The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association
Environmental law

Carta de Foresta: A guide for protecting the commons and individual rights

By Yves Faguy May 15, 2017 15 May 2017

Carta de Foresta: A guide for protecting the commons and individual rights

 

As far as medieval English Charters go, Magna Carta, famous for curbing royal authority and arbitrary use of power, is unquestionably the most celebrated. Lesser known today, but no less successful in its own time, is the Great Charter’s younger cousin, Carta de Foresta.

Also known as the Charter of the Forest of 1217, it was radically in its impact, in that it returned to private ownership vast areas of forest that had been expropriated by England’s kings, all the way back to William the Conqueror.  It also gave a right of common access to royal private lands.

It was issued by the nine-year old King Henry III in 1217, and reaffirmed many times thereafter over the next eight centuries, often in tandem with Magna Carta.  Carta de Foresta remained in force as a statute in England until it was replaced by the superbly named Wild Creatures and Forest Laws Act in 1971.

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Immigration

Key parts of citizenship revocation process struck down

By Justin Ling May 11, 2017 11 May 2017

Key parts of citizenship revocation process struck down

 

The Federal Court just beat Justin Trudeau to the punch.

In a ruling yesterday, the court found that three provisions in the Citizenship Act were unconstitutional and denied Canadian citizens the right to due process afforded to them under the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Justice Jocelyne Gagné ruled that Ottawa’s powers to strip citizenship from dual citizens, in cases where they believe the citizenship was obtained through fraud or misrepresentation, lacked safeguards.

Thanks to changes brought in under the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, people facing revocation were only afforded a trial if the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration deemed it necessary. Otherwise, their representations would be made only in writing.

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Securities

Quebec Court of Appeal: The national securities regulator project is unconstitutional

By Yves Faguy May 10, 2017 10 May 2017

Quebec Court of Appeal: The national securities regulator project is unconstitutional

 

The Court of Appeal of Quebec has ruled that the plan for a new national securities regulator is unconstitutional.  The plan called for a new regulatory regime for capital markets, including a national regulator, a uniform act  that each participating province and territory would adopt, and a federal act aimed at ensuring the stability of capital markets.

The court ruled that the proposed mechanism for amending the Uniform Act violates the parliamentary sovereignty of the provinces. That's because the provinces' power to legislate in this area would require  the approval of an external body, the Council of Ministers, which is prohibited. Also problematic is the Council’s voting mechanisms for adopting regulations under the federal law, as they would essentially grant the an effective veto to the provinces over federal initiatives targeting systemic risks that could pose a serious risk to Canada's financial system.

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Trade

Beer pressure

By Justin Ling May 10, 2017 10 May 2017

Beer pressure

 

When the Supreme Court granted leave last week to hear the appeal in R. v. Comeau, there was elation in all sorts of different corners of the country.

Free marketeers are hoping the top court will finally pave the way for legal challenges to enforce the sort of free-trading union that (they suspect) the framers of the constitution always wanted.

Wine aficionados are anticipating the pleasure sipping B.C. wine in Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotia wine in B.C.

For provincial governments, the hope is that a ruling will reinforce their long-held power to regulate and manage certain domestic industries at their province’s borders.

Caught in the middle of it all are the provincial liquor boards, whose very existence might be on the line.

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Access to justice

Newfoundland’s new small claims legal aid clinic

By Mariane Gravelle May 9, 2017 9 May 2017

Newfoundland’s new small claims legal aid clinic

 

Even getting through small claims can be a nightmare for litigants who represent themselves. Thankfully there is help in St. John’s.  The Newfoundland and Labrador Small Claims Legal Assistance Clinic. This clinic is born of a partnership between the CBA Newfoundland & Labrador branch and the Public Legal Information Network of NL (PLIAN) and is helmed by Joe J. Thorne (CBA-NL Pro Bono Chair), Ashley Woodford (Executive Director of the CBA-NL branch), and Kevin O’Shea (Executive Director of PLIAN).

