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Author Archive: Michael D'Alimonte

5 Canadian Laws You Might Not Even Know You’re Breaking

Canada’s legal framework is fair and just, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some rather strange inconsistencies. You might think it’s fine to empty your change jar to pay for your lunch, but in truth, the act is quite illegal.

Keeping up-to-date on the ever-changing legal landscape can be difficult (at least it is without the help of legal management software) but is essential for any legal professional. Actually, it’s important for the average citizen, too, because you might end up breaking a law without even knowing it.

From fake psychics to booking an Airbnb in Ontario, there are more than a few Canadian laws that most probably aren’t even aware of. Check out a sample below and make sure you’re not breaking the law!

The Canadian Ban On Crime Comics

Superheroes weren’t always the main focus of comic books. Dark and seedier crime and murder-mystery comics were actually quite popular in the 40’s and 50’s, with plots featuring content that might not have been appropriate for kids. That’s why the Canadian government banned crime comics in 1949, believing the comics could encourage illicit behaviour. The law itself stipulates that should any character in a comic do anything unlawful, they would have to be arrested or be foiled by the end of the story. Beware if you have a comic in your hand that illegally has the bad guys winning in the end.

Leave The Sign Where It Stands

As cool as it may be to have a deer or duck crossing sign in your rec room, the legal trouble you can get into may be more than you bargained for. According to Article 443 of the Canadian Criminal Code, pulling down an official government sign (municipal, provincial, federal) could land you with a whole five years in jail.

No Fake Psychics Allowed

Only those truly gifted with paranormal powers are allowed to operate in Canada, apparently, as Article 365 of the Canadian Criminal Code specifically states that it is illegal to “fraudulently” practice “witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration.” The law extends to any fortune tellers or those using “knowledge of the occult or crafty science” to aid in investigations or searches. All in all, be careful who you’re using to contact the dead, because you might be participating in some illegal activities if they’re faking. Wonder what the stance is on “real” psychics or witchcraft practitioners…

Never Pay With Too Much Change

In a move that has certainly pleased cashiers for years, the Canadian Currency Act specifically states that there is a limit to how much change you can use to pay for something. For example, if you’re paying a $5 bill, the maximum amount of change you can use is 100 nickels. Same goes for a bill of $25, where loonies are the limit.

Watch Out Where You Airbnb In Ontario

Quite recently the province of Ontario has given a fair bit of power to condo buildings, as they can effectively make sharing services like Airbnb illegal. Condo corporations have the power to enforce this ruling on their own discretion, and would prohibit condo-owners from renting out their units on Airbnb or Expedia. No doubt this recent ruling will alter the legal landscape quite a bit, as Airbnb and like services have become incredibly popular, and similar rulings will no doubt be seen in other provinces quite soon. Keep this in mind whenever you’re booking an Airbnb in Ontario, as condos may get you into a sticky legal situation.

Featured image courtesy of: succo

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Why Canada May Start Making You Pay A”Netflix Tax”

Nowadays, there probably isn’t one person in Canada who doesn’t binge-watch shows and movies on Netflix. Or, if not Netflix, some other streaming service that offers an array of programs for a monthly fee.

That fee, however, may become a tad bit more expensive if the Canadian government steps in. Whether you’re watching shows on Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service, a federal tax may be implemented that will force subscribers to pay an extra fee.

As of now, most of the major streaming services are all based outside of Canada, meaning none really have to pay any corporate taxes. And since such streaming services don’t operate within Canada, no HST or GST is charged to Canadian clients.

Also, since streaming services are removed from next-to-all national regulations, none have to pay into the Canadian Media Fund, a public-private organization created by the Department of Canadian Heritage to help finance new pieces of Canadian-made media.

All in all, Canada receives almost no monetary gains from streaming services. That doesn’t sit too well with the Canadian government. Netflix subscribers (and all other streaming service users) will likely have to pay up.

In an interview with CTV, Canada’s Heritage Minister Melanie Joly spoke about the issue of streaming services, commenting how “all scenarios” were being explored when it comes to such digital platforms and their relationship with Canadian media.

At one time the idea of forcing streaming services to pay a fee to the Canadian Media Fund was proposed, but Joly has gone on the record stating that won’t happen.

So how will the Canadian government create a means to benefit from streaming services? The likely result will be an added GST charge to subscriptions.

Joly could not comment whether or not a “Netflix Tax” will happen, how it will work, or what path the Canadian government will take in the context of streaming services. All that can be confirmed is the Canadian government is working towards a best-case scenario.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when it comes to the government and the opportunity to make extra money, a tax on citizens is usually seen as the best way to go about things.

Implementing a Netflix Tax will fall on the shoulders of the minister of finance, and Joly did state she would be speaking to Bill Morneau on the matter.

As it stands right now, you won’t be charged a sales tax for burning through every season of “Friends,” but that may change in the near future.

Featured image courtesy of: Wikimedia

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Does Ontario Need Harsher Tenant Laws For Renters?

If you’re sneaky about it, you could go months without having to pay rent in Ontario. How does one achieve this magical luxury that is free rent?

Well, it isn’t exactly the path most upstanding citizens would take, but it’s definitely effective. Simply exploit some legal-loopholes and you can escape rent payments to a landlord for weeks on end, and some tenants are doing just that.

Case in point: James Regan, a Toronto man in his early sixties who has continuously evaded rent payments to his understandably-angered landlords. This time around, Regan refuses to pay rent because of a broken air conditioner and parking space access.

Robin Ennis is the unlucky landlord currently dealing with Regan, reports the CBC, has already tried to evict Regan from his unit. But given the current structure of Ontario tenant-laws, an eviction is a very slow process when dealing with a wily tenant.

Regan, you see, is quite aware that any eviction ordered by Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) can be sent for an appeal to the Ontario Supreme Court. All tenants are entirely allowed to make an appeal, only for the cost of $180.

The loophole is that the appeal process can take months, a period of time where the tenant is legally entitled to stay in the residence owned by the landlord, and in this case, withhold rent, too.

Regan is employing this technique with Ennis right now, and he did the exact same thing in his last apartment. Signing up for a unit at $3,200/month, Regan refused to pay rent, and when an eviction notice came, Regan appealed to the Supreme Court and didn’t have to leave the apartment for eight months after that.

While Regan is completely to blame for his past and current landlord’s frustration and anger, Harry Fine, who was once an adjudicator for the LTB, believes Ontario’s rules on rentals is the core problem.

Fine told the CBC that the province’s Residential Tenancies Act is completely “unbalanced,” as tenants are far better protected than landlords. And in the case of James Regan, perhaps tenants are protected a little too well.

Fine also believes some sort of screening process or stricter control over who has the ability to file an appeal after an eviction notice may ameliorate the issue.

Any changes to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act will have to wait a while, though, as the provincial government will only discuss any potential changes this coming fall. Any proposed changes will come out of a series of consultations organized by the provincial government in regards to tenant-landlord laws.

Featured image courtesy of: Charleston’s TheDigitel

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University Student Leads Class-Action Lawsuit Against British Columbia

The repercussions of British Columbia’s newly imposed “foreign buyer tax” have finally hit the provincial government.

No, not a cooled down housing market, as was the ideal end-goal for the tax. Rather, a university student from China has filed a class-action lawsuit against the B.C. government, and a multitude of foreign nationals are now rallying behind the act.

Originally put in place to cool down the Vancouver housing market, which has experienced unprecedented and problematic growth in prices over the last few years, B.C.’s foreign buyer tax specifically targets all foreign nationals purchasing property in the province, as the name would suggest.

The tax forces anyone from outside of Canada to pay an additional 15 per cent on any real estate purchase. Funds gained through the tax are meant to fund affordable housing developments in British Columbia.

But while the original plan looks fine on paper, in practice the foreign buyer tax can be considered outright racist.

Anyone familiar with the ongoing housing crisis in Vancouver (and Toronto) will know that a large number of foreign buyers are coming from the People’s Republic of China. Jing Li, 29, the university student who filed the class-action lawsuit against the B.C. government, is an example.

But while many assume that Chinese buyers coming to Canada to purchase property are so financially well-off that an extra 15 per cent tax won’t mean much, that isn’t quite a reality.

Again, Li serves as a prime example. As recounted by CBC, Li managed to acquire enough funds ($560,000) to put a down payment on a property in July. But not even two weeks later, the foreign buyer tax came into effect, slapping on another $84,000 to Li’s total.

