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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Defining Civil Justice

[Written with Bradley Albrecht]

Since 1998, the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice has developed a number of online resources and databases which are designed to increase understanding about the civil justice system, and ultimately to improve access to civil and family justice. My last article focused on the Inventory of Reforms, which, alongside our Clearinghouse, is designed to provide greater access to information on the civil justice system and civil justice reform initiatives.

In all of our work at the Forum we have found that there is a real need to promote a stronger shared understanding and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Retroactive Injustice

One of the most wrenching questions in environmental law is who should pay for historic contamination which was legal at the time. There is no moral difficulty in holding today’s polluters responsible for the consequence of their acts. But historic contamination, the unintended result of perfectly lawful conduct, is different. Inco has been ordered to pay $36 million in damages for lost property value, after 2000, due to nickel emissions before 1984 that were legal at the time: Smith v. Inco 2010 ONSC 3790

Is this just?

The rule of law is an essential part of the fundamental bargain that . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beyond Justice

The Canadian Charter tells us (s.24) that if we think our rights have been violated, we can apply for ‘such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances.’ Does ‘just’ add anything to ‘appropriate’? Or is it, like ‘cease and desist’, only a bit of legal belt-and-braces?

Sometimes we do think of justice as mere propriety. For something to be unjust is for it to be out of kilter, morally speaking. On this way of looking at things, we can say that destroying the environment, abusing children, breaking promises, and torturing people are all unjust. They are . . . [more]

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When Bad Law Happens to Good People

Many of you are likely already familiar with the alleged facts in the disturbing and complicated case of Captain Robert Semrau. For those who are not, here’s a quick refresher. 

Capt. Semrau was serving a tour of duty with the Canadian military in Afghanistan. He was assigned to a small Operational Mentor and Liason Team (OMLT) tasked with working hand-in-hand with a larger force of Afghani military assisting them in becoming a self-sufficient fighting force capable of challenging the Taliban militia on their own when Canada’s mission comes to a close. On Oct. 19, 2008 his orders were to troll . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Aboriginal Law Skills

As director of the Program of Legal Studies for Native People (PLSNP) I have several roles. One is advising prospective Aboriginal law students about how they might best prepare for the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). This often leads to a discussion about why they have to take it at all since it is not created for Aboriginal Canadians or demonstrated to be a valid measure of skills for Aboriginal Canadians. (I can’t argue with that – when I asked for statistics about how LSAT score correlates with success in law school for Aboriginal Canadians, I was told that would . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Demographics and Justice in Rural Canada

The economic sustainability of small communities and rural areas in Canada is of serious concern to those working in government, the private sector and the general public alike. In recent years small communities have undergone significant changes that threaten their future viability, including considerable job loss due to the decline of primary industries and migratory patterns that see increasing numbers of young rural Canadians relocating to urban centres. While public attention tends to focus on employment issues facing industries such as forestry, mining and agriculture, small communities across Canada are also facing serious challenges in regards to the attraction and . . . [more]

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Is Heavily Polluting a Community a Breach of Its Human Rights?

The Inter American Commission on Human Rights has agreed to hear a precedent-setting case against the United States based on environmental racism. Heavily polluting industries are often concentrated in poor areas, typically occupied by minorities. In the United States, these minorities tend to be black. The Canadian equivalents may be First Nations communities, such as the reserve just downwind of Sarnia’s Chemical Valley.

 Mossville and Cancer Alley

The IACHR case relates to an African American hamlet named Mossville, Louisiana. Fourteen heavy industries lie between Mossville and its neighbour, Westlake, including an oil refinery, a coal burning power station and several . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Inventory of Civil Justice Reforms

This is my first column for Slaw, and I have been trying to decide where to begin. I’d like to tell you a bit about the story of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, but also want to share some of our resources and projects. Since Simon has promised that there will be more columns to follow, I‘ll keep this one focused on just one of our online resources — the Inventory of Reforms.

First though, a bit about the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice. The Forum was created in 1998 to foster knowledge and understanding of civil . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Love Hurts

Love hurts. Never has that expression been truer than in the misguided Kafkaesque labyrinth that forms the core of Canada’s domestic violence courts. Domestic violence charges are in a pitched battle with impaired driving cases to see who can destroy the crumbling foundation of our nation’s criminal courts first. They form a massively disproportionate percentage of the court’s daily caseload to the point where many courthouses have had to set aside an entire day each week just to deal with the volume of administrative set-date appearances. Only a small fraction of these domestic abuse cases involve repeat offenders, personal injury, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues