The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association
CBA Influence

Getting technical: Recommendations for billed-basis accounting changes

By Kim Covert June 15, 2017 15 June 2017

The federal government’s policy rationale for repealing section 34 of the Income Tax Act – the billed-basis accounting tax provision for several groups of professionals – may seem sound, but doing so will create uncertainties and compliance burdens that have sunk similar proposals in the past, says the Joint Committee on Taxation of the Canadian Bar Association and Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

The federal government announced in its March 2017 budget that it would remove the exemption available to professionals including doctors, dentists, accountants and lawyers to exclude work-in-progress from their year-end income.

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Justice

Senate committee recommendations to address court delays

By Mark Bourrie June 15, 2017 15 June 2017

Senate committee recommendations to address court delays

 

The federal government should amend the Criminal Code to allow courts to order costs or lighter sentences to accused people whose trials are delayed, rather than issue stays of proceedings, a major Senate report on court delays says.

Bob Runciman, Chair of The Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, says no other major country forces judges to throw out cases for delay.

The committee wants new remedies to replace stays granted under section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada, in the 2016 R v Jordan decision, ruled that long delays breached accused’s Charter rights. The court set a deadline of 18 months for provincial court cases, and 30 months in superior court cases, from the laying of charges to the end of a trial.

“The fallout from that (the Supreme Court’s 2016 decision in R v Jordan), stays granted in very serious criminal matters: first and second-degree murder charges, child sexual assault charges, put court delays squarely in the public consciousness,” Bob Runciman, chair of the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said at a news conference Wednesday.

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CBA Influence

The CBA responds to ILO’s call for input on child labour

By Kim Covert June 14, 2017 14 June 2017

Child labour has largely been eradicated in First-World countries yet people who congratulate themselves for not forcing their country’s children to work for pennies also benefit from that kind of labour elsewhere, by paying lower prices for consumer goods.

It’s part of the reason why child labour is such a seemingly intractable problem – world governments failed in their goal to end the worst forms of child labour by 2016. Now the 2015 sustainable development have reiterated the call for an end to child labour. Goal 8.7 sets a goal of 2025 for ending child labour in all its forms– just eight years from now.

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The Supreme Court

Filling McLachlin's seat: What does tradition tell us?

By Justin Ling June 13, 2017 13 June 2017

Filling McLachlin's seat: What does tradition tell us?

 

With Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retiring, the Trudeau government will have to search for a replacement in that role for the first time in 17 years. The Prime Minister will also have the opportunity to fill her seat.

The big question that will be debated in legal circles in the coming weeks and months is, who will fill her shoes?

Chief Justice McLachlin has been heralded as a consensus-builder on the top court over a nearly two-decade stretch where the court has crafted whole new approaches to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, breathed new life into ancestral rights for Indigenous peoples and reinforced centuries-old treaties signed with the Crown, and pronounced itself on an array of controversial topics from gay marriage to medical marijuana, assisted dying, and sex work.

"Ever the collaborative jurist, she is known for finding consensus on the court and fostering cordial and collaborative relationships with the profession," CBA President René Basque said in a recent statement following the announcement of her retirement.

Her legacy will be a hard one to match.

And the prime minister is going to have a tough job picking one from the current contingent of justices to fill her role as head of the country.

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The Supreme Court

Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin

By Yves Faguy June 13, 2017 13 June 2017

Words of advice to lawyers from CJ McLachlin

 

As the Canadian legal community digests the news that our Chief Justice of 17 years will be retiring in December, here’s some friendly advice Beverley McLachlin shared with us during an interview in 2010  for lawyers appearing before her court:

Think about what the court will need, what it will be grappling with. We regard counsel as sources of assistance in deciding the case. Will spending 20 minutes on facts help the court? Not really. We’ve already read the briefs and know the facts. So how can you best help the court? Maybe it’s by going to the most difficult issue you face. I’m not trying to give a prescription for how a case should be argued. It varies from case to case. But sometimes one gets the feeling that counsel are trying to bury the most difficult issue, or escape by it, and hope no one will notice. Well the chances are not good. In the spirit of being helpful to the judges, go to the most difficult part of the issue. Say ‘Your honours, you will be grappling with this issue. It is a difficult issue. This is what I have to say about it, and this is why I believe you should decide that issue in favour of my client.’ Give the judges the ammunition, the cases and the resources they need.

It’s perhaps obvious advice to many advocates out there, but I’m struck at how often lawyers are surprised when I relay her comments.

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Child labour

Working towards eradicating child labour

By Mariane Gravelle June 13, 2017 13 June 2017

Working towards eradicating child labour

 

It’s an uncomfortable notion to entertain: the idea that the clothes we wear, the food we eat and the technology that makes our lives easier each day may have been brought to reality – in one small way or another – by the hands of a child. Rare are those who want to support child labour but the fact remains that it still endures, even in 2017.

June 12 – the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) World Day Against Child Labour – offers the opportunity to shine a light on this practice. A report by the same organization offers an insight into the prevalence of – and current trends in – child labour around the world. Examining data collected from 2000-2012, the ILO estimates that 168 million – or 11 per cent – of the world’s children are engaged in some form of child labour. The organization has been collecting data with the view of “eliminating all the worst forms of child labour by 2016”. When the report was published in 2013, the ILO expressed doubt regarding the achievement of that goal and urged the international community to increase their efforts to reduce child labour.