Unable to go back on her deposit, and simlarly unable to pay the added fee, Li was put in a very serious dilemma. And so recognizing the inherent problems with the foreign buyer tax, Li filed a civil claim early this week and is now representing the multitudes of foreign buyers seeking to purchase real estate in Canada.

According to Li’s lawyer, the B.C. provincial government does not hold the power to impose a tax of this nature, as the “regulation of trade and commerce” is in the federal government’s jurisdiction. The foreign buyer tax is then cited as inherently discriminatory and goes directly against about 24 different international treaties signed by the Canadian government.

Until the claim is certified by the B.C. Supreme Court, which could take years, the foreign buyer tax will remain in effect. Once the long waiting time is over, however, this lawsuit will no doubt change the legal landscape of British Columbia and definitely go down in Canada’s legal history books.

Featured image courtesy of: Magnus L3D

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How Driverless Cars Will Change Canada’s Legal Landscape

What does it mean to “drive” a car? That may seem like a ridiculous question to ask, but in today’s automobile industry, where autonomous and semi-autonomous cars are a reality, a clear-cut answer doesn’t really exist.

For are you really driving a car if it’s technically driving itself? What happens when your autonomous automobile gets into an accident, are you or the manufacturer of the car to blame?

In Canada, it looks like the driver will still be held accountable, at least according to Canadian law firm Borden Ladner Gervais. Through analyzing the legality of self-driving cars and potential legal disputes concerning driver-liability, BLG concludes that an autonomous-automobile’s owner will still be held accountable in the case of an accident, as stated in their recently published report Autonomous Vehicles.

BLG’s explains that, as long as the driver can take control of an autonomous automobile, then there is “a continuing basis for driver negligence and liability.” Basically, if the driver has the power to intervene and avoid an accident, then they will still be held accountable in the case of an accident.

It’s important to note, however, that the BLG report largely focuses on the autonomous automobile industry as it exists today. Right now, fully autonomous cars aren’t available to the public, but semi-autonomous cars, like the Tesla Model S, are purchasable and are on the road right now.

BLG’s aformentioned conclusion is then addressing semi-autonomous cars, a type of automobile that is largely unregulated in Canada at the moment. According to the Canadian law firm, using the autonomous function of such vehicles is basically the same thing as using cruise control, and therefore the driver should be made entirely liable.

To make things a little more black and white, BLG partner Robert Love told CBC that “unless the car has no steering wheel, the driver will always face potential liability in an accident.” So if a car has a wheel the driver can use, then the driver should be made responsible in case of an accident, even if they weren’t technically driving.

Ultimately, however, as the automobile landscape changes and car’s that have no steering wheel or driver-function are released, Canada’s judges will need to rule who is responsible when an accident occurs. When that happens, BLG stated that the car manufacturer could be made accountable, though how the legal system will adapt to fully autonomous cars remains to be seen.

Featured image courtesy of: landrovermena

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5 Truly Strange Canadian Laws You Won’t Believe Exist

Understanding Canada’s complex legal system is far from an easy task. Even lawyers have a hard time, which is why legal management software and research tools are so handy. But even the most well-equipped citizen or legal professional can be caught off guard by the legal system, especially since Canada is home to more than a few (incredibly) strange laws.

While certain provinces are known to enforce a few laws that can only be described as wacky, there are several that are a part of Canada’s Criminal Code. So no matter where you are in the nation, the strange Canadian laws you’ll find below apply, so tread carefully.

It is illegal to pretend to practice witchcraft

As outlined in Section 365 of the Canadian Criminal Code, the criminal offence focuses on the “false pretense” of performing witchcraft or any similar mystical practice (i.e. telling fortunes). Somewhat odd about this law is the fact that it actually gives some credence to witchcraft itself, for if it is illegal to pretend to practice magic, it is legal for someone to truly perform magical feats.


It is illegal to create, possess, and sell crime comics

Fearing that “crime comics” (a popular form of comic books of the 1940s and 50s that focused on criminals and detectives rather than superheroes) would influence the minds of readers, Canada created a law in 1949 that explicitly bans them entirely. Crimes in comic books have been made illegal since, as stated in Section 163 of the Criminal Code of Canada, with the criminal in the story needing to be arrested or ultimately be foiled by the end of the comic.