The clinic, which also includes ties to the provincial court and the Newfoundland and Labrador Law Society, was set up to fill an existing gap in the institutional pro bono sector of the profession. Says Joe J. Thorne, “$25000 [the maximum claim amount allowed in small claims court] is a lot of money for people, but maybe not enough to retain a lawyer.” Clinic officials hope their services will help those clients who would benefit from legal advice but may not be in a position to pay for them.

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The Charter

Using the notwithstanding clause: Too easy?

By Yves Faguy May 9, 2017 9 May 2017

Using the notwithstanding clause: Too easy?

 

Every so often, one of Canada’s favourite constitutional pastimes – debating the frequently decried, sometimes beloved, section 33 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – comes back in vogue.

Last week, Andrew Coyne argued against governments in Canada using the notwithstanding clause to override certain Charter provisions.  Though it has rarely been invoked over the last 35 years – and never by Ottawa  – his main objection is that it dilutes the rights and freedoms promised by our constitution. And he worries about repeated use becoming easier and easier with each transgression: 

Notwithstanding is not the emergency safety valve its advocates pretend, but a bottle marked “drink me”: its existence is a standing invitation to use it. Even in repose it is a silent rebuke to the Charter, for it suggests that its guarantees are not guarantees at all, but merely guidelines, contingent at all times on the mood of the government of the day.

Léonid Sirota also took on the issue, jumping off a recent Saskatchewan decision, which found that the province’s funding of non-Catholic students in Catholic schools violated religious liberty and equality guarantees.

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Environmental law

Priority of creditors: Sacrificing the environment?

By Supriya Tandan May 8, 2017 8 May 2017

Priority of creditors: Sacrificing the environment?


A new case that pits federal insolvency laws against provincial schemes to clean-up environmental contamination may be headed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Last month the, Alberta Court of Appeal affirmed the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench’s decision in Redwater Energy Corporation (Re), which ruled last year that federal provisions that give creditors the ability to disclaim certain uneconomic assets hold priority over provincial orders to remediate abandoned wells. The Alberta courts drew heavily upon Newfoundland and Labrador v. AbitibiBowater Inc, a 2012 top court ruling that dealt with similar issues but drew criticism for its potential in creating of perverse incentives. 

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Inter-provincial trade

Interprovincial beer case heads to the SCC

By Justin Ling May 5, 2017 5 May 2017

Interprovincial beer case heads to the SCC

A case that will decide the fate of Canadian liquor laws, and perhaps inter-provincial trade itself, is heading to the Supreme Court.

R. v. Comeau, which found that a ticket issued against Gerard Comeau ran afoul of the Constitution Act, 1867, was decided at the Provincial Court Of New Brunswick in 2016.

Since then, the province has tried to appeal to both New Brunswick Court of Appeal and the Court of Queen’s Bench, to little avail. Their hail mary pass, which came with the enthusiastic support of Comeau himself, was to file for leave to the Supreme Court.

The top court granted leave yesterday.

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Privacy rights

Surveillance oversight requires international effort

By Erika Schneidereit May 3, 2017 3 May 2017

Surveillance oversight requires international effort

 

Since reports on Edward Snowden’s leaks on U.S. spying were published four years ago, the question of where (and how) to draw the line between privacy rights and security interests has generated considerable interest both domestically and at the international level. And yet, international law is still grappling with how to effectively regulate governmental surveillance and access to personal data.

Any discussion on the topic must begin by considering the right to privacy in international law, enshrined as a fundamental human right both in Article 12 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (as well as a handful of other international and regional agreements). But the right to privacy is also a qualified protection. Article 12 refers to no person being subjected to “arbitrary interference” with privacy and Article 17 prohibits “arbitrary or unlawful interference’ with privacy.

What does this mean exactly? 

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Law firm leaders

The law firm leader’s bookshelf: Wiser

By Kim Nayyer May 2, 2017 2 May 2017

The law firm leader’s bookshelf: Wiser


The March/April 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review features an item on managing people. Undoubtedly, this responsibility and the concomitant function of managing teams of these individual people, is a recurring or ongoing focus of attention for many leaders. And as this HBR Spotlight illustrates, the topic is invariably timely.

