Legal Feeds Blog
Man arrested for stealing poppy boxes near Edmonton, Canadian Press
Crafted largely in secrecy, the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement text was released publicly yesterday.
|The Canadian government ‘did cave on auto, vehicles, and parts,’ says Mark Sills.|
After a cursory read of the hefty documents, Sills points to concessions made by Canada regarding the automotive industry that he says could have a significant impact on the economy, particularly for southern Ontario.
“Like any trade negotiation, there obviously has to be gives, but it looks as though the Canadian government did cave on autos, vehicles, and parts,” he says.
He notes, for example, that the agreement would have Canada phase out the tariff on Japanese vehicles over six years while the U.S. has a 30-year timeline. A major concern, he says, is that in six years, Japanese-assembled vehicles will enter the country duty free, but because of the rules of origin, they’ll be able to incorporate significant amounts of parts from outside the trade bloc.
“There will be a lower level of processing required to turn non-TPP originating parts into TPP originating parts, so that’s a big concern, particularly for Ontario,” says Sills.
Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development Canada’s web site calls the agreement the largest and “most ambitious trade initiative in history” that it says will increase Canada’s foothold in the Asia-Pacific region. Despite the criticisms, other lawyers see the deal as being positive for Canada.
“The federal government has set out what I see as laudable and praiseworthy objectives,” says business lawyer and civil litigation specialist Marvin Huberman.
Huberman says that despite some opposition to the deal, he believes it will improve trading relationships, reduce technical barriers to trade, revamp intellectual property laws, and bolster trade and environmental policies with unified enforcement.
“I think all of this is wonderful and much needed,” he says.
While opponents say the deal will radically affect everything from copyright laws to Internet privacy and even grocery bills, Huberman thinks otherwise. “I’m not so sure that is the case. What I think is really happening is that this particular international agreement is challenging how our government is going to handle these issues.”
He also downplays the prospect the agreement infringes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and says the courts would protect people’s rights if it did. “But even if that possibility, or some would argue that probability, will occur, that’s why we have the judicial branch [of the federal government],” he says. “Then we achieve the balance people want.”
Amid transparency concerns around Tarion Warranty Corp., the Ontario government has appointed a former judge as a special adviser to conduct a review of the organization and related legislation.
|‘We think this is an incredibly important step for the province and for Ontario’s purchasers of newly built homes,’ says Karen Somerville.|
“Justice Cunningham has the expertise, experience, and sound judgment that is critical for this review. We look forward to his recommendations, which will help improve protection for owners of new homes in Ontario,” said Orazietti.
The move comes after years of political debate over Tarion’s mandate to collect fees from purchasers and builders of new homes while critics charge it has kept its internal workings largely secret.
Although Tarion issues an audited annual financial statement, the administrator isn’t accountable to the province’s auditor general or ombudsman, nor does it provide salary information for employees earning more than $100,000 for the province’s sunshine list.
The alleged lack of transparency has led to frequent calls for reform. Former NDP MPP Rosario Marchese tabled bills to that effect in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and most recently NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh brought forward a private member’s bill that would bring Tarion under the jurisdiction of the Ontario ombudsman and the auditor general and require public salary disclosures.
Despite having no public mandate to investigate Tarion, former ombudsman André Marin has reported almost 300 complaints about the administrator from 2007-13. Marin told the Toronto Star that he has “long believed that Tarion lacks proper oversight.”
Karen Somerville, president of the advocacy group Canadians for Properly Built Homes, which has been fighting for reform at Tarion for over a decade, says she’s thrilled by the news. “We think this is an incredibly important step for the province and for Ontario’s purchasers of newly built homes. This is long overdue, and so we’re very pleased that this has finally been announced.”
Somerville is hopeful recommendations will transform the governance of Tarion, which she claims has been unduly influenced by builders and developers at the expense of homebuyers seeking recovery from defectively built properties. “It needs to be truly a consumer-oriented organization with much, much less influence from the Ontario Homebuilders Association and from builders and developers,” she says. “That goes to the heart of the governance issues with Tarion.”
