The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert


Missing and murdered indigenous women inquiry gets the go-ahead

By Kim Covert December 9, 2015 9 December 2015

Days after a throne speech heralding a more transparent and responsive government, the Liberals made good on their election promise to hold an inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The inquiry will happen in two phases: in the first, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says government will consult victims’ families, aboriginal organizations and front-line workers to determine what the inquiry needs to accomplish. The second phase, the inquiry itself, should be announced in the spring, said Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Indigenous Affairs.

While statistics are hard to come by, in 2014 the RCMP said there were nearly 1,200 documented cases of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls between 1980 and 2012. A 2015 report from the UN found indigenous women were five times more likely than non-aboriginals to die a violent death.

"The victims deserve justice, their families an opportunity to be heard and to heal. We must work together to put an end to this ongoing tragedy," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. The party’s platform put the cost of an inquiry at about $40 million over two years.

Wilson-Raybould said this report won’t simply sit on a shelf. "Doing better requires openness and the ability to listen. We have heard this loudly and clearly, and we have heard that this cannot be just another report," she said.

In a written statement, AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde welcomed the announcement. "After years of denial and deflection, it is my hope we can make real strides in achieving justice for families and achieving safety and security for all our people.”

The CBA is also happy to finally see action taken on the file. In a 2012 letter to then-Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, and again in a 2013 resolution passed by CBA council, the CBA called on the government to do what it can to end the “intergenerational cycles of violence” against aboriginal women and call an inquiry into the issue. In March 2014, then-Justice Minister Peter MacKay said “the biggest mistake that we could make on (the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women) would be to spend more time studying it.” Current Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose, however, says the Liberal government is doing the right thing.

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First Nations

Duty to consult gets another day in court

By Kim Covert October 1, 2015 1 October 2015

Fifteen months after Ottawa granted its approval for construction of the Northern Gateway pipeline, eight B.C. First Nations are appearing in Federal Court in Vancouver today to have that approval revoked.

The approval for the pipeline came with 209 conditions attached, but critics have argued that the environmental assessment process was flawed and that stakeholders who might oppose the project were not given an equal hearing. Pete Erickson, a hereditary chief with the Nak’azdli First Nation, told the Globe and Mail that while Enbridge was given days to present its case to the Joint Review Panel, he got 10 minutes to speak for his people.

“We’ve said that under no circumstances is the pipeline ever going to be allowed in the current presentation,” he said. “We’ve decided that there’s no way we can allow it and I believe that the court will recognize that we have the right to say that.”

The $7-billion pipeline would carry bitumen from Alberta’s oilsands to the B.C. coast.

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Citizenship now comes with a caveat

By Kim Covert September 29, 2015 29 September 2015

At the end of May, measures came into force that allow the government to strip away the Canadian citizenship of terrorists and others who hold two passports.

The government has notified a half-dozen people that it intends to revoke their citizenship, and last week it accomplished that intention for the first time, rendering so-called “Toronto-18” ringleader Zakaria Amara un-Canadian. Amara is currently serving a life sentence for his part in a foiled 2006 plot to detonate truck bombs in downtown Toronto.

There’s no question that revoking a terrorist’s citizenship was a popular act among some Canadians. There is a sort of morally righteous legitimacy to that stance.

The legal point is less popular.

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Life for a (schizophrenic?) terrorist

By Kim Covert September 24, 2015 24 September 2015

This week in Toronto, two would-be terrorists were sentenced to life in prison for a crime they bragged to the wrong person about wanting to do, but which they did not actually commit. In fact, questions were raised about whether they ever had or would have had the wherewithal to carry out their derail a Via passenger train.

Still, in these days when we worry about terrorists hiding under every rock, you can never be too safe.  Found guilty in March of conspiring to commit murder for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a terrorist group, along with six other terrorism charges between them, the two men will each have to serve 10 years before being eligible for parole.

Chiheb Esseghaier, who had represented himself, and who many might remember for demanding his trial be conducted according to Qur’anic law, threw back his copy of the judgment.

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Refugee crisis

Offering legal expertise to help Syrian refugees

By Kim Covert September 22, 2015 22 September 2015

As it has in past disasters, Canada’s legal community has stepped forward with offers of time and expertise to help Syrian refugees in the current humanitarian crisis.

With the federal government’s announcement on Saturday that it would expedite the processing of Syrian refugee applications, their services will be welcome.

“We looked carefully at our capacity. We looked carefully at the steps and procedures to keep Canada and Canadians safe. And we’ve come up with a much accelerated plan that will bring 10,000 Syrian refugees here by September 2016,” Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said.

That expedited process is what the CBA was hoping for when President Janet Fuhrer wrote to Alexander and the prime minister earlier this month offering pro bono legal help by members of the Immigration Law Section to individuals and sponsorship groups to ensure that the necessary documents are in order.

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