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Category Archive: Rulings

Pastafarianism Slowly Becoming A Newly Recognized Religion

Pastafarian Religion

Ever since Scientology bullied their way into an official status as a religion and, more importantly, the privilege to not have to pay taxes, the question about what constitutes a “religion” has been in constant debate. I mean, if a psychotic science fiction author can have his belief system in aliens legitimized by the legal system, then what should prevent anybody else from doing the same?

One such new “religion”, known as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is making a few successful inroads into legal acknowledgement. Yes, you read that right – the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is starting to become an actual religion. The movement, also known as “Pastafarianism”, began in 2005 by Bobby Henderson as a response to the push in America to teach intelligent design in public school science classes. Henderson posited that if some sort of intelligent force created everything, then why couldn’t it be a flying spaghetti monster?

After garnering a huge cult following online, Pastafarianism is now officially recognized as a religion in New Zealand, Poland and the Netherlands. Some of its rituals and followings include a holiday every Friday and an adherence to pirate wardrobe and speech for its religious ceremonies. They also advocate for members to be able to wear a colander on their head for identification photos.

Just this past weekend saw the very first official Pastafarian wedding that took place in New Zealand, where authorities decided that the religion could now officiate weddings. On the other hand, last week saw a U.S. federal district court reject a Nebraska State Penitentiary prisoner’s claim to receive religious accommodations based on his Pastafarian beliefs. In America, I guess if you do not have big money like Scientology, then the legal system does not look too favourably upon you.

In any case, the idea that a number of government bodies do legally acknowledge “His Noodly Appendage” is enough to inspire hope in the world for even the most ridiculous causes.

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Quicklaw Full Service Shows Canada’s Evolution on Assisted Dying

Nearly two decades after Sue Rodriguez first appealed to the Supreme Court to help end her life, it looks like Canada’s legal landscape is on the verge of drastically changing with respect to its assisted dying laws. But just how drastic the new laws would be is up for debate.

While the Liberal’s new bill would allow for physician-assisted dying in Canada, it contains a set of specific criteria that must be met for those turning to doctors to help end their lives.

The proposed legislated, which was tabled in Parliament last week, would only pertain to adults over 18 years of age, who are mentally competent and suffer from a serious and incurable illness. These adults must be experiencing intolerable suffering as a result of “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capacity.”

Crucially, only those whose “natural death has become reasonably foreseeable” would fall under the bill’s set of criteria — yet the bill does not specify or propose any timeline that would constitute as “reasonably foreseeable.”

But that’s not all: the bill stipulates that a person must-go-through a 15-day period of reflection and consent before they can end their life. Two witnesses with no financial interest to the patient, as well as two doctors or nurses would also be required to evaluate the patient’s request.

Many physicians applaud the bill for approaching assisted dying with caution and including measures that help protect the vulnerable, while some are criticizing the bill for not going far enough. Needless to say, it is clear that years from now, lawyers will look back on this moment as a major breakthrough for right-to-die advocates.

Lexis Nexis Quicklaw Full Service provides lawyers with the tools they need to engage in comprehensive legal research. Quicklaw Full Service allows for lawyers to study past court decisions, legislation, a wide range of primary and secondary materials, and much more. Lawyers can see for themselves just how much the country’s legal landscape has changed: with full-text court and tribunal decisions dating back nearly two centuries, Quicklaw users can study what cases in particular provided Canadians with new legal rights, and helped shift the way we think about moral and legal issues. In addition, Quicklaw offers a breadth of commentary and legal analysis on recent cases in the news, so lawyers can see how, for example, the vague wording in the Liberal’s assisted dying bill can lead to legal loopholes.

For more on the Liberals’ assisted-dying bill, visit The Globe and Mail.

Featured image source: LexisNexis

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First woman allowed to die with doctors help outside Quebec

Last week, a Calgary woman with a terminal illness ended her life in Vancouver, BC with the help of two doctors.

