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Why Canada May Start Making You Pay A”Netflix Tax”

Nowadays, there probably isn’t one person in Canada who doesn’t binge-watch shows and movies on Netflix. Or, if not Netflix, some other streaming service that offers an array of programs for a monthly fee.

That fee, however, may become a tad bit more expensive if the Canadian government steps in. Whether you’re watching shows on Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service, a federal tax may be implemented that will force subscribers to pay an extra fee.

As of now, most of the major streaming services are all based outside of Canada, meaning none really have to pay any corporate taxes. And since such streaming services don’t operate within Canada, no HST or GST is charged to Canadian clients.

Also, since streaming services are removed from next-to-all national regulations, none have to pay into the Canadian Media Fund, a public-private organization created by the Department of Canadian Heritage to help finance new pieces of Canadian-made media.

All in all, Canada receives almost no monetary gains from streaming services. That doesn’t sit too well with the Canadian government. Netflix subscribers (and all other streaming service users) will likely have to pay up.

In an interview with CTV, Canada’s Heritage Minister Melanie Joly spoke about the issue of streaming services, commenting how “all scenarios” were being explored when it comes to such digital platforms and their relationship with Canadian media.

At one time the idea of forcing streaming services to pay a fee to the Canadian Media Fund was proposed, but Joly has gone on the record stating that won’t happen.

So how will the Canadian government create a means to benefit from streaming services? The likely result will be an added GST charge to subscriptions.

Joly could not comment whether or not a “Netflix Tax” will happen, how it will work, or what path the Canadian government will take in the context of streaming services. All that can be confirmed is the Canadian government is working towards a best-case scenario.

Unfortunately, as is often the case when it comes to the government and the opportunity to make extra money, a tax on citizens is usually seen as the best way to go about things.

Implementing a Netflix Tax will fall on the shoulders of the minister of finance, and Joly did state she would be speaking to Bill Morneau on the matter.

As it stands right now, you won’t be charged a sales tax for burning through every season of “Friends,” but that may change in the near future.

Featured image courtesy of: Wikimedia

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Numerous Nations Call For End To Legal Ivory Trade

A number of nations, at a conference held by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), are agreeing to end the legal ivory trade worldwide. There are nations on both sides of the debate, however, a number of countries are supporting an all out ban.

While the agreement isn’t legally binding, Time states that the agreement is the “first time in history member states have agreed to end, rather than regulate, domestic ivory sales”. CITES also announced that, for the first time, destroying seized ivory stockpiles was a viable option; 22 countries are already taking action on that mandate.

One elephant killed every 15 minutes. According to the Guardian, more than 140,000 Savannah elephants were poached for ivory between 2007 and 2014. While there is a total ban on trading ivory internationally, some countries permit some ivory items (such as antiques) to be bought and sold domestically.

Not all member states support enforcing stricter measures on the ivory trade. In June, Zimbabwe announced it would lobby to lift the international ban of ivory sales during the same CITES conferences referenced here. In July, the European Union issued a paper against a complete ban on the domestic ivory trade; instead, they advocated for countries with growing elephant populations to “sustainably manage” said populations.

However, on October 3, Botswana – the country with the largest elephant population – also decided to support the total ban on ivory trading. As stated by National Geographic, Botswana, as well as Namibia and Zimbabwe, have been allowed to sell their stockpile of ivory to other countries in recent years. However, these sales also increased elephant poaching across Africa dramatically, according to a recent study.

According to Robert Hepworth, a former CITES official and current advisor for the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, Botswana’s announcement “may attract enough votes to get this crucial decision made”.

To learn more about this story, visit National Geographic or Time.

Story source: National Geographic, Time

Featured image source: National Geographic

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Does Ontario Need Harsher Tenant Laws For Renters?

If you’re sneaky about it, you could go months without having to pay rent in Ontario. How does one achieve this magical luxury that is free rent?

Well, it isn’t exactly the path most upstanding citizens would take, but it’s definitely effective. Simply exploit some legal-loopholes and you can escape rent payments to a landlord for weeks on end, and some tenants are doing just that.

Case in point: James Regan, a Toronto man in his early sixties who has continuously evaded rent payments to his understandably-angered landlords. This time around, Regan refuses to pay rent because of a broken air conditioner and parking space access.

Robin Ennis is the unlucky landlord currently dealing with Regan, reports the CBC, has already tried to evict Regan from his unit. But given the current structure of Ontario tenant-laws, an eviction is a very slow process when dealing with a wily tenant.

Regan, you see, is quite aware that any eviction ordered by Ontario’s Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) can be sent for an appeal to the Ontario Supreme Court. All tenants are entirely allowed to make an appeal, only for the cost of $180.

The loophole is that the appeal process can take months, a period of time where the tenant is legally entitled to stay in the residence owned by the landlord, and in this case, withhold rent, too.

Regan is employing this technique with Ennis right now, and he did the exact same thing in his last apartment. Signing up for a unit at $3,200/month, Regan refused to pay rent, and when an eviction notice came, Regan appealed to the Supreme Court and didn’t have to leave the apartment for eight months after that.

While Regan is completely to blame for his past and current landlord’s frustration and anger, Harry Fine, who was once an adjudicator for the LTB, believes Ontario’s rules on rentals is the core problem.

Fine told the CBC that the province’s Residential Tenancies Act is completely “unbalanced,” as tenants are far better protected than landlords. And in the case of James Regan, perhaps tenants are protected a little too well.

Fine also believes some sort of screening process or stricter control over who has the ability to file an appeal after an eviction notice may ameliorate the issue.

Any changes to Ontario’s Residential Tenancies Act will have to wait a while, though, as the provincial government will only discuss any potential changes this coming fall. Any proposed changes will come out of a series of consultations organized by the provincial government in regards to tenant-landlord laws.

Featured image courtesy of: Charleston’s TheDigitel

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University Student Leads Class-Action Lawsuit Against British Columbia

The repercussions of British Columbia’s newly imposed “foreign buyer tax” have finally hit the provincial government.

No, not a cooled down housing market, as was the ideal end-goal for the tax. Rather, a university student from China has filed a class-action lawsuit against the B.C. government, and a multitude of foreign nationals are now rallying behind the act.

Originally put in place to cool down the Vancouver housing market, which has experienced unprecedented and problematic growth in prices over the last few years, B.C.’s foreign buyer tax specifically targets all foreign nationals purchasing property in the province, as the name would suggest.

The tax forces anyone from outside of Canada to pay an additional 15 per cent on any real estate purchase. Funds gained through the tax are meant to fund affordable housing developments in British Columbia.

But while the original plan looks fine on paper, in practice the foreign buyer tax can be considered outright racist.

Anyone familiar with the ongoing housing crisis in Vancouver (and Toronto) will know that a large number of foreign buyers are coming from the People’s Republic of China. Jing Li, 29, the university student who filed the class-action lawsuit against the B.C. government, is an example.

But while many assume that Chinese buyers coming to Canada to purchase property are so financially well-off that an extra 15 per cent tax won’t mean much, that isn’t quite a reality.

Again, Li serves as a prime example. As recounted by CBC, Li managed to acquire enough funds ($560,000) to put a down payment on a property in July. But not even two weeks later, the foreign buyer tax came into effect, slapping on another $84,000 to Li’s total.

Unable to go back on her deposit, and simlarly unable to pay the added fee, Li was put in a very serious dilemma. And so recognizing the inherent problems with the foreign buyer tax, Li filed a civil claim early this week and is now representing the multitudes of foreign buyers seeking to purchase real estate in Canada.

According to Li’s lawyer, the B.C. provincial government does not hold the power to impose a tax of this nature, as the “regulation of trade and commerce” is in the federal government’s jurisdiction. The foreign buyer tax is then cited as inherently discriminatory and goes directly against about 24 different international treaties signed by the Canadian government.

Until the claim is certified by the B.C. Supreme Court, which could take years, the foreign buyer tax will remain in effect. Once the long waiting time is over, however, this lawsuit will no doubt change the legal landscape of British Columbia and definitely go down in Canada’s legal history books.

Featured image courtesy of: Magnus L3D

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Public Employee In Legal Mess: Phoenix Payroll Problem

Darrel Delisle, a former contract worker for Global Affairs Canada, is stuck in a legal mess after suing the federal government over the Phoenix payroll problems.

A new computerized payroll system called Phoenix was introduced in Ottawa. It was discovered this year that, following glitches in the system, the two largest unions representing federal public servants were owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in union dues that were not properly collected. Since February of this year, more than 80,000 workers have had issues when it comes to being paid. Some are being paid too much, too little or not at all.

Delisle, the first person to sue the federal government regarding the Phoenix payroll problems, filed a lawsuit after struggling to get paid for three months while Phoenix was rolled out. Before filing the lawsuit, Delisle tried a number of different methods to get paid. This included calling the pay centre 635 times, sending emails, and by setting up meetings with superiors. He even tried filing a labour complaint, but it was rejected. He ultimately left Global Affairs in June. On July 14, he filed his lawsuit in small claims court seeking $24,000 “for the payment of wages, personal hardship experience and extreme inconvenience caused by this unacceptable administrative process imposed by the employer”.

However, in their defence statement, Global Affairs claims that Delisle was only owed $12,599 but was paid a lump sum of $26,707 on July 27. Global Affairs is now claiming that Delisle owes the government $14,692.

In an article by the CBC on the case, lawyer Sean McGee states that the way the government is handling this case could discourage other vulnerable workers from taking legal action. According the McGee, the government’s position on this lawsuit “sends the signal that people aren’t going to be able to take advantage of their rights”. He also stated the government’s response to the Phoenix payroll problem lawsuit could cause people in similar situations to question if they would even be able to work again after a public legal battle.

To learn more, visit the CBC News website.

Story source: CBC News

Featured image source: Career Builder

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Canadian Doctors Conflicted On Legal Age For Marijuana Use

The debate about whether or not marijuana should be legalized in Canada continues on. The latest piece is determining what the minimum age should be for purchasing weed. How young is too young?

