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First tax moot ‘a long time coming’

|Written By Bryan Smith
First tax moot ‘a long time coming’

If you ask professor Emir Mohammed, the formation of Canada’s first national tax moot was a long time coming.

“When you think about it, Canada has an entire court that is devoted to tax law,” says Mohammed, a professor at Windsor Law.

“We have moots devoted to criminal law and constitutional law, but tax law, which I believe lends itself well to a moot, wasn’t represented.”

Thanks to Mohammed and his colleague, professor John Weir, this is no longer the case. On March 11 and 12, 2011, the inaugural Bowman Moot will be held in Toronto. Named after the former chief justice of the Tax Court of Canada, Donald G. Bowman, the moot will give law students a chance to take part in a simulated tax court proceeding.

“After I decided that a tax moot was necessary, I contacted John Weir, my colleague, to get his assistance,” says Mohammed. “He’s a tax guy — he teaches tax courses here at Windsor, and he’s been a tax practitioner for years. I told him I wanted to form a moot, and I needed a tax expert. That’s where he came in.”

When the time came to christen the moot with a name, Mohammed wanted to honour an individual who stood out from the rest in the world of tax law.

The other moot he co-founded, the Harold G. Fox Moot, focuses on intellectual property law and is named after one of Canada’s leading intellectual property scholars. For the tax one, Mohammed spoke to several tax lawyers and others in the field to get an idea of who he should honour.

“Everyone I talked to said that in the tax world, Donald G. Bowman is the name that stands out from the rest,” says Mohammed. “John Weir approached Bowman and asked his permission, and he was honoured. He’s considered legendary in tax law and it just made sense to name Canada’s first tax moot after such a prominent figure.”

Mohammed also put together a formation advisory committee to lend expertise as the moot began to take shape. Its members include Mohammed; Weir; Bowman; Tax Court of Canada Chief Justice Gerald Rip; Federal Court of Appeal Justice Karen Sharlow; and Mohamed Hashim, a Windsor Law graduate and co-founder of the Harold G. Fox Moot.

“When we were putting the committee together, we knew that we would include former chief justice Bowman as a sign of respect,” says Mohammed.

“After we decided that, we also figured that it would make sense to have the current chief justice on the committee too. . . .” Mohammed believes the committee will be invaluable to the success of the moot, and is quick to point out the significance of having judges as a part of it.

“The advantage to having judges on the committee is that they lend legitimacy to the moot, and it bridges the gap between mooting as an academic exercise, and mooting as a practical exercise,” he says.

Since it was announced last week, interest in the Moot has grown steadily, with law schools from across the country inquiring for information. Sponsorship hasn’t been determined yet, but Mohammed says they have received several offers already, and the interest is proof a tax moot in Canada is a no-brainer.

“I think the reason why there hasn’t been one up until this point is that most academics are drawn to criminal law, or Charter law. Specialized moots, such as the intellectual property moot and, now, the tax moot, are gaining steam because other moots have become saturated. These new moots are bringing something fresh to the table, and I think that adds to their appeal.”

With nine months to go until the Bowman moot gets underway, Mohammed knows there’s a lot of work to do. However, he’s confident in the committee that he’s assembled and is grateful for the enthusiasm that the Moot has garnered thus far.

“Without the participation of the judges, the law schools, and the sponsors, there wouldn’t be a Moot, and we’re excited and thankful for the fact that everyone involved has been so enthusiastic,” he says.

  • No Department of Justice involvement?

    A tax moot is an interesting concept, but if it is premised on representation - the existence of a national tax court, which is mostly peripatetic and travels to every major and many minor cities across Canada, and which itself has 23 judges working every day - then some thought ought to be given to the counsel who appear before that court. Does the advisory board have anyone from the federal Department of Justice in its ranks? After all, it is its lawyers who appear on every case that comes before the court. The private bar usually represent only those wealthy enough to hire a lawyer. Sad, if the Crown is again left out in the cold.