It is illegal to provoke someone to a duel

There’s some strange wording in Section 71 of the Criminal Code, as the practice of provoking someone into duelling is illegal, but the actual act of duelling technically isn’t. While this may be a law created for a bygone era, make sure you keep this in mind the next time you need to defend someone’s honour.


It is illegal to pay entirely with change

Okay, so it isn’t truly illegal to pay with change, but there are certain cases in which it is. As stated in the Currency Act, specifically Section 8 on Legal Tender, there are limits to the amount you can pay in change. For example, you can only pay for a bill of $20 with nothing lower than a loonie, or five dollars with nickels.


It is illegal to scare the Queen

Even if you get the chance, don’t play an April Fool’s prank on Her Majesty, because it’s illegal in our fair nation. Defined in Section 49 of the Criminal Code, the law states that anyone “who willfully, in the presence of Her Majesty, does an act with intent to alarm Her Majesty” can be charged. Same goes for selling “defective stores” (better known as knock-offs) to the Queen.

Featured image courtesy of: Succo

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PhD Graduate Uses “Pseudolegal” Tactics To Avoid Paying Debt

Knowledge of the legal system is a powerful tool, and a dangerous one in the hands of the wrong person. Equipped with the right vocabulary of legal language (otherwise known as “legalese”) and certain tricks, a person can make the legal system jump through hoops for years on end.

Take Angela Greter, for example, a one-time PhD in Animal Science student at Guelph University. Solely through the use of cunning set of legal phrases, Greter was able to evade paying her student debts (which totalled $64,000) after graduation for three full years.

How did Greter accomplish such a task without a law degree? Well, the internet and the use of pseudolegal tactics.

After the province of Alberta reached out to Greter regarding the money she loaned for her education, Greter took to online resources that had templates and prepared questions when facing creditors.

Apparently, Greter only wanted to find out if Alberta had sold the securities to her debt, which would have meant the province would have gotten paid, notes the National Post. So, not wanting to pay someone twice, Greter used her newly acquired set of legal lingo to find out about the status of her loan.

Except the websites Greter visited showed the types of questions and phrasing a con artist would use. Asking whether the province had evidence that they were the “current holder of the original debt” and a “True Bill inked in blue with ‘Bill’ and ‘Value’ marked upon the face,” Greter basically asked unanswerable questions that stalled her repayment, a tactic known as using pseudolegal tactics.

Later on, Greter said she would charge Alberta for all time wasted in correspondence, then going as far as to ask if the province had any tangible evidence of a loan agreement held with the “flesh and blood name of Angela Marissa Greter (NOT the legal name).”

This back and forth lasted from December 2013 to April 2015. By that point, the province of Alberta sued Greter for repayment (interest included) and by May 2015, it was found that Greter was essentially trying to get out of paying her student loan.

To be precise, Greter’s methods and demands (specifically the one asking Alberta to provide a distinction from her physical and legal self) were deemed “absurd,” and were ultimately just “pseudolegal” techniques created to “frustrate the administration of justice.”

At the end of it all, Greter still pleaded ignorant, stating it was never her intent to evade her repayment, she just wanted to know if the government truly needed to be paid or not. After speaking with a government lawyer only several weeks ago, Greter saw that Alberta’s request for her to pay them back was entirely justified and a repayment plan was established.

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Canadians Are Legally Required To Fill Out Long-Form 2016 Censuses

Whether it’s online, by phone, or on paper, being part of or taking a census isn’t really regarded as an enjoyable activity by most Canadians. If anything, censuses are generally seen as something of a nuisance to Canadians, given how long one can take to fill out.

But regardless of your personal feelings towards censuses, ready yourself should Statistics Canada send you access codes to be a part of their latest survey. For failing to oblige is actually a convictable crime.

Beginning May 2nd, 2016, the Statistics Canada 2016 survey will be sent to 1-in-4 Canadian households. Those chosen will receive access codes to then take the long-form census (which numbers to 36 pages) or have the option of filling out a hard copy version.

As mentioned, if any chosen household fails to complete the mandatory form, one could receive a $500 fine or be forcibly imprisoned for three months. Both summary convictions are also a possibility.

Statistics Canada reserves this power thanks to Section 31 of the Statistics Act which states that anyone who “refuses or neglects to answer, or willfully answers falsely” to the census questions or “knowingly gives false or misleading information or practices any other deception there under” can be charged with a summary offence.