The Canadian medical association conducted a survey of 788 doctors to explore week usage in the country in anticipation of the federal government legalizing marijuana. According to the study, Canadian doctors are divided when it comes to determining what the legal weed-using age should be. 35 per cent were in favour of 18 or 19 being the minimum legal age, 45 per cent of participants favoured 21, while a fifth of those surveyed stated the minimum age should be 25. However, the key take away from this survey was that 87 percent of doctors think that there needs to be more medical research into the potential health risks of marijuana.Critics of legalizing marijuana are concerned about the potential risks smoking weed can have on young developing brains. Which, presumably, is why one fifth of respondents want the legal age to be 25.

An article in The Globe and Mail further highlights the differences in opinion many doctors have over marijuana. Chris Milburn, a physician from Sydney, Nova Scotia, thinks that doctors are too complacent about marijuana use by their patients. However, Ashley Miller of St. John’s stated that she’s not so sure that weed is as harmful as other recreational drugs such as alcohol. She also stated that “the role of physicians is to give patients the best information possible to reduce harm”, and pleaded with the CMA to provide practical evidence that will aid in daily practice.

Even though the Liberal federal government wants to legalize marijuana, it’s becoming clear that there are a number of different factors that need to be addressed before it becomes totally legalized. Take a look at this article from The Globe and Mail to learn more about the divide in opinion on the subject.

Featured image source: Next Avenue

Story source: The Globe and Mail, Vice

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Canadian MP Creating Federal Disability Legislation

We like to think that we live in an accessible culture, but the reality is that many busy public places are still not inclusive to all Canadians— and many people with disabilities in particular still struggle to see their rights recognized.

Carla Qualtrough is a human rights lawyer who is legally blind herself. An accomplished athlete — she’s a former Paralympian and world championship swimming medalist — she has also been put in charge of creating Canada’s first accessibility legislation.

Online consultations for this new law opened last month and will last until February 2017. Since the consultations have started, there have already been over 700 submissions sent in.

Next spring, Carla is set to report on the consultations that the government has received. Her aim is to have her legislation prepared to read in the Commons between the end of next year to the beginning of 2018.

Carla is an MP from Delta, B.C, and says that the fact that Trudeau gave her this cabinet position demonstrates that the rights of people with disabilities must be recognized in all of the cabinet’s decisions. According to Carla, while the country’s current laws may allow for people with disabilities t0 defend their rights, it does not do enough to sufficiently protect them in the first place. She says that it’s high time that the creativity that people with disabilities are forced to use every day to navigate the world around is recognized by the government.

However, some individual provinces have already set up legislation that recognizes the rights of people with disabilities. In 2005, The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act was introduced with the objective of transforming Ontario into a fully accessible province in twenty years — by 2025.

Carla says she will study how other provinces and countries define accessibility in their laws, and that many of Ontario’s own regulations will be a model for Canada’s federal laws. One of her primary objectives is to create a universal, common definition for what a disability is. Once created, this definition would apply to all of the federal laws that would be created, and be recognized by provinces as well.

For more on this story, visit The Toronto Star.

Featured image source: CBC

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10 Of The Weirdest Canadian Laws

Our country is a great one, but just because we’re relatively young, it doesn’t mean we’re immune to some pretty strange laws. So whether you live here or you’re just visiting, it’s important to know the random laws you might be breaking. Here are 10 reminders why you should always never be too far from a professional who knows their way around the law, or at least knows how to research it, before you do something even remotely questionable.

1. In Halifax: No wearing a t-shirt if you’re a taxi driver
According to the Nova Scotia capital’s legislation, it is illegal for taxi drivers to wear shirts without collars or sleeves, as well as shorts or “ankle-length” pants.

2. In Fredericton: No carrying around your pet snake or lizard
In New Brunswick’s capital, you can’t bring your snake or any other reptile out into the street with you or into any public place, unless its in a cage or some kind of container that will confine it.

3. In Alberta: No painting wooden ladders
Province-wide, you just straight-up aren’t allowed to paint a wooden ladder. No ifs or buts about it.

4. In Alberta: No pet rats
Province-wide, you aren’t allowed to buy, own or sell a rat without a very specific permit.

5. In Sudbury: No sirens on your bike
In this Ontario town, the only noise-making device you’re allowed to have on your bike is a bell or horn, because a siren or any other artificial noise maker is considered unusual noise.

6. In Toronto: No swearing in public parks
In any park in Ontario’s capital, it is illegal to use any kind of profane language, be boisterous, be violent or threatening, or use abusive language.

7. In Windsor: No jamming in public spaces
A bylaw in this southern Ontario town states that you’re not allowed to make a racket with an instrument in parks or offices.

8. In Ontario: No keeping your horse if you don’t pay your hotel bill
Province-wide, if you run out on your hotel bill, the establishment can seize your horse, sell it, and keep the profits.

9. In Oshawa: No climbing trees
This one seems to be about protecting the Ontario town’s trees, which means you can’t attach anything to them, including yourself.

10. In Hay River: No dog sleds on the sidewalk
This town in the Northwest Territories allows you to have your dog on a leash on the sidewalk, but doesn’t allow a pack of dogs attached to a sled to run on the sidewalk.

Which one of these laws shocked you the most? Sound off in the comments below!

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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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