The federal government has followed through on an election promise to reinstate the Court Challenges Program, and have agreed with a chorus of lawyers that Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms ought to be included in the program.
“I am confident that through the new court challenges program, Canadians will have greater access to justice and greater protection of their rights,” Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The Canadian Bar Association has released a statement in support of the reinstated programme, also calling it a win for access to justice. “This program benefits all Canadians by funding test cases and interventions that will clarify our understanding of Charter and Official language rights,” the statement reads.
In recent years, the Supreme Court of Canada has tackled the evidentiary and privacy concerns around cell phones, the internet, and third-party data disclosure.
But are the courts really keeping pace with advances in technology?
It wasn’t until 2013, in R. v. Vu, that the top court recognized that a computer isn’t like a cupboard — and, as such, isn’t covered under a search warrant for a residence. It noted, “privacy interests implicated by computer searches are markedly different.”
Only in 2014, in R. v. Spencer, did the Supreme Court rule that warrantless requests for suspects’ personal data to telecommunications providers amounted to a circumvention of the lawful order process — and were therefore unconstitutional. The court, then, concluded that “particularly important in the context of Internet usage is the understanding of privacy as anonymity.”
Social media has become a ubiquitous reality. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is on quite the same footing when it comes to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.
Speaking to a conference of tech professionals and lawyers at Osgoode Hall Law School last week, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frances Kiteley offered some cautionary words, warning social media-savvy lawyers that many judges “don’t come with the same skills, knowledge, or expertise as those of you coming into the courtroom.”
“Do not assume that they know what you know,” Kiteley warned.
Obviously, not all members of the Canadian judiciary are social media luddites — from the judge who banned a violent ex-boyfriend from social media this month after a Snapchat post set him off on a violent attack, to the justice who took a very understanding view of one mother’s online dating proclivities in a family law case last year.
A law professor’s personal quest to force the Minister of Foreign Affairs to account for the decision to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia — and to justify that decision to the court — has reached the end of the road.
In a decision passed down by the Federal Court on Tuesday, Justice Danièle Tremblay-Lamer found that while the decision to sign off on the $15-billion export of arms to the Saudi government is reviewable by the courts, the minister retains a broad discretionary power to approve such sales.
The decision was a mixed bag for Daniel Turp (pictured above), a Université de Montréal professor in international law: It amounts to a recognition that litigants can, against the protests of the Attorney General, file such applications in the court; there remains, however, a high bar to succeed in such cases.
Beer is flowing freely from province to province; wine could soon follow. And if some political mavericks get their way, provincial agricultural barriers could be next.
Credit political will and perhaps a broader reading, of late, of Canada’s founding documents: Internal free trade has been a hot topic.
Ever since a New Brunswick Court of Appeal sided with an ale-loving New Brunswick man in R. v. Comeau, it seems like it’s just been a matter of time until the Supreme Court of Canada weighs in and Canada will become, once and for all, a free-trade zone.
Justin Ling is an Ottawa journalist who covers law and politics.