The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Justin Ling

Freedom of expression

Freedom to follow: Politicians blocking their critics

By Justin Ling October 26, 2018 26 October 2018

Freedom to follow: Politicians blocking their critics

 

Facebook and Google have become unavoidable parts of modern life. Some have described the platforms as central parts of our “digital public square.”

So what happens when your city’s mayor decides to block your access to that square?

That’s the novel question being posed to an Ontario court by three prominent critics of Ottawa mayor Jim Watson, who has blocked them all on Twitter.

Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ is representing criminal lawyer Emilie Taman, union activist James Hutt, and Dylan Penner of the Council of Canadians.

All three have used the social media platform to chide their mayor, whose Twitter account serves as both his personal page and as the semi-official account of the mayor’s office. Being blocked means they can neither access his tweets nor read many of the responses they generate.

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The Charter

Ontario Court of Appeal grants stay for Bill 5 ruling

By Justin Ling September 19, 2018 19 September 2018

Ontario Court of Appeal grants stay for Bill 5 ruling

The high-paced legal drama around Doug Ford’s decision to slash the size of Toronto city council mid-election will end, not with a notwithstanding clause, but with a stay.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled to set aside the lower court ruling on the matter.

On July 30, the Ontario legislature gave first reading to Bill 5, which would reduce the number of seats on Toronto city council from 47 to 25, and axe regional municipal bodies elsewhere in the province. The bill received royal assent just over two weeks later.

All this, even though the election period had already begun, under the 47 ward council, on May 1.

Council candidates mounted a constitutional challenge shortly after, arguing that Bill 5 breached their constitutional rights and those of electors.

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Criminal justice

Facilitating routine police evidence may not help court delays

By Justin Ling September 12, 2018 12 September 2018

Facilitating routine police evidence may not help court delays

 

What is routine?

What might seem like an abstract question has taken on larger significance under Bill C-75, the federal government’s omnibus justice reform legislation, which will come back before the Justice and Human Rights Committee as the House of Commons returns this month.

The bill has drawn considerable interest and criticism, particularly concerning its more controversial aspects — eliminating preliminary hearings, doing away with peremptory juror challenges, the hybridization of numerous offences. 

The other issue, at first overshadowed by the other changes, is the provision — s. 278 — proposing to “allow routine police evidence in writing.”

Under the proposed bill, that means anything collected by a police officer related to “gathering evidence and making observations; analysing, preserving or otherwise handling evidence; identifying or arresting an accused or otherwise interacting with an accused.” It extends to any other similar activities “that the police officer undertook in the course of their duties.”

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Justice

Filling judicial vacancies: Only a partial solution

By Justin Ling August 29, 2018 29 August 2018

Filling judicial vacancies: Only a partial solution

 

During their first three years in government, the Justin Trudeau-led Liberal Party has managed to stickhandle some significant legal files with relative skill. Medical assistance in dying, the legalization of cannabis, national security reform were all brought forward and passed into law with little of the legal fight that overshadowed much of the agenda of the Harper government before it.

But criticism remains regarding Ottawa’s handling of criminal justice. In particular, a fight is brewing over a justice reform bill that Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says will tackle court delays. Her critics say it will do the opposite.

The other big-ticket attempt to fix the issue of court delays has been to create new spots on the bench and get them filled in a reasonable time. Staffing the judiciary, however, has been a challenge for the government.

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Criminal justice

The home stretch: Delivering on justice reforms

By Justin Ling August 13, 2018 13 August 2018

The home stretch: Delivering on justice reforms

 

As the Trudeau government approaches the last year of its mandate, its promised reforms to our justice system present a mixed picture.

Since taking office, the Liberals have been seized with improving the speed and efficiency in the criminal justice system. Adding a greater sense of urgency to the task was the Supreme Court’s ruling in 2016 in  R. v. Jordan, which imposed ceilings on trial delays and instigated a political panic over the idea that murderers could be released because their case has been too-oft delayed. Even prior to that, Justice Minister’s Jody Wilson-Raybould’s November 2015 mandate letter from the prime minister outlined three specific commitments on that front: The expansion of information technology to expedite the justice system, “exploration of sentencing alternatives and bail reform,” and the establishment of a “unified family court.”

The first of the three promises appears to be well on track. While there is scant mention by the government of their plan to drag the Court Administration Service’s Courts and Registry Management System into the 21st century, the government insists that change is on the way.

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