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Category Archive: Laws

Is It Time To Change Canada’s HIV Disclosure Law?

The HIV disclosure law in Canada requires people with HIV to disclose their status to partners before engaging in sexual activity. If they don’t, they can be charged with aggravated sexual assault even if the virus isn’t transmitted. If convicted, they are automatically added to the sex-offenders registry and can face a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Two men were arrested and accused earlier this August of failing to disclose their HIV status to their partners. These new cases have led advocates to argue against the legislation. They argue that there’s no proof to show that this law actually deters unsafe sexual activity, that it only contributes to the fear and stigma surrounding the disease, and that it makes HIV patients feel more isolated and fearful.

Sandra Chu, a member of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, also states that “people living with HIV tend to come from many marginalized groups already. (The law is) adding a further layer of marginalization and fear.”

In place of the current HIV disclosure law, Chu recommends that Canada adopt HIV legislation proposed by the United Nations. This legislation prosecutes “only people who knowingly and intentionally transmit the virus to their partner”.

UNAIDS stated in a 2012 report that there’s a lack of definite evidence as to whether criminalization deters HIV patients from exposing others. It also states that studies from Canada and the Unites States show that few people with HIV are aware of the legal requirements that come with their illness. The report adds that those that are aware probably already disclose their status to their partners.

UNAIDS also reports that Canada has convicted more people in connection with HIV non-disclosure, exposure, and transmission than any country in the world except the Unites States. According to the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, there have been at least 180 HIV non-disclosure-related offences in Canada with 5 new cases in 2015. However, the Public Health Agency of Canada states that people with HIV/AIDS report increased feelings of fear and stigma as a result of these high-profile non-disclosure criminal cases.

To learn more about the cases and what advocates are saying regarding the law in Canada, check out the Toronto Star.

Featured image source: The Mix

Featured story source: Toronto Star

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Canadian Police Push For Greater Personal Internet Access

Ever since Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s controversial surveillance tactics, the topic of privacy rights on the Internet has been a hot button issue. While much of the conversation has been focused on the policies of the US, it is something that affects the whole world and now Canada is dealing with it firsthand.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police passed a resolution calling for the legal ability to unlock digital evidence, as there is no Canadian law stating that a person needs to provide a password for their device to the police during an investigation. This partly stems from the case last year down south of the border where the FBI went to court to get the right to crack a suspect’s phone password who was involved in the San Bernardino mass shooting.

It’s no surprise that a wealth of a criminal activity takes place online and is heavily protected by encryption and other tactics. The police also want to be able to obtain basic information about suspects through their telecommunications companies. Right now, police need to have court approval to get access to this information, which takes time and usually ends up in the relevant incriminating evidence being deleted. “The victims in the digital space are real,” stated Joe Oliver, the RCMP Assistant Commissioner. “Canada’s law and policing capabilities must keep pace with the evolution of technology.”

While the reasons for police intruding into people’s personal online environments obviously come from a place of public protection, there is certainly a big push-back from citizens as well. David Christopher is a spokesperson for a group called OpenMedia, which advocates for keeping the Internet free of surveillance. “On the face of it, this seems like it’s clearly unconstitutional,” he said.

The federal government is now beginning a consultation on cybersecurity that runs until October 15, 2016 at which point a resolution will most certainly be addressed. This topic will undoubtedly continue to get thornier in the coming months.

Source: CBC

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BC to Tax Non-Canadian Home Buyers in Vancouver

Anyone who’s looked into the housing market in Canada knows that prices — even average prices — of homes can be simply exorbitant. And the region in Canada where housing prices are quite often the most expensive? None other than beautiful British Columbia, particularly Vancouver.

Now, it looks like the B.C. government has a plan to help address how costly — and competitive — their housing market has become.

Many have speculated that there are increasing numbers of people from outside Canada who are buying homes in the country. As a result, the B.C. government announced that it will be taxing non-Canadians who buy residential property in Vancouver. This news comes after house prices in the region increased by 30 per cent in the last year.

The 15 per cent tax will come into effect starting August 2. According to the Finance Minister Mike de Jong, this tax applies to the purchase of any residential property that is located in Metro Vancouver. However, excluded from this tax will be any treaty lands for the Tsawwassen First Nation.

Those effected by the tax are buyers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. If a corporation wants to buy residential property in the outlined area, they must be registered in Canada or controlled by Canadian citizens, or else the tax will apply to them as well.

