The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

CBA/ABC National

Trade

CETA and ISDS: A descredited mechanism

By CBA/ABC National October 24, 2016 24 October 2016

 

Canada's long-awaited trade deal with the European Union is far from the sure thing we thought it was. Last week International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland walked out on talks complaining that that the EU “is incapable of reaching an agreement.”  Then there was hope again, followed by an ultimatum from the EU to Belgium’s government to decide whether it will agree to sign.

The main obstacle to the deal is the private arbitration mechanism, or investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which allows companies to sue national governments where for interfering in trade, matters (there is a clause that has been added reaffirming the “right to regulate” in order “to achieve legitimate policy objectives”)

Tyler Cowen has a piece taking on the critics of ISDS:

Part of the discomfort over dispute-resolution panels is the notion that their private deliberations circumvent the democratic process. But it is a basic feature of most democratic governments that the legislature sets up legal institutions that subsequently act outside of direct democratic control.

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The judiciary

Vacancies filled and changes to Judicial Advisory Committees announced

By CBA/ABC National October 20, 2016 20 October 2016

 

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould filled 24 judicial vacancies and announced some changes to the judicial appointment process with a view to improving transparency and accountability.  Changes have been made to the Judicial Advisory Committees responsible for assessing the qualifications for applicants.

From now on, each committee will consist of seven members representing the bench, the bar and the general public, four of whom are nominated by entities in the province or territory in question. 

  • a nominee of the provincial or territorial law society;
  • a nominee of the provincial or territorial branch of the Canadian Bar Association;
  • a judge nominated by the Chief Justice of the province or by the senior judge of the territory;
  • a nominee of the provincial Attorney General or territorial Minister of Justice; and
  • three nominees of the Government representing the general public.

There will no longer be a law-enforcement member sitting on the committees – a change the previous Conservative government had introduced to the recommendation panels when they were in power.

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Climate litigation

Norway's turn to face a climate lawsuit

By CBA/ABC National October 19, 2016 19 October 2016

In June, Norway became the first developed country to ratify the Paris Agreement. Now environmental groups are suing its government for violating the climate treaty by forging ahead on oil exploration plans in the Barents Sea. The fight centers on Norway’s decision in May 2016 to award 10 new drilling licenses to oil companies. That decision, the plaintiffs say, goes against Article 112 of Norway’s Constitution, which reads:

Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well.

The legal writ, published online, acknowledges that there is little precedent in the Norway for invalidating decisions under Article 112.  Nonetheless, here’s how the plaintiffs intend to argue their case:

The presumption principle, which calls for Norwegian law to be interpreted in accordance with international law, makes international law rules and fundamental principles of international law a part of our national legal system. This means that the Climate Convention, the Paris Agreement and international human rights and environmental principles are relevant sources of law when the limitations in Article 112 of the Constitution are to be determined.

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The Supreme Court

Malcolm Rowe nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada

By CBA/ABC National October 17, 2016 17 October 2016

In a move that maintains the regional representation on the top court, Justin Trudeau has nominated Justice Malcolm Rowe, a first for Newfoundland & Labrador, to the Supreme Court of Canada to replace retiring Justice Thomas Cromwell.

Justice Rowe comes from the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Court of Appeal). As a practitioner before that, he focused primarily on constitutional matters, foreign relations, and the arbitration of maritime boundaries.  He participated in the negotiations that led to the end of the ''turbot war'' and the agreement at the UN for a new convention on high seas fisheries

The appointment leaves the gender balance of the court unchanged at five men to four women. This is the first nomination by the federal government under its new Supreme Court open application process.  For further insight into Justice's Rowe's background and ideas, you can read his application questionnaire here:

 

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UK

Legal challenges to triggering Brexit

By CBA/ABC National October 13, 2016 13 October 2016

Does it take Parliament’s approval to trigger article 50 to notify Britain’s withdrawal from the Treaty on European Union (TEU)?  According to Theresa May’s government, lawmakers need not vote on the matter.  But opponents to Brexit have filed a legal challenge arguing that it should have a say in determining the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU. The UK High Court begins hearings this week:

From the Guardian:

The case could open deep rifts in the consensus over the UK’s unwritten constitution. If the judges concluded that MPs should decide, the majority might not be in favour of leaving.

The government maintains that the decision to depart has been taken by the referendum on 23 June and that its executive powers, under the royal prerogative, are sufficient for David Davis, the Brexit secretary, to give notice on behalf of the cabinet.

At stake is whether the government can skip introducing legislation on formally leaving the EU.  Though the British Prime Minister recently took a hard stance on Brexit, a parliamentary vote would allow lawmakers the opportunity to shape the country’s withdrawal from Europe and replace membership in the EU with something more palatable to Remainers.

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