One of a leader’s key functions is to manage personalities and working styles. We identify and capitalize on individual strengths, and we ameliorate (or at least neutralize) challenging behaviours and approaches to work and thought. And this responsibility often engages the more discrete challenge of creating and managing teams or groups of individuals, each with a unique perspective. We must facilitate interactions in a way that is productive for the group and in furtherance of the larger organization’s goals.

The book Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter, a publication of Harvard Business Review Press, is an invaluable resource for the leader. In fact, it offers a solid grounding to the approaches discussed in the HBR Spotlight. Wiser counsels us in strategies to lead teams that will be most likely to make sound and successful group decisions and, conversely, shows us the pitfalls of group decision-making that can lead to failed projects. A witty and highly readable book, it is a good companion for a commute, flight, or waiting room, or a quick weekend read.

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Criminal justice

The trial is disappearing

By Yves Faguy May 1, 2017 1 May 2017

 

Fair trials are under threat around the world. That’s the message of a recent report by Fair Trials, an international human rights organization that advocates for fair trial rights, and global law firm Freshfields. The reason is an increase in plea bargaining deals, and trial waiver systems, which are removing procedural protections for many accused, a phenomenon the international community has failed to address:

Trial waiver systems – defined for the purpose of this report as creating “a process not prohibited by law under which criminal defendants agree to accept guilt and/or cooperate with the investigative authority in exchange for some benefit from the state, most commonly in the form of reduced charges and/or lower sentences” – have the potential to enhance human rights protection in criminal proceedings due largely to the removal of the burdens which full trial procedures impose on criminal justice systems. Trial waiver systems can provide a solution to endemic case backlogs that contribute to excessive pre-trial detention, by reducing the time and resources necessary to adjudicate cases. These systems can also be employed, for example, to combat corruption and complex criminal networks, to reduce prison sentences and the over-reliance on incarceration and to improve the protection of the rights of victims.

In addition to these benefits, however, human rights and rule of law concerns can also result from the decreasing incidence of full trials as the means of administering criminal justice around the world. Trial waiver systems usually substitute confessions and waivers of procedural rights in place of the procedural and evidentiary rigours of the trial, removing many of the key points at which police and prosecutorial activity is made public and scrutinised. This lowered threshold of scrutiny can exacerbate and reduce accountability for human rights abuses that occur during arrest and the pre-trial period. It can also unsettle the balance of power between actors in the criminal justice system and overly incentivise the use of criminal sanctions to address social problems, with potentially far-ranging impacts on the rule of law.

The report makes the case for the enhancement of certain safeguards such as manadatory access to a lawyer, more scrutiny of the prosecution’s case, added judicial scrutiny, and better data collection to get a better record of the negotiations.

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Young Lawyers International Program

Why domestic partners have no rights in South Africa

By Brooke MacDonald April 28, 2017 28 April 2017

Why domestic partners have no rights in South Africa

 

Picture this: You’re 18 years old when you meet someone and fall in love. Two years later, you have a child with them. This person then pays “damages” to your parents for having a child with you outside of wedlock. At age 21, your parents give their approval for you to move in with this person’s mother because “no one else would want you”. Together you have three more children. This person repeatedly tells you that they love you and want to marry you, but they just need more money. You remain with this person’s mother, caring for her until her death. You never get a proper education and you never get the opportunity to gain real work experience because you’ve been raising your four children, managing the household and caring for this person’s family while they are away doing offsite work.

Now imagine that all of this takes place in a township in rural South Africa. You are a Zulu woman and this person who entered your life, three decades ago, is a Zulu man who has recently left you to be with another woman. You live in a country where only males can legally enter into polygamous marriages under Zulu customary law. You also live in a country where you have no legal right to spousal support, because you are not married, either civilly or customarily. Unlike in Canada (except Quebec), there is no legal mechanism in South Africa for you, as a non-married partner, to receive spousal maintenance – nor a number of other benefits.

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