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Category Archive: Opinion

Trump’s Appointment Of Kushner Violates Anti-Nepotism Law

The announcement that Donald Trump was appointing his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to the position of senior advisor on Monday left us all with a few questions. Firstly, who the hell is this guy? Secondly, is he going to step down from his position as executive of the Kushner Companies real estate empire? Or are conflicts of interest just the name of the game in this administration? Finally, is this move even legal?

In 1967, President Lyndon Johnson passed the anti-nepotism statute. It stated that no federal official could hire someone in their family to work under them. This stands in stark contrast to the capitalist world that Trump hails from, where nepotism has always been de rigeur. So naturally, he’s trying to get around this pesky rule. Since Kushner is apparently so talented that he could, according to Trump, “do peace in the Middle East”, he’s clearly essential to the new administration.

To combat this, Trump is trotting out a court opinion from 1993 and a separate provision of federal law from 1978 stating that the president could appoint White House staff “without any regard to any other provision of law”. He’s claiming that this means that the anti-nepotism law was never meant to apply to the White House but only for other elected government officials.

Henceforth, many legal experts are skeptical of this claim. Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, is one of them. “Congress didn’t in this law carve out an exception for the White House,” she said. “It’s quite broad in scope. It applies to the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, the D.C. government.”

Kushner has been meeting with lawyers about the issue and plans to forgo a salary if needed to keep the position. Granted, he doesn’t need a salary as he already makes tons of money from his global real estate empire. Although this brings up the whole ethics issue.

What do you think of this move? Sound off in the comments below!

Source: Salon

Image source: Salon

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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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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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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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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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Law Student Articles at Virtual Firm

Carolyn Grogan, a law student in Alberta, is likely the first in the province to article at a law firm that operates solely in a virtual environment.

Round Table Law is a cloud-based law firm run by Jason Morris, and until he took on Grogan, the firm consisted of him only. She is his first articling student, although he’d received requests before. Morris always said no, because he didn’t have the capacity to provide a student with a traditional articling experience.

However, when Grogan reached out, her interest in operating as a lawyer in a virtual world piqued Morris’ interest, and she knew Round Table was the only place she could learn more. Not only is Grogan interested in the technology Morris uses, but she has a fully-functioning home office, which made communicating easy.

Grogan, who is a mature law student, had a previous career in information technology and a master’s degree in communications and technology.

Aside from Grogan being a good fit for Morris and Round Table, a change from the Law Society of Alberta also had a hand in their ability to work together. The law society realized that the fact that they required most law firms to teach their articling students about several areas of law meant that smaller law firms were unable to take on students. When they made the move to change that policy, it gave Morris space to take on Grogan.

Both Morris and Grogan hope their experience will show the law community that this kind of articling relationship can work, and that virtual law firms could be the future.

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CLA Report: Women Leaving Criminal Law at High Rate

Criminal Law In Canada

According to a new report from the Criminal Lawyer’s Association (CLA), women are leaving the practice at an alarmingly high rate that exceeds the number of men leaving criminal law.

“Low pay, lack of financial support for maternity leave, and being treated differently than male peers by judges and court staff” were listed in the study as some of the reasons that women choose to leave the profession. The study also concluded that many women dropped criminal law after 5 years and few were practicing after 10 years.

Entitled “The Retention of Women in the Private Practice of Criminal Law”, this report was released during a CLA conference in London, Ontario this past weekend and was authored by Natasha Madon and Anthony Doob. Natasha is a postdoctoral research fellow from Australia’s Griffith University, while Anthony is a professor emeritus of criminology at the University of Toronto. They assessed stats from Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada, set up five focus groups, and surveyed 225 female criminal lawyers in Ontario to come to their conclusions.

Breese Davies, vice-president of the CLA, told CBC news that these type of findings have been reported anecdotally for years. She states “we all had impressions that women were leaving criminal practice at a higher rate than men, but we never had any numbers to determine whether or not our impressions were real.”

According to the study, in 1996, 47 women started practicing criminal law and by 2004, only 13 were still practicing “substantially”.

CBC also interviewed a number of women working in criminal law and they shared their experiences noting what an uphill battle it is to remain a woman in the field. To learn more about this report and about these women’s experiences in criminal law, read on at the CBC News website.

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Online Free TV Is (Technically) Legal In Canada

Anyone mildly savvy to the ways of the internet and copyright laws knows that downloading copyrighted content is a big no-no. A big problem in recent years, Canada’s Copyright Act made certain that the downloading of copyrighted content of any kind without permission is outright illegal.

Such laws that prohibit downloading, however, don’t technically apply to streaming television programs, effectively making free TV completely legal in Canada.

Unlike downloading, streaming “falls a little bit into that grey area” comments legal expert Michael Geist. The reason being that, unlike downloading, which involves creating a digital copy of a movie or television show, streaming is inherently “transient,” with no re-watchable copy made.

With that, anyone reprimanded for streaming a television show could simply say they weren’t making making a permanent copy, as streaming is really just a temporary reproduction, and thus be exempt from any Canadian copyright laws.

For a majority of popular streaming services, the most popular example being Netflix, this isn’t really useful information. Such streaming services have already struck deals with the owner’s of the content they stream, so there isn’t any copyright infringement going on in the slightest. You can Netflix all you like (which is a lot for many) and never have to worry about an allegation of copyright infringement notice.

