans or their descendants continued to govern on the basis . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The BP Commission and the Impossibility of Managing

Morally, legally, financially, environmentally: can we really create huge unprecedented risks in pursuit of our own comfort, and manage them successfully? I am coming to agree with Thomas Homer-Dixon that our destructive capacity has far outstripped our ability to manage or even understand it:

As our world has become more complex, we have, in fact, moved from a world of risk to a world of uncertainty. In a world of risk, we have data at hand that allow us to estimate the probabilities that any given system we are working with will evolve along certain pathways, and we can also

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Crime & Punishment in 2011

January was all about lists. Every blog, publication, and column uses this season to either reflect on the year that was or look ahead to the year that will be – and I want in on the prognosticating party. Thus I give to you, fair SLAW reader, my picks and predictions for the top five trends to watch in Canadian criminal justice in 2011. To build the anticipation, I have listed my picks in reverse order. No cheating by scrolling straight to the bottom of the page.

5. Increased emphasis on case management.

For a number of years, governments have . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues