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Category Archive: Cases

Another Legal Battle For The Conservatives

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The Conservative campaign continues to be embroiled in legal struggles as the trial of Prime Minister Steven Harper’s former legal aide begins.

Bruce Carson is appearing in front of an Ottawa court on an influencing peddling charge relating to selling water filtration systems to aboriginal reserves. Carson, who was Harper’s senior adviser, is also being accused of three counts of illegal lobbying, but those will not be dealt with until 2016.

This is yet another distraction for the Conservative campaign, following the hugely publicized trial of Mike Duffy just last month. Harper’s former parliamentary secretary, Dean Del Mastro, was also recently sentenced to jail for election fraud, which he is now appealing.

As for Carson’s case, the Conservatives are differentiating it from the others, saying that the allegations against him did not arise until after he had left Harper’s office. Carson has pleaded not guilty on all counts, and none of the allegations he is facing have been proven in court.

The trial was previously delayed due to Carson’s health problems, and it has now been reduced down to a single day rather than the original six, following an agreement with the Crown to use transcripts of previously recorded witness testimony.

The main charge against Carson concerns his involvement with a company that was looking to sell water purification systems to aboriginal reserves. This same company also employed his girlfriend. Following that company’s sale of the systems, Carson allegedly directed 20 per cent of the revenue to his then fiancé.

Other things have since come to light, such as Carson’s criminal record and his disbarment from the Law Society of Upper Canada, all of which have prompted questions about the Prime Minister’s Office’s screening process. One thing is certain, with the Canadian Federal election looming, all of these allegations could not come at a worse time for the Conservatives.

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Five First Nations May Have to Disclose Finances

The Federal Government’s lawyers have begun the process of persuading the court to force five First Nations to make their financial records public, while the reserves protest the transparency laws that up until a year ago required them to post both their salaries and financial statements on the web.

According to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt, this legislation would lead to a more accountable governance within these First Nations, and in turn, more prosperous communities. But the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations disagrees. He feels that these laws could create confidentiality issues.

In 2014, following the passing of the November deadline to post finances, the government withheld all non-essential funding from just under 50 reserves that did not meet that deadline. It then began court action against five of those reserves: in Alberta, the Sawridge and Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, and in Saskatchewan, the Thunderchild, Ochapowace and Onion Lake bands. Cases are pending against three other bands as well, and they all have until September 1 of this year to post their financial records.

Aboriginal Affairs spokesman Stephen Lecce stated that action will be taken to ensure that the First Nations governments are in compliance with the laws and that financial transparency is prioritized for First Nations members.

The Onion Lake band that the court is taking action against is also participating in another case to challenge the law. They are arguing for a stay and an injunction that would allow the band to be exempt from the law, and other bands are expected to follow suit.

It is also expected that several First Nations chiefs will rally in support of the five bands that are under fire.

Featured image source: thestar.com

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Blogger Blurs Line Between Free Speech and Hate Speech

Image source: YouTube

A recent petition seeking to ban a controversial blogger from speaking in Canada is calling into question what constitutes hate speech in the country.

The American blogger and author Roosh V — whose legal name is Daryush Valizadeh — is scheduled to speak on August 8 and August 15 in Montreal and Toronto. Valizadeth’s writings provide tips for men on how to successfully convince women to have sex with them. He edits a website that posts controversial articles, including “5 Reasons to Date a Woman with an Eating Disorder.” Some of his other controversial statements include that non-consensual sex in a home shouldn’t be considered rape and that all public rape allegations aren’t true.

An online petition that calls for Valizadeh to be denied entrance into Canada — on the grounds that he is promoting and disseminating hate speech — has received over 5,000 signatures so far.

But is Valizadeh within his legal rights to publicly express his controversial views?

Under Canadian law, hate speech must cause a risk to a group of people. Certain lawyers claim that agents with Canada Border Services Agency could consider Valizadeh as likely to promote hate speech, and consequently deny him entrance into the country.

Valizadeh seems undeterred by the petition’s existence, posting on his forum:

“The SJW’s [social justice warriors] are now agitating to get me banned from the country. My plan is to sell a copy of the lecture after the tour for about $10, but if the SJW mob successfully gets any of my Canada stops cancelled, I will give away copies of the lecture for free at the peak of the media coverage. Thousands of extra people will see ideas they are trying to censor. No matter what happens, they will lose and we will win. There is nothing they can do to stop us.”

The locations of Valizadeh’s speeches won’t be publicized until the day before he is scheduled to speak.

For more on this story, visit CBC.

