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Category Archive: Rulings

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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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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Trinity Western University Wins Legal Fight To Open Law School

Trinity Western University, an evangelical Christian university based in British Columbia, won a legal victory that puts them one step closer to opening a law school.

The Appeal Court of B.C. released a unanimous decision in favour of the university on Tuesday, November 1. The court stated that the British Columbia law society’s efforts to deny accreditation to Trinity Western law graduates is “unreasonable”. All 5 judges on the appeal panel stated that the negative impact on the university’s religious freedoms would be severe and outweigh the “minimal effect” accreditation would have on LGBTQ rights.

The legal dispute started over Trinity Western University’s code of conduct that bans students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage. The Law Society argued that this rule discriminates against gays and lesbians who want to enter the legal profession. However, the Appeal Court found that denying approval to the university would not enhance access to law school for members of the LGBTQ community and that creating 60 new law school seats would divert some law school hopefuls from other programs, therefore increasing the number of seats available to LGBTQ applicants overall.

The judgment officially states that “a society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society – one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal.” It also stated that the case overall “demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”

B.C. Law Society spokeswoman Vinnie Yueng said in a written statement that Appeal Court decision “added another dimension to an already complex issue”. She also said that the society would review the ruling before considering next steps.

This isn’t the first time that Trinity Western University has faced push back on its “push for recognition” in the legal community. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal denied the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s efforts to prevent the law school’s graduates from receiving accreditation. However, Ontario’s Appeal court upheld the ruling against Trinity Western, denying recognition to the university’s future law graduates.

Read more about this case on the CTV News website.

Story and featured image source: CTV News

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Judge Orders Child Not To Wear Girls’ Clothes In Public

A recent ruling in Alberta is raising questions about whether a judge should be able to exert control over a child’s clothing.

Last December, a judge in Medicine Hat, Alberta, ruled that a four-year old child is only permitted wear “masculine” clothing in public. The ruling, which was passed down family court, came amidst a custody battle between the child’s parents and goes against the wishes of the child’s primary caregiver.

The child, who was born biologically male, is now five years old — and began claiming years ago that they were female. The child began introducing themselves as a girl, and would routinely respond with anger when called a boy by their mother. Things escalated even further when the child threatened to cut off their own genitals.

That was the final straw for the child’s mother, who then decided that she would enlist the help of professionals and take her child’s claims more seriously. She began to refer to her child as a girl, which elicited much appreciation.

After the mother told the father — from whom she is separated — about these developments, he filed for primary custody of their child. He also credited the mother as the source of their child’s gender “confusion.”

Last winter, the child’s parents took up their custody dispute in Medicine Hat family court. It was there that Judge Derek Redman ruled that the mother could remain the primary caregiver, but the child was not allowed to wear blatantly feminine clothes while in public.

A few months later, the case was taken up by another judge. Judge Fred Fisher reaffirmed the clothing stipulation, but this time, gave primary custody to the child’s father.

Last month, a third judge — Judge Gordon Krinke — solicited the input of a parenting expert. He accordingly modified the clothing restriction and stipulated that the mother and father must provide their child with clothing for both genders. The child can then pick what clothing they feel is best.

Transgender activists have spoken out against these rulings, noting that the courts cannot decide what clothing a child wears — doing so contradicts the province’s Bill of Rights. In addition, boys who aren’t transgender are still legally permitted to wear dresses, which makes this ruling unfair.

For more on this story, visit the CBC.

Featured image source: Manitoba Courts

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TWU Law School Rejection Upheld by Ontario Appeal Court

Trinity Western University’s proposed law school hit another road block last week when the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed its bid to have the school accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The decision was made based on the fact that TWU’s Christian community covenant is discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. In order to be admitted into TWU, each student has to sign that covenant, which states that they  have to refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Appeal court justice James MacPherson’s wrote that part of the covenant that the court took issue with was deeply discriminatory and hurtful.

In 2014, the Law Society voted 28 to 21 in favour of rejecting TWU’s request for accreditation, and the case set religious freedom against equality rights. The Court of Appeal did conclude that the Law Society’s decision was a breach of religious freedom, but a legitimate one because they were acting in the public interest.

