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Osgoode Hall Law Journal Has Its First Black Managing Editor

Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Law school journals are prestigious publications, and becoming the managing editor of one is a big deal. And for Michael Thorburn, Osgoode Hall Law Journal’s current managing editor, it’s an even bigger deal. Thorburn is the first black managing editor in the journal’s almost 60 years.

On Monday, Thorburn was formally recognized during Osgoode Hall Law School’s Black History Month ceremony. Thorburn, who is a third year law student, was given a plaque to commemorate his historical position.

What makes this even more interesting is the fact that it took the Law Journal’s executive editor, Joe McDonald, some time to realize that Thorburn was the first black managing editor. McDonald assumed that, because it’s 2017, it was unlikely that this was a first for the Law Journal. Particularly considering its been almost 30 years since Barack Obama was named the first black managing editor at the Harvard International Law Journal.

And to add yet another layer, there have been other persons of colour in leadership roles at Osgoode Hall Law Journal. However, Thorburn is the first to be officially recognized. He told Canadian Lawyer Magazine that he thinks this is because black students face more challenges at Osgoode. He also said he’s looking forward to the normalization of black students in roles like his.

Thorburn is happy to be a part of this step in the right direction in regards to diversity. However, he acknowledged that the work isn’t finished yet. Particularly considering the fact that the Law Journal doesn’t have a policy in terms of maintaining diversity when roles are filled. That said, the Law Journal does maintain that they seek out diverse candidates who can approach subjects from different vantage points.

Supporting diversity in law school is important, because lawyers who have different perspectives can better serve a more diverse set of clients. And the law community as a whole improves as law students become more diverse and they are able to find more success.

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Canada Announces Plan To Resettle Yazidi Refugees

Canada's Immigration Minister recently announced the government's plan to resettle Yazidi refugees.

Ever since U.S. President Donald Trump was inaugurated, he has wasted no time cracking down on immigration. His executive order that banned immigrants from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. received backlash around the world. In a largely unprecedented move, many American federal judges even refused to uphold his order and challenged its constitutionality. Many have looked to Canada to see how it would respond in the face of its neighbour’s strict immigration policies. While Trump’s orders made his popularity plummet, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau consistently lauded Canada’s diversity and inclusivity. Now, a new Liberal policy will turn his words into further action.

Who Are The Yazidis?

The Canadian Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen recently announced that approximately 400 survivors of ISIS have already entered Canada. The majority of these survivors are Yazidis from Iraq. These survivors have been coming into the country since the House of Commons unanimously agreed that Canada should take in Yazidi women and girls. Last year, the Conservatives made a motion to provide asylum to Yazidi women fleeing from genocide. The motion stipulated that ISIS is forcing the Yazidi women and girls to be sex slaves, and executing a genocide against their people as a whole. By the end of 2017, the Canadian government is aiming to resettle 1,200 Yazidi refugees. In addition to Yazidi women and children, these refugees will also include their male family members, and additional ISIS survivors.

While many have praised Canada for welcoming refugees fleeing terror, others do acknowledge that welcoming immigrants comes at a cost. News reports have claimed that resettling the Yazidi refugees will cost an estimated $28 million.

Next Steps

The government — and Canadians at large — must ultimately decide how many Yazidis to continue accepting in future. The international community applauded Canada for welcoming Syrian refugees with open arms, but it remains to be seen to what extent the same approach will be taken with the Yazidis. The government has already emphasized one notable difference in how it will resettle the Yazidis in comparison to previous groups. Given the volatile situation in Iraq, the government plans on acting with heightened discretion. As a result, it will minimize public photo opportunities and media coverage of Yazidis for security reasons.

Featured image source: CBC

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Trump’s Muslim Ban Is Illegal According to Experts

Donald Trump signed executive orders barring immigration and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries on Friday. Protests have erupted throughout the world. Policy experts are also protesting the ban, stating that it’s actually illegal.

Why Is the Ban Illegal?

In an op-ed for the New York Times, David J. Bier from the Cato Institute’s Center for the Global Liberty and Prosperity called the ban illegal. He cited the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 as the reason. This act “forbids all discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin”.

Trump’s order bans Syrian refugees indefinitely until “significant changes” are made and also temporarily blocks visitors from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The reason? The order states that these countries are of “particular concern”.

Trump has been using a law from 1952 to support the order. But Bier states that “the president ignores the fact that Congress then restricted this power in 1965, stating plainly that no person could be ‘discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.’” This 1965 law was also designed to “give Americans the freedom to sponsor family members or marry a foreign-born spouse”.