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Supreme Court Legalizes Consumption of Medical Marijuana

The highest court in Canada recently broadened the definition of medical marijuana, unanimously ruling that it can now be consumed by patients in forms such as pills, brownies, teas and oils. Previously, medical marijuana patients were restricted to using marijuana in a “dried” form.

The ruling comes from the federal government’s case against  Owen Smith, a baker for the Victoria Cannabis Buyers Club who was arrested in 2009.  Smith was charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and unlawful possession of marijuana after he was found with over 200 marijuana cookies for the club.

But a British Columbia judge acquitted Smith, ruling that the law he was charged under is unconstitutional and violated Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to life, liberty and security of the person. A B.C. Appeal Court affirmed this ruling, maintaining that a person cannot be convicted under an unconstitutional law.

While the federal government had appealed that ruling, the Supreme Court’s decision affirms Smith’s acquittal.

Not everyone is pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling, though: in a press conference, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said she was “outraged” at the decision.

She stressed that Health Canada is the only body who can “make a drug into a medicine,” and highlighted the need for Health Canada to put marijuana through its regulatory approval process, consisting of a safety review and clinical trials.

For more on this story, click here.

Featured image source: Associated Press

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Polygamy Charge Could Be Thrown Out Against Mormon Man

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The leader of fundamentalist Mormon community, Bountiful, in southeastern B.C. has been making headlines while he fights for his alleged right to have several wives. Now, as the case against Winston Blackmore advances, he has asked the court to throw out the polygamy charges against him because he was not given what he calls fair notice.

Blackmore’s lawyer, Joe Arvay, argued in the B.C. Supreme Court, that his client cannot be criminally charged for past acts of polygamy. He is referencing a 2011 case that came to the conclusion that polygamy laws do not violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That decision, says Arvay, served as a guidepost for those practicing polygamy in Canada.

Crown lawyer Karen Horsman contested Arvay’s statement by saying that removing those past acts of polygamy would not bode well for the province of B.C. She did say that Blackmore would be given criminal immunity for the polygamous relationships he is still in that began before 2011.

Arvay did tell the court that all of Blackmore’s 25 marriages took place more than a decade prior to 2011, and then he went on to argue that all of the polygamy charges should be dropped because the government allegedly only settled on a prosecutor who gave them the answers they wanted. He called it shopping for a prosecutor.

In 2007, a prosecutor requested more legal clarity in Blackmore’s case, but instead, several other prosecutors were brought in until one recommended legal action in 2009. Arvay made this same argument in that case, and those charges were thrown out.

The one thing that makes this time around different is the fact that new evidence suggests that girls were being brought across the Canadian-U.S. border to populate polygamous communities.

Featured image source: intervsem.com

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Emojis Are Now Admissible Evidence In Court

Language is very fluid on the online realm. The manner in which people express colloquialisms, personal opinions, and emotions are numerous, from online-abbreviations (IRL, LOL, etc.) to memes to the latest trends, emojis.

Emojis themselves are quite varied, as the image used in online or text message conversations (originally known as emoticons) can come in a variety of forms. Smiles to showcase happiness, winks to illustrate sarcasm, red faces to express anger, no matter the form an emoji takes, they’re always used to create a semantic context within a message. For this reason, emojis/emoticons are now recognized as admissible evidence in the court of law.

The validity of emojis as evidence came into question during the trial of Ross W. Ulbricht, the founder of the black market network known as Silk Road, which was used to sell a variety of illegal substances including cocaine and heroin.

During the trial, federal prosecutors were presenting a transcript of one of Ulbricht’s online conversations to the jury, though they entirely omitted the presence of any emojis. After the prosecutors read ““I’m so excited and anxious for our future, I could burst,” Ulbricht’s lawyer noted the absence of the “smiley face” emoji that appeared at the end of the message (this tweet by Sarah Jeong provides a visual aid to the emoji-omission) which was essential in demonstrating his client’s intent.

Presiding judge Katherine B. Forrest agreed with Ulbricht’s lawyer. After the objection was made, Forrest told the jury to always pay heed to any symbols included in a message. As quoted by the NYT, Forrest claimed that an emoji “is part of the evidence of the document.”

The decision to officiate emojis as admissable evidence has created a new standard in legal practices, though the added emotional context did not end up helping Ulbricht’s case. As of last Friday, Ulbricht has been sentenced to life in prison, a decision which certainly had him sporting a 🙁

Featured image courtesy of: zipckr

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Officer Acquitted over Deaths of Unarmed Russell and Williams

Even though Cleveland police officer, Michael Brelo, fired over 15 shots at a car’s two occupants, yet a judge has somehow found him not guilty of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault.

