“Law is quite a conservative field,” says Trevor McCann, laughing. “Even more conservative than accounting.”
But that conservatism isn’t preventing firms like Clyde & Co, where McCann is a partner, to take steps to ensure that their offices are meaningfully inclusive of LGBTQ lawyers and clients.
“For us, right now, it’s something we’re working on developing further,” says McCann who is based in Montreal. “That means outreach to law schools to make students well aware of their diversity initiatives, working on building an open culture within the office, and being proactive with clients.”
The effort echoes a similar one under way at Borden Ladner Gervais, which recently released its transgender inclusivity and accommodation policy to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.
“We thought the timing was right to do this,” says Laleh Moshiri, the national director for diversity and inclusion at BLG.
Last week, the firm took an extra step and held a seminar at its head office (and broadcast in their offices Canada-wide) with a “focus on legal and professional obligations” providing “concrete examples of best practices for implementing accommodations and creating a trans-inclusive and supportive environment.”
Having the Senate amend legislation passed by the House of Commons is not, in and of itself, novel.
Certainly, for private members’ business, such as Bill C-279, the trans rights act, and Bill C-377, the union disclosure bill, it’s even common.
Even for government business, there’s some precedent. In 2012 the Senate introduced amendments to Bill C-10, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, to address errors in amendments made to the State Immunity Act. For other government bills legislative tinkering was in order to address drafting errors or necessary fixes to administrative provisions.
Going back to 1960, the Senate has amended only 116 bills— a significant number of which were private members’ legislation. Often, those amendments were at the behest of the government in the House, or were changes that never came into force.
This week, however, the number will rise to 117. Bill C-14, which creates a regulatory framework around medical assistance in dying, is the first bill amended by the Senate under the Trudeau government — perhaps the first of many, for a Senate with newfound independence.
The third act of the performance of Ottawa’s physician-assisted suicide legislation is underway, and it appears as though the performance could be described as much as a tragedy as a farce.
Act one was months of hand-wringing deliberation, rife with study and contemplation; act two involved Members of Parliament lamenting a bill that nobody seemed to support and yet which a majority voted to pass; and act three has seen the bill arrive in the Senate with a thud, as its passage appears almost inconceivable.
Bill C-14, Ottawa’s response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Carter v. Canada, would have effectively legalized medically-assisted dying. It has also been called flatly unconstitutional, and has presented the government with its first significant legislative hurdle of its mandate.
At a committee hearing on Monday, senators heard from a quartet of lawyers who issued a stern warning over passing the legislation.
Perhaps the most forceful was Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa, who compared C-14 to the ill-fated Assisted Human Reproduction Act — a piece of legislation that was carved up by the Supreme Court, after numerous sections were declared unconstitutional.
Attaran predicted that C-14 would, in short order, be turned into a “shredded legislative rump” that will “significantly downgrade the level of care” and lead to legal and medical “mediocrity.”
But the testimony that clearly carried the most weight on Monday was that of Peter Hogg, Blake, Cassels & Graydon’s resident scholar and one of the more pre-eminent constitutional experts in Canada.
If there is one observable trend in energy projects from recent years, it’s consultation.
Community outreach, stakeholder engagement, environmental impact assessments — while a litany of would-be energy projects were felled by a lack of robust consultation with the people potentially affected, the resource and energy sectors are clearly shifting to consulting first, building later, after years of doing the very opposite.
One piece of the puzzle, however, has remained elusive: the duty to consult Aboriginal populations.
Even socially-conscious enterprises that go to great pains to get a social license from Indigenous communities that feel the impact of their projects have found themselves facing headwinds, for a litany of reasons.
Legislating medical assistance in dying was never going to be easy. That much is clear now.
Following the top court’s ruling in Carter v. Canada, a joint committee of parliamentarians met with a list of expert witnesses — from the Quebec Barreau, constitutional scholar Peter Hogg, a litany of medical groups, representatives of faith and minority groups, family and trust lawyers like David Baker, and dozens of others.
Between the Supreme Court ruling and that committee report, the government had what appeared to be clear guidance on what the bill ought to look like.
Fast forward to present day, where an Alberta court has essentially fired a pre-emptive strike against the draft legislation, Bill C-14, for failing three unique tests.
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench got there in a roundabout way, in deciding an appeal from the Superior Court. A disabled patient, referred to simply as E.F, filed a constitutional exemption to have her life ended by a physician. The Attorney General fought that application for two main reasons — they argued that E.F. was not terminally ill, and that her illness is rooted in “a psychiatric condition.”
Justin Ling is an Ottawa journalist who covers law and politics.