Bier also questions whether Trump can rewrite immigration laws without Congress. He writes: an appeals court stopped President Barack Obama’s executive actions to spare millions of undocumented immigrants from deportations for the similar reason that he was circumventing Congress. Some discretion? Sure. Discretion to rewrite the law? Not in America’s constitutional system.”

Other Concerns About the Muslim Ban

There are a number of other experts who are also speaking out against Trump’s Muslim ban. United Nations right’s chief, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, recently stated “Discrimination on nationality alone is forbidden under human rights law”.

Other organizations are also speaking out. The Paris-based medical aid agency, Médecins Sans Frontières, is also against the ban. The organization said that the Muslim ban “will effectively keep people trapped in war zones, directly endangering their lives”. The organization Doctors Without Borders is also speaking out. They called the Muslim ban “an inhumane act against people fleeing war zones” and called on the US government to lift the order.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also issued a statement saying that “such selective and discriminatory acts will only serve to embolden the radical narratives of extremists and will provide further fuel to the advocates of violence and terrorism”.

Only a couple of days in, Trump’s time as President is off to a very rocky and troubling start.

Story sources: The Independent here and here

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You Could Soon E-File Divorce Papers

divorce papers

According to Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, the province’s justice system needs to become more tech-friendly. During an event last week at the Law Society of Upper Canada, he stated that the province is seriously considering the possibility of e-filing divorce papers.

Naqvi said that a lot of services will soon be available online, and e-filing is a very important first step. It began with an interest in seeing what could be done with family law. The feedback was that people should be able to file divorce papers online.

The province of Ontario has recently introduced a lot more digitization in their systems, particularly in Small Claims Court. A lot of lawyers are happy about these changes, as this kind of progression could make their work a lot more streamlined. Anything that cuts back on paperwork and increases efficiency is seen as a step in the right direction.

However, there are two possible problems with the plan to digitize the filing of divorce papers. According to the Family Law Act, the equalization of net family property could be impeded. A person has up to six years from the date of separation, or two years following a divorce to seek that equalization.

Someone involved in a divorce might not realize that e-filing for a divorce or receiving e-filed divorce papers means that the process to move towards the equalization of net family property has begun. A lot of insurance companies also won’t extend health care benefits to a person who is no longer the spouse of a beneficiary. E-filing for divorce, or receiving e-filed divorce papers could mean you or your spouse will get automatically cut off from extended health care benefits.

Even so, it seems that the possibility of e-filing divorce papers, or any digitization of processes, is a welcome change within the legal community. It will make everything more efficient and ultimately result in cost savings for the people going through these processes.

Adopting technologically-advanced processes will help Ontario adopt the fastest, cheapest and most modern way of communicating, which is the cornerstone of any lawyer-client relationship.

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B.C. Health Minister Wants To Raise Legal Smoking Age

Terry Lake, the British Columbia health minister, is looking to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

Each province and territory in Canada sets the age limits for smoking. In B.C. and five other provinces, the smoking age limit is 19; the rest of the provinces have set the smoking limit at 18. Lake is “an ardent anti-smoker”. He believes that the later someone is able to legally purchase cigarettes, the better the odds that they won’t develop a smoking habit.

What the Opposition Says

Other politicians in British Columbia back Lake’s campaign to raise the legal smoking age. Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan stated “as a reformed smoker, I want to discourage smoking whenever possible. I don’t want to give policy pronouncements on the fly, but if we can reduce smoking in B.C., I encourage that.”

Will Raising the Legal Smoking Age Affect Smoking Rates?

Lake admitted that this campaign is personal to him. “I’ve seen in my family, my mom die, my dad suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Lake said. “I’ve seen my siblings struggle with addiction to nicotine.” He isn’t running again in the May election, but he “wanted to start the conversation so future governments may consider that.”

He has noted that other jurisdictions have raised the legal smoking age and found it reduced smoking rates among students. Lake has also said that Hawaii and California have raised their legal smoking age to 21 as well. However, he did not provide United States data on smoking rates since the increase was implemented.

In a statement released on Thursday, the ministry said “tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of disease and death in British Columbia and one of our primary goals is to stop youth from starting to use tobacco products. We have made great progress in reducing tobacco prevalence in the province, and we continue to have the lowest smoking rate in Canada, at approximately 15.3 per cent”.

To learn more about this story, visit the CTV news website.

Story source: CTV News

Featured image source: Cigarettes Reporter

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Obama Meets With Democrats to Save Obamacare

President Obama is meeting with Democrats today to protect his healthcare law from Republican opposition. Senate Republicans are already taking steps to repeal Obamacare. As per NPR, on January 3 Republicans introduced a budget resolution that would basically let them undo the Affordable Care Act with a “simple majority vote”.