In addition, Somerville hopes recommendations will loosen Tarion’s monopoly over home warranties in the province and provide homebuyers whose claims have been denied an opportunity to resubmit them.
“We hope that Ontarians who have been involved and who have been hurt by the current system will reach out and offer to be part of this process, this study that’s underway. We’re really hoping that Ontarians will choose to participate, will share their experiences, and let this review know why these changes are so important. . . . There are many homeowners who are suffering greatly because their claims were denied.”
Tarion, for its part, says its model as an independent administrator has allowed it to operate quickly, efficiently, and effectively and that it’s required to provide numerous disclosures to the province if not to the public directly.
In April, Tarion chairman Chris Spiteri rebutted a piece of commentary in Law Times in which columnist Alan Shanoff argued Ontarians “have little verifiable or relevant information on whether the public is receiving value for its money.”
Spiteri responded that its model as an independent administrator “provides the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services with oversight of Tarion through its accountability agreement. The government contributes to board composition and the nomination process and requires quarterly reports to the ministry, annual reports, audited financial statements, annual business plans, yearly regulatory plans, and annual public meetings.”
That may not be enough for detractors who will no doubt be waiting eagerly for Cunningham’s recommendations.
Two teens killed in Cambridge car crash, Canadian Press
Former B.C Crown Jody Wilson-Raybould will serve as Canada’s first aboriginal justice minister and attorney general in the new Liberal government.
Wilson-Raybould, a former regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations in British Columbia, is from the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk and Laich-Kwil-Tach peoples and previously served as a treaty commissioner.
|New Prime Minister Justin Trudeau poses with his cabinet after a swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa today. The new ministers include lawyer Jody Wilson-Raybould in the justice portfolio. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)|
Toronto defence lawyer Bill Trudell says Wilson-Raybould is “an inspirational choice.”
“This is a real breath of fresh and experienced air in the ministry,” says Trudell. “This is a very distinguished woman.”
By appointing her, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “clearly sending a signal” that aboriginal issues in the justice system are going to be important to the new government, says James Morton, a litigator at Morton Karrass LLP.
“If you recall, the last government cut back on the application of [R. v.] Gladue principles to a degree, and I suspect we’ll see perhaps a greater sensitivity to First Nations issues,” he says.
A former prosecutor in Vancouver’s downtown eastside, Wilson-Raybould also brings to the portfolio a “considerable experience in poverty law and some of the real issues like drug abuse, prostitution, and predatory actions,” says Morton, calling it “a dramatically different life experience, to say the least,” from the one former justice minister Peter MacKay brought to the position.
“It’s certainly a big shift. You’ve got a younger person, a First Nations woman with a lot of experience in the criminal justice system as a prosecutor,” he adds.
Isadore Day, Ontario regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, also lauded Wilson-Raybould’s appointment.
“Minister Wilson-Raybold is a strong choice for justice minister. Her appointment shows that this government cares about proper representation of indigenous perspectives and women,” said Day.
“In First Nations traditional governance models, women are integral to the connection and healing in the community. Mr. Trudeau could not have chosen better.”
Wilson-Raybould has a wealth of knowledge about drugs, mental health, poverty, and the impact those issues have on crime, says Trudell.
“If anybody suggested this is tokenism, there is no tokenism here,” he adds.
Criminal lawyers had chided the previous government for its mandatory minimum sentences and victim surcharge. Morton says his sense is there will be greater discretion for the courts and sensitivity to poverty issues under the new government.
“I think there are so many people in this country, in this profession who today would like to call up the minister of justice and say, ‘Boy, would I ever like to help to work to make the system better,’” says Trudell, noting he’s confident Wilson-Raybould will work collaboratively with all participants in the justice system.
Having met Wilson-Raybould, Morton describes her as “gregarious and engaging.”
“I think the bar will find her to be really quite refreshing,” he adds.
Syrian refugee claimants who apply for refugee protection division coverage will be issued a 10-hour expedite legal aid certificate under a new pilot project from Legal Aid Ontario.
The expedite certificate covers the preparation and filing of the basis of claim and other documents such as submissions under the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada’s expedited process established for Syrian refugee claimants. Last month, the board announced it would begin to expedite Syrian refugee claims. The process applies to Syrians who are in Canada and making a claim on Canadian soil.
A regular refugee claim would receive seven hours of coverage from legal aid to do the initial basis of claim form and then another nine hours for the hearing stage. While immigration lawyers say that’s never enough time to handle a claim, the provision for Syrian refugees under the expedited process is welcome.
“Generally, I think 16 hours for a refugee claim is very low. I’ve never been able to do a claim in 16 hours,” says Jacqueline Bonisteel, an immigration lawyer with Perley-Robertson Hill & McDougall LLP.
“That said, the hours make sense because you’re still doing the basis of claim plus an additional three hours to put the documentation together and there is no hearing preparation required. In general, it would be great to have more hours from legal aid for refugee claims, but this standard makes sense.”
However, Bonisteel says the LAO web site indicates claimants may not find out whether they’re approved for the expedited process until very close to the hearing date.
“When you submit your paperwork, you will be asking for the expedited process, but by the time you get an answer from the Immigration and Refugee Board, your hearing could be getting close and if you don’t have the assurance, you will want to be preparing your client for a hearing just in case,” she says.
If a client does require a hearing, Bonisteel says LAO has said it will grant an additional six hours to prepare.
“This all happens so fast that in general, it can be very difficult to get the answers you need from legal aid in time and you end up doing work without the assurance of having the hours,” she says. “I do see that there may be an issue there.”
Bonisteel applauds the board for bringing in the expedited process for Syrian refugees and suggests it should be extended to claimants from other countries.
“It’s hard to argue it’s not a good thing. I think there are other countries where it should be introduced — for Iraq and Afghanistan, perhaps,” she says. “I’ve often had to go from Ottawa to Montreal for a hearing, and the whole thing is over in half an hour because the case was so clear. I think it makes a lot of administrative sense to not have the claimant have to go through [the hearing] process. If this works well, it would be great if the IRB would consider other countries where it is quite clear a claim is genuine.”
Winnipeg court hears arguments about suspected terrorist, Canadian Press
Trial continues in Toronto for man accused of killing daughter, Canadian Press
Woman dies after attack at Kamloops senior's home, Canadian Press
The swearing in ceremony of prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau and his cabinet on Wednesday will mark the beginning of a lawyer-heavy Liberal majority government reign for the next four years.
|Ralph Lean predicts lawyers Catherine McKenna and Dominic LeBlanc will be among those chosen for the federal cabinet this week.|
The 184-member government caucus includes 43 MPs with law degrees, according to the Liberal Party of Canada.
According to Lean, Catherine McKenna of Ottawa Centre is one of the most notable lawyers elected to the House of Commons last month with a strong shot at a cabinet position. She’s one of eight women lawyers in the Liberal caucus.
Her background includes serving as executive director of Canadian Lawyers Abroad and practising at leading firms in both Canada and Indonesia with a focus on international trade, competition, investment, and constitutional matters. She comes to Parliament after defeating NDP veteran Paul Dewar last month.
“I’ve heard very good things about her from the Liberals I know,” says Lean.
Other lawyers in the Liberal caucus include Prof. David Lametti of the McGill University Faculty of Law; Will Amos who has a background in environmental law and natural resources; and Nicola Di Iorio, whose practice focuses on labour and employment law.
Veteran MP Dominic LeBlanc is another lawyer Lean believes will be in cabinet. “He’s been around for a very long time, he is very close to Trudeau. I think he probably will go in,” says Lean.
Despite the heavy presence of lawyers, he’s not sure it’s particularly important to have so many of them in the government caucus.
“Other than the attorney general and minister of justice, you don’t necessarily need a bunch of lawyers,” he says.
Nevertheless, the lawyer-heavy governing caucus is a change from more recent federal elections and is definitely a difference from the situation at the provincial level in Ontario where just seven lawyers won seats at Queen’s Park in 2014.
Among the considerations this week, Lean notes, is Trudeau’s commitment to gender parity in cabinet. “I am always hopeful that the prime minister of whatever party chooses the best candidate,” says Lean, a well-known Conservative.
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