We caught up recently (and before Bedford) with Henry Brown of Gowlings for his take on the landmark Supreme Court cases in 2013.
Following his year-end review for 2013, Jordan spoke to us about what to expect in the year to come.
A Supreme Court of Canada decision on the country’s prostitution laws, to be handed down tomorrow, could, in the words of one observer, put the high court on the “right side” of history, but it’s safe to say that however it rules, it will come down on somebody’s wrong side.
The Court has been asked to rule on whether bans on street solicitation, pimps and brothels puts women at risk, and therefore violates their Charter right to security from unwarranted intrusion by the justice system.
One side argues that the current laws put sex-workers at greater risk; the other side argues that removing the laws will put sex-workers at greater risk. And both sides are probably right, to a certain extent.
So what is to be done?
The Commission for Environmental Cooperation – or the CEC – was created under a side-agreement to support cooperation among the NAFTA partners to address environmental issues of continental concern. This month it produced two important decisions, both affecting Canada, both focusing on Fisheries Act s. 36(3), within days of each other.
(Read more after the jump)
Karen Dyck picks up on a key point made in the Reaching Equal Justice report, the full version of which was released yesterday – that “we need to establish a solid base of evidence that will support the actions we take to increase access to justice.” This isn’t something that can be done overnight, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't start trying immediately. Here’s what the report says about data collection in Canada:
The absence of an evidentiary base for action, and shared views on what to measure and how to measure it are serious obstacles to achieving equal justice.
We all know the maxim ‘you can only manage what you can measure’. We are far from having access to justice metrics to measure justice system performance. The development of metrics is an important pillar supporting justice innovation. Metrics serve a range of purposes, from informing the public about the justice system and grounding the day to day decision making of justice system participants, to supporting policy making processes and change processes. Metrics enhance people’s choices, enable comparison and learning, increase transparency and create incentives for improving access to justice.
Many organizations collect some data, but their approach and methods reflect their own business practices and the data is diffuse. There are ongoing initiatives to gather more sophisticated data, particularly in costing aspects of the justice system through the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s Cost of Justice initiative. Yet, we are far from a shared framework for gathering data, much less a sound knowledge base for justice system decision making. The Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges and Association of Legal Aid Plans have committed to developing a common management information collection framework.
One of the most interesting efforts in data publishing comes from BC, where the Ministry of Justice is following open data principles by making data about the justice system available publicly through its website. For now you can only get data on courts, corrections and prosecutions, but the province is moving ahead to add other sectors of the justice system. This is a no-brainer for all levels of government, but it would be helpful if the federal, provincial and territorial governments worked together in coordinated fashion, in an effort to use similar datasets to measure innovation, development and access to justice across the whole country, and even in comparison to other jurisdictions.