Democrats want to defend the law, as it has given health care insurance to 20 million Americans. Repealing it would effectively strip them of their health protection. Plus, Republicans haven’t figured out how to replace Obamacare yet.

The Opposition

Obama’s administration has criticized this “repeal now and replace later” strategy. Whitehouse spokesman Josh Earnest calls it a “bait and switch”. The American Medical Association (AMA) is also against the move to repeal Obamacare. In an open letter directed at lawmakers, the association acknowledged that Obamacare isn’t perfect. However, the letter also stated that “any effort to cut costs or increase choice should as least preserve the existing level of coverage”. AMA CEO James L. Madara stated that “before any action is taken through reconciliation or other means that would potentially alter coverage, policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies”.

What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation is a procedural tactic that would allow Senate Republicans to change parts of the Affordable Care Act without the threat of a Democratic filibuster.

Support for the Measure

President Obama, Democrats, and the AMA aren’t the only ones who are against changing Obamacare. There are some Republican senators who are wary about taking away healthcare from people without a new health care plan in place.

However, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and President-elect Donald Trump remain committed to the measure. Ryan called the budget resolution “the first step towards relief for Americans struggling under Obamacare”. In a tweet, the President-elect stated that “People must remember Obamacare just doesn’t work, and it is not affordable”.

Trump pointed to increased premiums from the government-run exchange in Arizona to support his statement that it’s not affordable. However, government subsidies help negate some or all of those increases. The Obama administration also says that customers have been signing up for the exchange at a record rate.

To learn more about this story, visit

Story source: NPR

Featured image source: Wikipedia

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Justin Trudeau Agrees With Minimum Age Of 18 To Buy Marijuana

Justin Trudeau thinks that those 18 and up should be able to buy marijuana legally.

Advocates for marijuana’s legalization have long argued that the drug should be regulated like alcohol. Now, it appears they gained an ally in the country’s Prime Minister.

At a press conference last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he agreed that those allowed to drink legally be permitted to smoke marijuana as well.

Trudeau’s statement comes in response to a recommendation made by a federal task force. In a report on marijuana legalization, the task force recommended that 18 should be the minimum age to buy recreational marijuana. However, 18 does not represent legal drinking age across all provinces. Therefore, the task force also recommended that provinces make its marijuana laws coincide with their legal drinking age.

Of course, the task force’s recommendation earned its fair share of detractors. The Canadian Medical Association argued the minimum age to buy marijuana should be 21. Evidence shows that the brain is still developing until one turns 25, making marijuana usage beforehand potentially unsafe.

Trudeau argued that a minimum age of 18 would still ensure marijuana stays away from children and prevents criminals from reaping its profits. In French, Trudeau stated: “We know the largest misdeeds of marijuana use happens at a lower age than 18, 19 years of age, and I think this is a responsible approach that we have found in terms of balance that is both practical and useful.”

The task force conceded that no universal consensus exists on the minimum age to purchase marijuana.  In addition, according to the task force, increasing the minimum age comes with multiple drawbacks. On one hand, an age set too high makes it likely that people will still buy marijuana illicitly. Moreover, an overly high minimum age makes it likelier that the government will criminally prosecute young people. The highest rates of marijuana usage occur between the 18 to 24 bracket, so an ideal minimum age would factor in that statistic. Going on that logic, then, the report also argued that a minimum age of 25 remains unrealistic. Ultimately, a minimum age that reaches too high would make marijuana users continue to buy the drug illegally.

For more on this story, visit The Huffington Post.

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Edmonton Inmates Sue Attorney General Over Solitary Confinement

A former Edmonton inmate, Matthew Hamm, successfully sued against his six-week solitary confinement. Since the court ruled in favour of Hamm on August 8, Hamm has been outspoken on his treatment while in prison, reports the CBC. He and two other inmates are also suing the Attorney General of Canada for $5.6 million over their treatment in solitary.

Hamm was completing his five-and a-half-year sentence when he was placed in solitary confinement on June 28. Also known as “the hole”, solitary is an indefinite placement that doesn’t require an initial hearing to justify its use. Hamm and five other inmates were initially told they’d be moved to their own unit, but were placed in solitary. Court documents state that the group was moved because they planned to harm correction officers. Hamm contested the claim and filed a habeas corpus.

A habeus corpus is a way to report unlawful detention or imprisonment. Hamm claims that the correction officers retaliated against him. However, he was able to use his time in solitary to work on his habeus corpus.