The judge’s verdict came this Saturday, after Brelo said he had fired at the car’s occupants – Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams — out of fear for his life following a car chase on November 29, 2012. Russell, 43, and Williams, 30, were both unarmed.

Prosecutors said that the car Russell was driving had malfunctioned and begun making noise that resembled gunfire, which initiated the chase. Brelo was among 13 officers who chased Russell for 22 miles before he rammed into a police car in a parking lot of a middle school in East Cleveland.

John P. O’Donnell of Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court ruled that the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Brelo knowingly caused the deaths of Russell and Williams. He said that Brelo had reason to believe that Russell and Williams posed a threat to himself and the public, and that while both were shot fatally, evidence doesn’t prove Brelo’s gunfire killed the pair. Posted below is a mock-up of Timothy Russell’s windshield as it was shown in court.

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Officers shot at Russell and Williams over 100 times. Upon reloading his gun, Brelo had climbed onto the hood of Williams’ car and fired 15 additional shots, after the other officers had stopped shooting.

Brelo was indicted in May 2014, and would have received 3 to 11 years in jail per each voluntary manslaughter count if he were convicted. Five other officers face charges.

Brelo is one of several white officers in Cleveland whose force towards black citizens has been scrutinized — 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed while holding a pellet gun last year.

Image source: Reuters

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Omaha Woman Files Lawsuit Suing Homosexuals

May just began, but there’s already a frontrunner for the title of craziest person of the month. That honour would go to Sylvia Driskell, a 66-year-old woman from Omaha, who has just officially filed a lawsuit in district court to sue all homosexuals.

It’s not exactly clear what Driskell is suing them for, but she apparently wants a judge to rule that homosexuality is a sin. As a self-described ambassador for “God and his son Jesus Christ”, she wrote in a seven-page petition to the court that God believes homosexuality to be an abomination and she wants the court to not call God a liar.

It’s hard to really get a sense of the case from her writing, however, since it’s awkwardly punctuated with Bible verses and has grammatical mistakes all over the place. “Homosexuality is a sin and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality,” Driskell states, as well as “Why else would they have been hiding in the closet?”

She also wants people to know that they use the alias “Gay”. I’m sure she’ll get her day in court. Much to no one’s surprise, Driskell is representing herself in the lawsuit and apparently wrote out her case by hand on lined notepaper.

Source: Omaha.com, Raw Story

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Italian Pizzerias Threaten to Sue McDonald’s Over Commercial

McDonald’s has been cheapening food culture for a long, long time now. It’s no secret, we’ve all accepted it. We also participate in it even if we pretend like we never eat there (stop lying). McDonald’s is what it is: a tasty vice that will always be a part of our lives.

But now they’ve taken it one step too far. In a recent Italian commercial, McDonald’s makes the claim that their signature, Happy Meal, is more desirable than pizza, by showing a young boy asking for one while at a pizzeria and then being dismayed when they cannot provide it. His parents then quickly teleport him to the nearest McDonald’s (or so it seems; it’s a fast transition) because, as the narration states, “Your child has no doubts.”

Well, someone is not happy about this and that someone is the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), an organization representing Italian pizzerias. They are threatening legal action over this attack on local culture. According to the press statement, AVPN is “considering to use law (sic) to stop this dishonourable attack against one of the symbols of the Mediterranean diet.” They also take particular offense to the use of a child in the commercial to promote an unhealthy McDonald’s product and have pledged to use any money won in the lawsuit to establish educational nutrition courses.

McDonald’s has yet to comment on their cultural heresy. If you remember, Mcdonald’s tried offering pizza themselves for a while until it failed, so maybe this is just based off of feelings of inadequacy on their part.

Image source: Spoon University

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Canadian Chamber of Commerce Questions Class Actions

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With the number of class action lawsuits filed across the country increasing, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce is encouraging businesses to fight back.

On Monday, both the Canadian Chamber and the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform released a study of Canadian class action lawsuits from 2011 to 2014. The argument, built by defence-side class action lawyers from Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, is that Canadian judges’ low class certification standards make it easier for plaintiffs to sue.

Looking at the potential for reform on a provincial level, The Law Commission of Ontario is reviewing the provincial Class Proceedings Act. Companies, industry groups and insurers are also being encouraged to advocate for higher standards for class certification.

Along with these standards, the study mentions the difficulty of covering costs via third-party insurance for Canadian plaintiffs. This is especially true, when and if, plaintiffs lose. This issue is a reason for the overall increase in class actions that have been recorded across the country.

However, the popularity of third-party funding has been called a dangerous trend that leads to risky claims.

Featured image source: ccla.org

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