In Canada, it is still illegal for a doctor to help a patient end their life, but two recent Supreme Court rulings allow certain exemptions to be made. Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Sheilah Martin had granted the woman a legal exemption for doctor-assisted death, and as of right now, it is believed she is the first person in Canada — outside of Quebec — who has turned to a physician to legally end her life. Unlike the rest of Canada, Quebec has its own assisted-dying laws, which came into effect in December.

The woman, who is referred to in legal documents as Ms. S, suffered from ALS and was described as being in constant pain. Almost entirely paralyzed, she had been told that her disease gave her around six months to live.

The judge ruled that she met the criteria that constitute an exemption, as she suffers from a medical condition that causes “intolerable suffering” and “can’t be alleviated.” In addition, the judge found Ms. S to be a “competent adult” that clearly “consents to the termination of life.”

In years to come, when more rulings are passed on assisted dying and the country’s legal landscape continues to change , many lawyers will undoubtedly want to look back on early cases — particularly of the first person to be allowed an exemption and die legally with the assistance of the doctor.

LexisNexis Quicklaw Full Service gives lawyers the tools they need to conduct comprehensive legal research, and view past court decisions such as that of Ms. S. With this professional and complete legal research service, lawyers can comb through crucial primary and secondary materials, and read past court decisions, legislation, legal commentary, and more. For those looking to get an even broader picture of the history of the country’s changing laws, this research service also provides full-text court and tribunal decisions dating back to the 1800s.

To read more about Ms. S, visit CBC News.

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Federal Judge allows Medical Marijuana users to grow pot

On Wednesday, February 24 in Vancouver, Federal Judge, Michael Phelan, struck down the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations that restricted medical marijuana patients from growing their own marijuana.

Judge Phelan ruled that the regulations “were an infringement on charter rights and declared they have no force and effect.” However, he suspended his ruling for six months for the federal government to determine new rules. He also made sure to point out that this new ruling doesn’t change other laws that make it illegal for Canadians to use or grow pot recreationally.

The Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations was introduced in 2013 by the Conservative Government. Under it, medical marijuana patients were required to buy cannabis from licenses producers instead of growing their own. Neil Allard and three other British Columbia residents challenged this regulation, stating it violated their charter rights.

While this new ruling is a definite victory for medical marijuana users, there are still some limitations. For one, it only applies to about 28,000 Canadian who already had the proper licenses at the time of the injunction. Lawyer John Conroy, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, stated that there are thousands of other medical marijuana users not covered by the original injunction and they will have to wait six months before they can start legally growing their own cannabis. He also said that if someone had to change the address of their production site, their possession license is no longer valid with Health Canada and warns users with licenses to ensure that they’re up-to-date.

Read more about this case, the new ruling, and Judge Phelan’s decision on the CBC News website.

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US Judge Orders Apple to Break into Mass Shooter’s iPhone

This week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered that Apple must help the federal government gain access into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino mass shooters — and Apple has not responded kindly.

In an open letter published on their website on February 16th, Apple CEO Tim Cook warns that the US government’s order presents a slippery slope that would ultimately threaten its customers’ trust in the company.

In the letter, Cook questions the moral and legal implications of Pym’s ruling. He argues that Apple’s customers use their iPhones to store personal information, which “needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.”

Pym had ruled that Apple must assist the FBI in breaking into Syed Farook’s encrypted iPhone, since his passcode remains unknown. But Apple is clearly reluctant to comply with the order, and their scathing open letter aims to start a public discussion about the relationship between personal privacy and national security — and whether the former must be compromised to achieve the latter.

While Pym’s order stipulates that Apple’s software needs to only unlock Farook’s iPhone, Apple has suggested that their software could potentially be used by the government to intrude on more customers’ privacy in future cases. Cook also noted that no software of this kind currently exists today.

Pym’s ruling also requires Apple to tell the court if it considers the order to be unreasonably burdensome. With the release of Apple’s letter, it remains to be seen if the public at large will consider Pym’s order to be a reasonable request to safeguard national security, or one that presents worrisome future implications for customers’ personal information.