By the time Hamm won and was released back into the general prison population, he had served 43 days in solitary. Under the Correction and Conditional Release Act, inmates are only permitted to spend 30 days in solitary.

The Current Lawsuit

The men claim that solitary was “cruel and unusual punishment”. The state of solitary was “grossly disproportionate and failed to comply with principles of fundamental justice”. Correctional Service Canada states that inmates in solitary receive daily health care visits, inspections, visits by the warden, and access to visitors and support. Hamm said that this was not his experience at all. As per the CBC, Hamm states that the lawsuit “is his way of speaking up for those in similar situations who may not be able to do so for themselves”.

Read more about this case on the CBC news website.

Story source: CBC

Featured image source: Right on Crime

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Dakota Access Pipeline Construction To Be Halted

The thousands of protestors gathered at Standing Rock recently gained cause to celebrate. After months of activism and peaceful protests, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that it will halt construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

At this point, construction of the four-state, 1,885 km pipeline is mostly complete. Engineers planned on building the remainder of the pipeline underneath Lake Oahe, which is a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Over the past several months, the $3.8 billion pipeline’s construction attracted much controversy. Many travelled to Standing Rock to protest the pipeline’s construction, amidst media reports of increasing tensions between protestors and police.

Critics considered the construction of the pipeline to threaten drinking water and infringe on sacred Native lands. Located north of Cannonball River, Oceti Sakowin Camp represents the largest sacred site that protestors argued would be harmed by the pipeline.

The Assistant Secretary for Civil Works said that the need to “explore alternate routes” for the pipeline ultimately halted its construction. Many consider this a hugely optimistic sign that persistent peaceful protests can be effective. Moreover, critics of the pipeline applaud the decision for respecting Indigenous land.

But for many protestors, the fight remains ongoing. While this decision certainly marks a victory for protestors, the fate of the pipeline ultimately remains to be seen. Many protestors — who consider themselves to be water protectors — remain nervous about Trump’s plan when he takes office. During the presidential election campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump voiced his support for the pipeline. It remains unclear whether he can — or will — choose to resume construction during his presidency.

After the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer announced that the pipeline’s construction would be stopped, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe released a statement of their own, thanking protestors and applauding Obama’s administration. Of course, the decision to halt construction has not been met with universal acclaim. Unsurprisingly, Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the construction of the pipeline — as well as North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer and Paul Ryan have all slammed the decision.

For more on this story, visit the CBC. Featured image source: The Huffington Post.


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New Anti-Smoking Legislation Rolled Out In Quebec

Many Canadians probably think that by 2016, the country has already seen the last of its anti-smoking legislation. Indeed, we’re long past the time where it was actually legal for people to smoke indoors inside public places, or even light up a cigarette while travelling on a train or airplane. Most media and movies no longer portray smoking as a romantic, cool pastime — for the most part, the government’s advertising has effectively re-framed it as a health hazard and public nuisance. That’s why it might be surprising to hear that one province is still working to pass laws aimed to stop people from smoking. In Quebec, an anti-smoking law recently came into effect last week, which requires smokers to stand a total of nine metres away from the opening of any establishment.

The “opening” refers to not only doors, but any other window or air intake — for both public buildings and private residences.

You might not see this to be a huge deal, but it will undoubtedly effect how crowds gather outside public places to take a “smoke break.” You often see small clusters of people smoking outside bars and restaurants, or outside a venue during an event. But smoke breaks aren’t limited to just the nighttime — walk anywhere downtown or clustered with office buildings, and you’re sure to come across people taking smoke breaks during their workday as well.

This new law will make it much more inconvenient for people to run outside for a quick cigarette. In fact, since most areas of the city are quite built-up, it severely limits where people can legally smoke outside at all.

The Tobacco Control Act was initially passed in November of last year to stop people from smoking in Quebec. In passing the law, the government’s goal was twofold: to stop young people in the province from deciding to start smoking, and to shield non-smokers for second-second smoke. Since the updated law makes it much more difficult to smoke outside, the hope is that smokers could be encouraged to quit — even if out of sheer frustration.

Since the initial Act was passed, Quebec has seen different restrictions in how cigarettes can be sold and marketed in the province, but nothing that stipulated where smokers could and couldn’t smoke.

But now, if a restaurant or bar doesn’t adhere to the newest regulations, they could see some hefty fines. If a business repeatedly has customers smoking on its terraces or patios, it could be fined $100,000.

Only time will tell how restaurant and bar owners respond to this law, and whether or not these restrictions will ultimately create any real decrease in smoking in the province.

For more on this story, visit CBC. Featured image source: Global News

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