Created in 1918, the Statistics Act provides Statistics Canada (originally the Dominion Bureau of Statistics) the power to “”collect, compile, analyze, abstract, and publish information on the economic, social and general conditions of the country and its citizens.”

While this does seem like an unfair amount of power given to an information-collection governmental agency, the Statistics Act also ensures that the identity of anyone partaking in a Statistics Canada census will be kept confidential.

The latest census to be sent out by Statistics Canada is longer than those of previous years, marking a return to the long-form, which was part of the Liberal Party’s platform during the election.

May 10th is currently marked as “Census Day” in Canada, the date in which the 2016 census should be completed. Of course, if you want to ensure you don’t receive any fines or the like, you can complete the census early and dodge any proverbial bullets.

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World’s First Robot-Lawyer Created By 19-Year-Old Programmer

Legal aid never comes cheap. Unless you’re lucky enough to be related to a legal professional, chances are you’re going to pay a few pretty pennies for any form of legal advice. No matter if you need a ticket contested or insights on a work contract, making the law work for you doesn’t come cheap.

But the days in which you need to pay a human to help you with your legal woes may be over, as a British programmer has just developed what many are calling the first robot lawyer in history. And he’s only nineteen.

Joshua Browder is the innovative teen in question, who is currently studying at MIT, and has appropriately dubbed his digital lawyer “DoNotPay,” as the online service is completely free.

Originally, the project began simply as a means to aid individuals in getting parking tickets appealed, but Browder saw more potential. After finding a way in which to allow his robot to learn and compare legal phrases and requests, DoNotPay is able to aid with almost any legal matter.

While the system isn’t exactly perfect, Browder does believe the DoNotPay formula can become a serious boon to society. In Browder’s words “if it is one day possible for any citizen to get the same standard of legal representation as a billionaire, how can that not be a good thing,” as he related to Techeblog.com.

To use the DoNotPay service, all you need to do is login or sign up. From there, you can ask the robotic lawyer any number of legal queries, from “I got an unfair parking ticket. Can you appeal for me?” to “My flight was delayed on the way to Paris. I would like some compensation” and more.

You can check out a DoNotPay demonstration in the video below, but if you want to see the service for yourself, head to the official website here.

Featured image courtesy of: Pixabay

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New Brunswick’s Ban On Menthol Tobacco Challenged By Imperial Tobacco Canada

Since January 1st of this year, it’s been next to impossible to get menthol flavoured tobacco in the province of New Brunswick, entirely due to a ban enacted by the provincial government.

With more than half of all smoking New Brunswick high school student preferring flavoured tobacco, New Brunswick’s leaders believed the ban to be the only reasonable way to nip adolescent cigarette addictions in the bud.

When you factor in the fact that 25% of the aforementioned student-smoker population solely use menthol, the tobacco ban gains even more justification. New Brunswick is simply acting in the best interest of its youth.

Imperial Tobacco Canada doesn’t quite agree. Unhappy with the menthol tobacco ban in New Brunswick, Imperial Tobacco Canada is launching a formal legal challenge to the province-wide prohibition, reports Global News.

As outlined in a press release put forth by Tamara Gitto, Vice President, Legal and External Affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada, the “Government of New Brunswick has stepped beyond its legislative authority” be forcing the ban upon citizens. This has left Imperial Tobacco with “no other choice than to bring this matter before the courts.”

But despite the legal action taken by the large Canadian conglomerate, New Brunswick’s leaders are not backing down. New Brunswick’s Health Minister Victor Boudreau believes the legal challenge to be a par-for-the-course maneuver on the part of Imperial Tobacco Canada, with many other tobacco industry companies enacting the same process when a ban upon a product is put in place.

In fact, Imperial Tobacco Canada did the exact same thing last year in Nova Scotia, to no avail.

Thankfully, the province of New Brunswick recognizes the need for a ban on menthol flavoured tobacco products, especially in the long run. Boudreau noted how the tobacco ban will go a long way in preventing chronic diseases in the youth and lower health care costs overall, thus saving the province a fair amount of funds while putting its citizens first.

But Imperial Tobacco Canada is a major corporation, one not to be trifled with, and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities if their legal challenge effectively reversed the provincial ban. Hopefully not.

Featured image courtesy of: xvaughanx

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