The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Freedom of expression and rule of law

Silencing disagreement and promoting understanding of the law

By Yves Faguy December 6, 2016 6 December 2016


Commenting on a recent political rally in Alberta where chants of “Lock her up” broke out against Premier Rachel Notley, communications professor Brian Gorman  remarked, "There's an ugly tendency among the extreme right, and I suppose the extreme left as well ... to confuse any disagreement with something that must be eliminated."

Of course, there is absolutely no legal basis for putting Notley in jail. The crowd mimicking the frequent rallying cry at Trump campaign events was there to protest the NDP government’s proposed carbon tax, legally introduced in the province’s legislature for a vote. But the Carleton University professor could have just as easily been referring to the worrying trend on university campuses across North America to shout down controversial figures invited to speak to students.

The latest among these is renowned criminal defence lawyer, Marie Henein, who successfully defended former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi at his sexual assault trial. Ghomeshi was acquitted on all counts, but Henein has been the subject of harsh judgment in some quarters for her role in attacking the credibility of key female witnesses who claimed they had been assaulted by him.

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Provinces move to help remedy long delays in criminal cases

By Yves Faguy December 2, 2016 2 December 2016


It hasn't taken long for the Supreme Court's ruling in R. v. Jordan, which reframed the right to a trial in a reasonable time (by setting 18 and 30-month presumptive ceiling on criminal cases), to be felt in our criminal justice system.  It has threatened to derail organized crime cases in Quebec as well as numerous first-degree murder charges across the country, some of which have already being stayed because of unreasonable delay. You can sense the panic coming from provincial governments who are suddenly springing into action.  Yesterday Ontario  announced bail reforms and plans to take steps to unclog the courts by investing $25 million to appoint new judges, hire prosecutors and court staff. Quebec’s Justice Minister, Stéphanie Vallée, followed suit today by promising “tens of millions of dollars” to introduce similar measures, though she did not provide an exact figure.  It appears the top court’s call to action is working.

However, Keenan Sprague writes on Twitter that as laudable as the SCC ruling was, it might carry unintended consequences for the civil justice system.

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Technology and law

What's the big deal with AI anyway?

By Yves Faguy November 21, 2016 21 November 2016


Ryan McClead cautions against buying into the artificial intelligence hype that has taken over legal and mainstream media – not because it isn’t real, but because our own conception of AI  is a work in progress:

Google isn't considered AI, but it 'knows' what you're typing as you type, and then it filters a large portion of the web to give you the most relevant pages.  It would have easily been seen as AI twenty years ago.  Siri and Alexa personal assistants respond to voice commands and can return information instantly or actually perform tasks online, but they are considered borderline AI at best these days. Completely self-driving automobiles are still seen as Science Fiction and therefore are solidly in the AI column, but I predict they will NOT widely be considered AI by the time they are commercially available.  AI is a moving target. By the time a technology is commercialized it's no longer considered Artificial Intelligence.  Consequently, we fickle humans are consistently underwhelmed by the promise of AI even as AI fundamentally changes the world around us.

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Ganz and Avi Goldfarb follow some “simple rules” as economists to make a similar point in the Harvard Business Review.  And just as digital technology in the 1990s helped bring down the cost of distributing information, machine intelligence will lead to a drop in the cost of prediction:

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Legal marketplace

The growing prestige of the legal ops professional

By Yves Faguy November 15, 2016 15 November 2016

We live in pretty fluid times, where all professionals are seeking out a competitive edge. Over the last few years much of the discussion in legal circles has focused on how the legal industry has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market. The presumption flowing from that is that the shift is empowering in-house counsel who are increasingly demanding that external firms do more for less.

Now, things move slowly in the legal world.  Altman Weil, in its 2016 Chief Legal Officer Survey, revealed something interesting recently that D. Casey Flaherty picks up on, namely that law departments are, more often than not, neglecting to ask their firms to change their ways:

Reorganizing those numbers a bit, only 30.8% of CLOs rate themselves satisfied because they generally are (17.4%) or because they are pleased with their results from asking for change (13.4%). Of 69.2% who are not satisfied, the vast majority have not exercised their inherent authority to ask for change because they are focused only on outcomes/don't think it is their job to ask (43.2%) or have simply taken their business elsewhere (11.7%). The remaining 14.5% asked for change but did not get it.

This is what one might call an impasse:

- Law firms are waiting on clients to make them change

- Clients are waiting on law firms to be proactive or change in response to market pressure

Well, it's an impasse that may not last for long.  Thomson Reuters released a report, in which it fully acknowledges that there are no dramatic shifts in change implementation strategies carried out by law departments, save perhaps one. GCs are relying more and more on legal department operations professionals:

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NAFTA: Goodbye to all that?

By Yves Faguy November 11, 2016 11 November 2016

Canada and Mexico, it seems, are now happy to renegotiate NAFTA. But what if a President Donald Trump were really to scrap NAFTA, as he has promised he would if he can’t what he wants out of renegotiations? Article 2205 stipulates that “a Party may withdraw from this Agreement six months after it provides written  notice of withdrawal to the other Parties.” It’s unclear whether Trump could act alone or whether he would require a vote from Congress. Still it’s worth remembering, there is still an underlying 1989 Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, which was never repealed. Thomas Walkom suggests that the end of NAFTA wouldn’t be all bad for Canada because, contrary to NAFTA, the 1989 FTA doesn’t have an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism:

A 2015 study found that of the completed NAFTA disputes involving Canada, roughly half were decided in favour of the corporations.

Others never made it to the dispute-resolution stage because Canadian governments caved in.

By contrast, no Canadian corporate attempt to challenge U.S. laws under NAFTA has ever succeeded.

In short, a U.S. decision to pull out of NAFTA could benefit this country. Technically, Canada and Mexico could continue on with the pact. But it was designed around the giant U.S. market and makes little sense without it.

Wishful thinking perhaps. Michael Geist tries to guess at what NAFTA renegotiations might look like:

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