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Immigration law

Why Canada needs limits on immigration detention

By Yves Faguy June 12, 2017 12 June 2017

Why Canada needs limits on immigration detention

 

Immigration detention is a form of administrative detention, and as such should be brief.  But while that may be true for a large majority of immigration cases, says Anthony Navaneelan, a lawyer with the Refugee Law Office at Legal Aid Ontario, we’re seeing more and more cases “where individuals are being detained for extremely long periods of time” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Navaneelan, who was part of a panel discussion on immigration detention at the CBA’s Immigration Law Conference in Toronto last week, was making the case that there should be a clear time limit on immigration detention.  Unlike some other countries, Canada has not set a maximum length of time a person can be held.  Navanaleen proposes that limit be set at two years.

To be fair, the Canadian government has made efforts to reduce the length of detentions in Canada. According to the Canadian Border Services Agency, the average duration in 2016-2017 was 19 days, down from 23 days in 2015-2016. The figure has dropped by 20.4 per cent over the last three years.

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CASL

Canadian government suspends right to private right of action under CASL

By Mariane Gravelle June 8, 2017 8 June 2017

Canadian government suspends right to private right of action under CASL

 

Under Canada’s anti-spam law, or CASL, new provisions were to come into force on July 1 that would expose non-CASL compliant organizations to lawsuits brought by affected individuals in response to violations. But in a cabinet order dated June 2, 2017, Parliament has halted this this process indefinitely, effectively suspending the private right of action. This decision has been met with mixed reactions.

Lawyer Barry Sookman welcomes the news:

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Criminal law

Feds expand the rape shield protections

By Justin Ling June 7, 2017 7 June 2017

Feds expand the rape shield protections

 

It was 25 years ago that Canada saw the adoption of a rape shield law, designed to protect survivors of sexual assault from being cross-examined on their sexual history, unless it was directly pertinent to the facts of the case.

But now, under legislation tabled by Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould on Tuesday, the shield law is getting an update. And with it, the statutes around consent will gain further clarity.

It’s all a part of a revamping of the Criminal Code, undertaken by Wilson-Raybould, which will see a host of antiquated laws deleted or modernized, as part of a bid to drag the Criminal Code into the 21st century. The bill is titled, perhaps unfortunately, C-51.

The crux of the changes to the rape shield law will clarify that no communications from the complainant’s past can be admitted into evidence if they are being used by defence counsel to do one of two things: Undercut the credibility of the witness, or establish a likelihood that the complainant would’ve consented. These are the so-called “twin myths.”

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Patents

The blockchain patent rush

By Yves Faguy June 6, 2017 6 June 2017

The blockchain  patent rush

 

Blockchain, the peer-to-peer distributed ledger technology that underlies Bitcoin but which also has other uses, has everyone predicting it will revolutionize everything from banking and finance to insurance and law. That revolution, however, will play out over decades, explain Marco Iansiti and Karim Lakhani in the Harvard Business Review:

True blockchain-led transformation of business and government, we believe, is still many years away. That’s because blockchain is not a “disruptive” technology, which can attack a traditional business model with a lower-cost solution and overtake incumbent firms quickly. Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure. The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum.

But as the Economist reported earlier this year, that hasn’t stopped battle lines from being drawn early over patenting that “foundational” technology – or at least improvements on it.  Among notable companies filing patents are Amazon.com, Apple and Facebook, and the number of filings in the U.S. is tripling each year. But what makes this area of patenting particularly challenging is that open-source nature of core blockchain technology, say Paul Horbal and Brian De Vries:

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Kinder Morgan: Is the law really on its side?

By Supriya Tandan June 5, 2017 5 June 2017

Kinder Morgan: Is the law really on its side?

 

Politics will surely intervene in determining whether the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion project goes ahead.  It’s still unclear how things will get resolved in the BC legislature with possible challenges ahead surrounding the election of a new Speaker, and there’s even a chance the province could hold a new election.

But if the NDP and Green Party do succeed in forming an alliance to create a stable minority government, what happens to the Kinder Morgan the pipeline expansion project? The NDP and Green Party agreement includes a statement of shared interest in halting the project.

Can they do so legally?

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Climate law

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement: The legal picture

By Yves Faguy June 2, 2017 2 June 2017

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement: The legal picture

Now that the world has expressed profound regret at President Donald Trump's decision to pull the U.S out of the Paris Climate Agreement, and issued warnings that its terms are non-negotiable, it’s worth pausing to consider what it all means legally.

The most puzzling statement Trump made yesterday is that he wants “a better deal” claiming, “Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.”

More than a few commentators are calling Trump out on this claim. David Roberts explains:

Paris’s only constraint on Trump comes through intangibles like reputation and influence. It imposes absolutely no practical or legal constraint on his actions — not on trade policy, not on domestic energy policy, nothing.

That means all talk of Paris being a “bad deal” for the US, or hurting US trade, or affecting the US coal industry in any way, is nonsense. Paris does not and cannot do any of those things.

Indeed, though the treaty is technically binding under international law, it is built aound mostly non-binding undertakings. Yes, it requires countries to report on their progress, but the targets themselves are not legally binding. Michael Grunwald offers his best guess at the real motives behind the decision:

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