For more on this story, visit CBC News.

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Uber Has Now Been Legalized in Edmonton

On January 27, Edmonton’s city council passed its vehicle-for-hire bylaw, making the ride sharing app, Uber, able to legally operate in the city. It also made Edmonton the first city in Canada to pass Uber-friendly bylaws. As in other cities like Toronto, Edmonton has seen a number of protests against Uber by the city’s taxi drivers. Over 100 taxi drivers showed up to protest the bylaw vote and ended up causing such a disturbance that police had to be called. However, despite the heavy protects by cab drivers, a final decision was made and the bylaw was passed.

According to the Huffington Post, taxi drivers in Edmonton are not pleased with the decision as they’re afraid that Uber will drive them out of business. They may have a point since this new bylaw allows other ride-sharing services like Lyft and SideCar to operate making for a more competitive market. That being said, the bylaw comes with some regulations like adding a minimum price to make it more fair.

On the other hand, it also seems that taxi services have declined in recent years as they previously dominated the market, making it ripe for competition. In 2014, Edmonton received 135 complains and issued 336 enforcement tickets to taxi drivers. Additionally, 90,000 riders have signed up for Uber in Edmonton, showing the public’s preference for the app. With the global rise in Uber, it really was only a matter of time before the app started to gain popularity in smaller cities.

The vote does come with a limit – the city is set to make Uber legal on March 1 of this year, providing the company can provide all of its drivers with insurance. Once Uber drivers are provided with commercial insurance however, the company will be allowed to legally enter the vehicle-for-hire market. According to CBC News, two insurance companies are currently drafting policies for Uber drivers.

To read more about this story, take a look at the Huffington Post’s article.

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First patient dies under Quebec’s new death with dignity laws

death with dignity laws

This month, a patient died with the assistance of a physician in Quebec City — marking the first time a Canadian has exercised their legal right to die with dignity.

Quebec’s law that allows for assisted dying came into effect on December 10th of last year. While this is the first publicly-known circumstance of a patient dying with the aid of a doctor in the province, it remains unclear whether or not there are more cases: Quebec health agencies aren’t obligated to report them, given patient confidentiality. However, a report on all cases is set to be prepared by a parliamentary committee for the Quebec National Assembly this fall.

In December, Quebec became the first Canadian province where terminally ill patients were granted the legal right to die with the assistance of a doctor. The law came about when a Quebec Court of Appeal panel with three judges overturned the previous Quebec Superior Court ruling, which stipulated that the province couldn’t allow for its dying with dignity law to come into effect, until the Criminal Code changed some of its provisions.

The Court of Appeal also encouraged the implementation of assisted dying laws at the federal level, rather than just the provincial. While the federal government had requested six more months to draft new assisted dying laws, this month, the Supreme Court of Canada allowed the federal government to have only a four-month extension. The court also ruled that Quebec’s right-to-die laws can continue to be implemented. Now, it remains to be seen whether more provinces will follow Quebec’s lead, and right-to-die advocates hold on to hope that the country as a whole will adopt similar legislation.

For more on this story, visit CBC News.

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Quebec Assisted-Dying Law Is Now In Effect

Following a Quebec Court of Appeal ruling on Thursday, Quebec legislation on assisted dying is now a law in the province.

Quebec’s health minister, Gaetan Barrette, made the announcement that Bill 2 is now fully implemented. There will be an appeal on December 18, but it is unlikely that the lawyers involved will come to a decision at that point.

Quebec’s justice minister, Stephanie Vallee, released a statement the day before the ruling to reassure those in the medical community who are worried about criminal proceedings. Guidelines will be sent to the Crown prosecutor’s office with a perspective on how to individuals should receive care that respects their dignity as they near the end of their lives.

This legislation, which was adopted in June of last year, explains how terminal patients can receive medical help with ending their lives. Quebec is the first province to pass this kind of legislation, and the province has argued that since it is an extension of healthcare, it is a provincial issue.