But for folks who stream movies and shows from file-sharing websites, or use devices like The Free TV Box which effectively allows you to watch almost anything as long as a stream-able file exists online, this is essential information to know, no legal research needed.

As Geist notes, the majority of individuals who do stream content are using paid-for subscriptions, and so for the time being its unlikely the Canadian government will crack down on users who stream. But, should amount of individuals who utilize free file-sharing websites (which would be deemed illegal if they were operating out of Canada) grow, it’s likely the practice will fall firmly out of the legal grey area.

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CBC Profiles Five Indigenous Lawyers In Canada

Indigenous Lawyers In Canada

The landscape is changing for indigenous people in Canada, and First Nations issues are finally starting to come to the forefront of Canadian politics and law. But it wasn’t that long ago that indigenous people weren’t allowed to hire lawyers without the government’s permission, and they could only enter law school if they renounced their “Indian status.”

In 1954, when William Wuttunee earned his law degree from the University of Saskatchewan, he became Western Canada’s first status Indian lawyer. Since then, and likely thanks to him, there are many successful indigenous lawyers across the country.

Today, the CBC profiled five of those lawyers who are working to make a difference, both in their communities and Canada-wide.

First on the list is Donal Worne, who is one of the founding members of the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada, and a Cree lawyer in Saskatoon. He works with families fighting against police and the justice system. He also recently worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

One of the three women on the list is Jean Teillet, who is the great-grandnice of Louis Riel. In 2003, she won a victory in the Supreme Court of Canada for a Métis man who was charged with hunting without a license. She also won a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Christa Big Canoe is the legal advocacy director of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. She fights passionately for First Nations women and children, and she is currently representing six families of students whose deaths are the subject of an inquest in Thunder Bay.

The third woman on CBC’s list is Katherine Hensel, who established Hensel Barristers in 2011 and then served as counsel during the British Columbia Missing and Murdered Women’s Inquiry for the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

The last on the list is Caleb Behn, who only just graduated from law school and is waiting to be called to the bar. Even without his robes, he has been working to fight fracking in Northern British Columbia.

Read more about each of these indigenous lawyers at cbc.ca.

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Drinking Over The Holidays: Laws You Need To Know

Holiday Drinking

It’s almost a universal truth that during the holidays, you will be drinking. What with all the parties, get together, meals, and even the simple act of dealing with your family, the consumption of alcohol is all but an inevitability. Sure, there are some outliers on such a claim, but for the rest of us, drinking over the holidays is a reality.

Now, since enjoying a fair amount of alcoholic beverages may be a bit out of the ordinary for some, we thought it would be best to provide a quick reminder of what is and isn’t allowed in Ontario when it comes to enjoying a bit of liquor, wine, or beer.

Below you’ll find everything you need to know about relevant laws relating to alcohol in a holiday context, so you can ensure you’re not breaking any rules if you’re hosting a holiday party or just going to one.

Special Status For New Year’s Eve

Regularly licensed establishments and owners of Special Occasion Permits can legally sell alcohol between the hours of 11am to 2am, save on New Year’s Eve (December 31st) when last call is pushed back an hour until 3am.


Acceptable Forms Of Identification

You probably already have a driver’s licence or the like that you use to showcase your of the legal drinking age, but a reminder is always useful. And besides, sometimes you leave that oft-used card in another coat, so it pays to know exactly what is deemed an acceptable form of identification in Ontario.

They include:

  • A Canadian passport
  • Canadian Citizenship card
  • Canadian armed forces identification card
  • LCBO “BYID” photo card
  • An Ontario driver’s licence
  • Secure Indian Status or Permanent Resident card
  • Any other photo card issued under the Photo Card Act, 2008

Making (And Serving) Your Own Alcohol

If you make your own beer and wine, can you legally give it out to your holiday party guests? Can you give it as a gift? Are you, as a party guest, in the clear if you enjoy a glass?

The answer to all of the above questions is yes, just so long as it is all for free. No homemade beer or wine can be sold or used commercially, so if it’s a free gift or you supply some gratis holiday cheer at a shindig, you’re in the clear.


Transporting Alcohol

No matter what you’re driving (from car to snowmobile to boat) the rule when transporting an alcoholic beverage is that the container’s seal must be unbroken. Alternatively, if the bottle has been opened, it must be sealed in another bag/container, just so it isn’t easily drinkable to any person within the car.


Getting Kicked Out Of A Bar

If you’re planning on getting a little extra rowdy on NYE, and are headed to a bar, you should be aware that any establishment that can legally sell alcohol has the complete right to remove/refuse entry to anyone they deem “undesirable” for whatever justified reason.

Those who don’t comply (not leaving, going in anyway) may be met with an arrest, as the license holder has the right to call the police.


Giving Out Alcohol At A Party

If you’re playing host for the holidays, and are going to be providing the alcohol, you must do so at a rate of free of charge. This includes events held at a private residence or in a “private place” (an establishment not generally open to the public, e.g. an office).

It’s crucial that you are aware of the laws and do the legal research necessary to ensure you act within the law. There are plenty of resources at your disposable to ensure you have a safe and law-abiding holiday experience. If you don’t take the time to familiarize yourself with the drinking laws, your holidays will likely be a very unpleasant and unforgettable experience if you end up in trouble with the law.

This is a sponsored post brought to you in collaboration with LexisNexis

Featured Image: Kaboompics

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