MacPherson also wrote that although lacking the benefit of the Law Society’s accreditation will make it harder for TWU to run their law school, it doesn’t mean they can’t still do so. TWU, however, sees the infringement on their religious rights as a serious matter, and will be taking their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Law Society of Upper Canada saw the court’s decision as another step towards promoting diversity in the field of law, and removing discriminatory barriers, which is also how OUTLaws sees it. They intervened in the case, argued in favour of rejecting the appeal, and stated that they were delighted with the most recent outcome.

The decision to reject the appeal was made unusually fast, due in part to the impending Pride celebrations in Toronto, as well as the tragedy that struck Orlando last month.

Featured image source: cbc.ca

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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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Cable Companies Launch Suit Against Android TV Box Vendors

Android TV boxes are giving cable companies a run for their money, which may be why the biggest cable companies are trying to shut down vendors that sell these boxes with the promise of free television. For a one -time fee that ranges from $40 to $250, users can attach the box to their television and stream pirated content like movies, TV shows, and live broadcasts, thus eliminating the need to pay for cable.

Cable companies in Canada – Rogers Communications, Bell Media, and Videotron – have recently taken legal action against five Canadian Android TV vendors – iTVBox, Android Bros Sales, MTLFreeTV, My Electronics, and WatchNSaveNow – and have won a temporary injunction that prevents them from selling the boxes at this time.

At the hearing, the cable companies argued that these boxes cause “irreparable harm” to their business and claimed that “piracy is one of the top causes for declining subscriptions for television services in Canada”.

A lawyer for Vincent Wesley, owner of MTLFreeTV, argued that the Android boxes are simply like “iPads, Apple TVs or computers”, all of which can be used for both legal and illegal purposes and that “the vendor doesn’t control or authorize what users do, or what software providers enable users to do”.

According to CBC News, a source close to the case says that a sixth company has been added as a defendant. This source also states that the cable companies started with these five vendors because they could get a quick injunction, but that they also intend to widen it across the country to shut down illegal streaming via Android boxes as best they can.

To learn more about this case, visit the CBC News website. What are your thoughts on this case? Do you agree with the initial ruling siding with the big cable companies?

This is most likely not the last that we will hear about this issue as illegal streaming and piracy remain a hot topic in today’s digital world.

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Judge In Stanford Swimmer Rape Case Faces Criticism

By this point, everybody is aware of the vile saga of University of Stanford swimmer Brock Turner. On January 18, 2015, the 20-year old one-time Olympic hopeful was caught sexually assaulting an unconscious woman after a frat party. But after being arrested and then convicted in court of assault with intent to commit rape, in addition to two more charges of digitally penetrating an unconscious and intoxicated victim, he was recently only sentenced to six months in county jail, far more lenient than the standard punishments for these types of crimes.

Now, the Santa Clara County judge who handed down that sentence, Aaron Persky, is drawing a ton of criticism for his decision. While Persky stated that his conclusion was reached by looking at Turner’s level of intoxication, letters of support, remorsefulness, clean criminal record, and the insane notion of how the conviction would affect his future, Danielle De Smeth, a criminal attorney based in California saw things differently. “The judge’s decision does not seem to be driven by the facts of the case,” she said, “but instead carried by a deep-rooted misogyny which we are only beginning to address.” De Smeth certainly isn’t the only legal expert heaping scorn on Persky these days. Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber is even launching a campaign to get Persky removed from the bench for his decision in the Stanford swimmer case.

In the end, nothing will probably happen to Persky. His big sticking point was that Turner had no prior record and had many supporters, so he could legally deviate from the minimum two-year sentence because of these circumstances. Unfortunately, this sentencing sends a pretty dangerous message.

“The light sentencing in the Brock Turner case is problematic for several reasons,” stated De Smeth, “but at least in part because it emboldens those of privilege or an athletic background.”

This decision by Persky is troubling to say the least and appropriately so, will not be the last we hear of this case. Issuing such a light sentence for such a disturbing and vile act sends a terrible message and precedent to future offends and to society as a whole that these types of crimes are not taken seriously. This is completely wrong. The justice system failed and specifically, judge Persky failed in his ability to take a harsh stand on a serious issue in today’s society.

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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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