But are there actually many foreigners, or people who aren’t permanent residents, who are buying homes in the Vancouver area — or is this simply an overblown fear? According to the B.C. Finance Ministry, in Richmond, over 16% of transactions registered June 10-29 were with buyers who were not Canadian citizens or permanent residents. In the city of Vancouver itself, the figure declined to 4%, while Victoria — the province’s capital —saw just over 2%.

Minister Mike de Jong broke down an example of how much this tax might work out to be: on a $2 million dollar home, the tax would come to $300, 000. He also said that while the tax right now remains at 15%, the law gives the provincial government the power to adjust the rate, to anything between 10 and 20 per cent.

According to the British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, the law stems from the province’s goal to make home ownership within the grasp of the middle class.

Do you think this new tax is a good idea and will ultimately help reduce house prices? Sound off in the comments below.

 For more on this story, visit The Globe and Mail

Featured image source: Van City Buzz

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When and How Brexit Begins – Remains Up For Debate

If you’ve turned on the TV, read a newspaper or checked social media, you’ve likely heard the historic news about Brexit — Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Britain has been a part of the EU for forty-three years, alongside twenty-eight other countries on the continent. Last week, 52 per cent of British citizens voted to leave the EU, while 48 voted to stay.

After the results of the referendum were made public, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation in tears. Economists around the world have predicted that this decision could unleash dire economic consequences for British citizens — indeed, the British pound has already dropped to the lowest it has been in over twenty years.

Even if others are more optimistic about the country’s future, there is one outcome of the decision that remains clear to everyone: for better or for worse, Brexit will undoubtedly reshape the nation’s place in the world for years to come.

But the logistics of Brexit remain a murky, grey area to navigate, especially given the lack of historical precedent for this decision — no country has ever left the EU before. When Cameron resigned, he said his successor should be responsible for dealing with the logistics of Brexit — an undoubtedly difficult job for whoever takes on his role come October 2016.

Despite the outcome of the referendum, for the time being, Britain remains a member of the EU. So when exactly would Britain cut ties with the EU, and is this truly a final decision?

This weekend, the foreign ministers of Luxembourg, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands met in Berlin to presumably discuss the next steps of this process. Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty stipulates that there is a two-year exit period in which the U.K. is able to renegotiate trade dealings and other matters with the rest of the EU. But when — and how — this process should officially begin remains up for debate. Some leaders have suggested that the exit could be initiated simply through a formal statement made by Cameron at the European Council, while others are adamant that a formal letter to the EU’s president is required instead.

While some have accepted that the people have spoken, others are frantic to stall the process in any way they can, whether it be through protests or calls for new referendums to appeal this decision.

For more on this story, visit CBC.

Featured image source: The Guardian.

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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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Not Criminally Responsible Verdict Reached for Matthew de Grood

It’s not often that a judge finds a defendant not criminally responsible. It’s tough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that someone was mentally incapacitated at the time of the crime, and a particularly difficult verdict to deliver in the face of grieving families who are looking to see justice done. But that’s just what happened in the case of Matthew de Grood, the 24-year-old from Calgary who stabbed five people to death at a house party in 2014.

Two years ago, young Calgarians celebrated the end of the semester at what was supposed to be a typical university party, only to watch the unthinkable unfold. Upon his arrival, de Grood grabbed a knife from the kitchen and killed young party attendees Kaitlin Perras, 23; Lawrence Hong, 27; Josh Hunter, 23; Zackariah Rathwell, 21; and Jordan Seguara, 22 in what appeared to be a random stabbing rampage.

While de Grood confessed that he killed these five people at the party, Justice Eric Macklin of Court of Queen’s Bench said he believed de Grood was suffering from a mental disorder at the time — making him not criminally responsible for their deaths. Macklin said he accepted the testimony from psychiatric experts, who found that de Grood did not appreciate that what he did was morally wrong.

In his closing arguments, de Grood’s defence lawyers said that Matthew believed he was protecting himself from vampires and werewolves. Before he stabbed the victims, de Grood reported that he heard voices instructing him to kill.

Throughout the trial, testimony painted a picture of de Grood becoming more and more withdrawn before the killings. During this time, he was also increasingly posting on Facebook about a number of bizarre, disturbing topics, including religion, vampires, Darth Vader and the apocalypse.

So what’s next? With this ruling, de Grood will now go to a secure psychiatric facility — much to the disappointment of the victim’s families.

Outside the courthouse, Miles Hong spoke on behalf of families, saying that they’ll continue to be broken as they wonder what consequences will befall the man that ended their loved ones’ lives.

This tragic case reflects a reoccurring moral issue in the Canadian legal system: how to handle crimes committed by the mentally ill, while delivering justice to victim’s families.

