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Uniform Law Conference of Canada tackles crowdfunding and electronic wills at virtual annual meeting

Policy statements address diversity and inclusion, and the climate crisis

Uniform Law Conference of Canada tackles crowdfunding and electronic wills at virtual annual meeting
John Lee, president of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

The Uniform Law Conference of Canada has held its 102nd annual meeting virtually for the first time in the organization’s history, where it dealt with timely matters such as electronic wills, crowdfunding, publication of intimate images, diversity and inclusion, and the climate crisis.

The meeting of the ULCC, a government-supported organization that works to modernize and harmonize federal, provincial and territorial laws and considers proposals to reform criminal laws, was held from August 10-13, 2020.

“We didn’t meet this year in person because of the pandemic, just like a lot of other people can’t meet in person, so for the first time in history we decided to do this virtually,” John Lee, president of the ULCC, told Canadian Lawyer.

“Under normal circumstances we would have met in person, and that would have involved a lot of people traveling to a particular place,” says Lee. Instead, the virtual meeting meant four three-hour meetings across four days rather than five and a half full days of meetings, protected delegates from COVID-19 and it also saved the climate, “so we thought we would adopt a policy to address this issue.”

The policy statement asked ULCC members in future “to choose options that minimize the carbon footprint related to their ULCC participation, notably by making environmentally conscious travel arrangements and offsetting their carbon emissions.”

The conference also adopted a policy on diversity and inclusion. “We’re a law reform body, the oldest in the country [established in 1918], and it’s important that we’re diverse and inclusive,” Lee says.

“The ULCC is committed to cultivating an inclusive, respectful and welcoming environment,” reads the statement of policy. “The ULCC actively reaches out to members of the legal profession to ensure diverse participation in its working groups. Working groups are encouraged to consider broad consultations in order to solicit a wide range of views and perspectives. The ULCC also encourages those responsible for the composition of delegations to consider diversity, among other factors, when choosing delegates.”

Uniform Acts are statutes developed by the ULCC, Lee explains, which are then recommended for adoption by the provinces and territories, and sometimes by the federal government. “They’re essentially model legislations, and something that provinces and territories can use for their own legislation. They have no force of law unless they are adopted.”

The ULCC’s civil section approved in principle amendments to its Uniform Wills Act (2015) to allow for the making of electronic wills, and approved in principle the Uniform Benevolent and Community Crowdfunding Act (2020). This Act modernizes the Uniform Informal Public Appeals Act (2011), which was adopted by the Province of Saskatchewan and relied upon by the Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench to make payouts of funds raised for the victims of the 2018 Humboldt Broncos bus crash through a GoFundMe campaign.

“The previous version of the Act didn’t contemplate online fundraising,” says Lee; “it was made before that activity became popular.” The person who initiated the GoFundMe campaign for the Humboldt victims raised well over $1 million, unexpectedly. “The issue became, ‘how do I hand over this money to the victims?’” The Court of Queen’s Bench decided on a a process to distribute all the money raised, and “the [old] Uniform Act was actually very useful in enabling the court in dealing with … how funds would be distributed.”

Amendments to the Uniform Wills Act were approved in principle to allow for the making of electronic wills. “There was a lot of interest when we were in the lockdown period, and various governments enacted emergency legislation to allow for the making of wills online,” says Lee, including the Ontario government.

The UCLL’s criminal section adopted the Final Report of the Working Group on telewarrants and received interim reports from working groups regarding the search warrant regime in section 487 of the Criminal Code and section 490 of the Criminal Code, which deals with the detention of seized property.

And at a joint session of the civil and criminal sections, the Uniform Non-consensual Disclosure of Intimate Images Act (2020) was approved in principle.

“If you have an image of yourself, published anywhere, over the internet, … how do you deal with that if you never consented to the publication of that intimate image in the first place?” asks Lee. “This statute sets out some civil remedies and provides that you could bring a legal proceeding to deal with that situation. In addition, there’s a contemplation that there be a fast-track process.”

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