Barrette stated that it is not about euthanasia or assisted suicide, but an extension of healthcare. He stated that people have been waiting for this law for far too long and that having this choice is something the people want.

Last month, a palliative care centre in Sherbrooke, Quebec, said it would start providing the service on February 1. La Maison Aube-Lumiere cares for patients with terminal cancer, and the centre expects to see only two or three requests for the service a year.

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Canada Could Pay Millions For A Decade-Old Mistake

Last week, the Specific Claims Tribunal discovered that the federal government never secured the rights to oil and gas reserves when it purchased land from two First Nations in British Columbia 65 years ago.

According to Justice Larry Whalen, Canada did not act in the best interests of the Doig River and Blueberry River First Nations when they failed to properly review the title they were purchasing. Whalen said that Canada was very experienced in these kinds of deals and that they should have taken this “ordinary precaution.”

Although Whalen’s decision does not give the First Nations the rights to the oil and gas, it opens a door to adequate compensation. They can both be awarded up to $150 million and there will be another hearing to determine if both bands are entitled to that money.

In 1945, with men returning from the war, Canada was in serious need of land for housing. The two bands, which at the time were just one band, agreed to give up their land in northeastern B.C. The government then sold the land, and that sale did include the rights to what was underground.

The federal government bought more land to replace what the band had given up, and assumed the purchase also included underground resources, but those rights stayed with B.C. Canada did not realize its error until 1952, but B.C. had already issued permits to Texaco Exploration Company. It took another 25 years for the country to inform the First Nations people that they didn’t actually have full rights to the land they were living on.

Whalen did confirm that it is usual practice for B.C. to keep all subsurface rights to the land it sells, but he said Canada still needed to attempt to correct the error, and pointed out that the biggest mistake came when the country did nothing to try to fix the problem.

Blueberry River began the lawsuit when they found petroleum on their original land in the 1970s, and the Supreme Court of Canada awarded them $147 million for the revenues they missed out on.

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Canada Could See Legalization Of Marijuana Under Trudeau

Justin Trudeaus Libera

Could marijuana be legalized in Canada under Justin Trudeau’s leadership? Some legal experts think yes.

Trudeau’s government made a pledge to “legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana.” With his win in the election last month, many are now expecting to see changes surrounding the legality of marijuana usage.

The loosening of restrictions surrounding marijuana laws in the United States — as well as other countries around the world — could increase the likelihood of Trudeau’s government following suit. Other jurisdictions that have changed their marijuana laws could serve as a model for success, and provide an example for the how the Liberal government can implement similar marijuana laws in Canada.

In Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Washington D.C, recreational marijuana use is legal.

On November 4, Trudeau will name his cabinet, with the new justice minister likely to become responsible for overseeing the party’s reforms. The Liberals had pledged to form a federal-provincial task force. According to their platform, after hearing from experts in public health, substance abuse and law enforcement, the task force would create a system of marijuana sales and distribution, with federal and provincial taxes applied.

Bevor he was elected, Trudeau said his government would learn from how jurisdictions have legalized marijuana — taking note of what has worked and what hasn’t — and work with individual provinces to create the best system going forward.

 Some legal experts claim it could take only a year for the country to see new marijuana laws come into effect. Others, however, aren’t so sure: it could be a lengthy process to understand what kind of issues have arisen in jurisdictions such as Colorado and Washington after marijuana was legalized, and how to prevent them in the future.
Moreover, how much revenue both the federal and provincial government could gain from the legalization of marijuana remains to be seen. In their four-year projections in their election platform, the Liberals did not account for any revenue from marijuana taxes. While not discounting the possibility for revenue upon marijuana’s legalization, Trudeau had explained he wasn’t sure the rate that the government wanted to tax marijuana, and when exactly it would be legalized.
For more on this story, visit The Toronto Star.
Featured image source: CBC
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