For more on this story, visit The Globe and Mail.

Featured image source: Canadian Press

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Proposed Legislation Aims To Protect Transgender People

On Tuesday, Canada introduced legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination, and Prime Minister Trudeau stated that every Canadian should be able to live without stigma. This move was made based on a Liberal election campaign promise, and it was designed to give transgender people in Canada equal status.

During a statement aptly made on Tuesday, which was the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Trudeau said that all Canadian should feel safe and secure, with the ability to freely express themselves.

According to the proposed legislation, transgender people will have the right to use bathrooms that correspond to their chosen gender, and be treated according to that chosen gender, too.

The legislation is expected to pass in Parliament’s lower house, since the Liberals hold the majority, and they are expected to receive support from the other parties, too. This kind of legislation resonates across the border, where the U.S. is actively debating the use of bathrooms by transgender people.

In the past 10 years, the lower house of Parliament has passed legislation to protect the rights of transgender people twice. Each time, it was brought forward by the opposition’s lawmakers with a private members bill, and each time, the bills didn’t make it to a final vote in the upper chamber before the parliamentary session ended for the year.

Part of the reason why the bill never came to a final vote in the upper chamber is due to ammendments from Conservative Senator Don Plett, which suggested controlling which bathrooms transgender individuals could use in public places.

Hopefully, this new legislation and announcement will be a step in the right direction and ensure that transgender people can live without stigma.

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Filing Small Claims in Ontario Can Now Be Done Online

Screen shot 2016-05-09 at 11.05.49 PM

Until last week, if you were suing someone in Ontario for less than $25,000, you would have to put together all the paperwork and documentation and then go to small claims court to file it. But last week, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General finally modernized the system and announced that all small claims can be filed online.

A pilot project within the Attorney General’s office was started in 2014 to test the efficacy of online filing for small claims court, and more than 20,000 people made use of the system, with 15 per cent filing outside of the court’s usual hours.

The whole process is, of course, secure thanks to requiring users to create a One-key ID and password, which is an electronic verification that gives the user the ability to communicate securely with the government.

This big and welcome change was made to make the process of filing court documents easier and faster for Ontarians, and the hope is that this service will go beyond just small claims court and be available in all court systems.

Another benefit is that if you have a paralegal or a lawyer representing you, the process will be a lot quicker because they’ll no longer need to use a process server.

And if you’re not particularly savvy when it comes to tech, the online system comes with a filing wizard that makes the process super easy to understand by breaking it down into steps. In spite of this newly streamlined system, it is valuable to keep the fact that small claims are difficult to draft in mind. You’ll likely still need help with that, and that’s why it’s great to have a lawyer or paralegal continuing to advise you.

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Ban On Legal Highs Finally Comes Into Effect In The UK

Things change pretty quickly and if you’re in the legal profession, it’s important to stay up to date with any changes to the law, no matter where in the world it happens. Take for example this recent story out of Great Britain.

‘Legal highs’ have been a substantial problem in the UK for the last several years. These substances, which mimic the effects of drugs, but are able to be sold legally in convenience stores because they alter the chemical properties slightly, have been a hot seller, especially for underage kids and university students looking to party. They’ve become so rampant that a series of videos taken from city surveillance cameras showing people under the influence of legal highs became a recent viral hit. But now the British government may finally have the upper hand as a new law that will place a blanket ban on all of these substances will apparently come into effect within England and Wales in the next few weeks.

It will be officially known as the Psychoactive Substances Act and will ban “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect”. This covers the production, supply and movement of legal highs and the punishments are pretty severe. Anybody found dealing faces up to seven years in prison and even if you’re just caught possessing, you could face up to two years in prison. Accordingly, police are going to have much more power to be able to search, seize and destroy any legal highs.

Not everyone thinks this new law is such a great idea. Critics say that the ban will be unenforceable and that the government should be focusing instead on education. And while it’s estimated that legal highs were linked to the deaths of at least 140 people in 2014, it was also found that in 60% of those instances, the user had also ingested other substances.

Alternatively, the ban may just push users back to illegal drugs. But since, believe it or not, legal highs have often been shown to be more harmful than conventional illegal drugs, this may actually be a small step in the right direction.

As a legal professional in Canada, no matter how this eventually plays out, you’ll want to stay on top of it for any implications it may have on your clients, both locally and internationally. That’s why lawyers all over the globe need to use a proper legal research tool in order to stay on top of the latest laws and rulings. Online legal research tools enable you to access an entire law library’s worth of legal and court information, so you can be as knowledge as possible about any given case. You never know when information like this will come in handy.


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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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