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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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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.

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Physician-Assisted Dying is Now Legal in Canada

Following a week of debate, Canada has made physician-assisted dying legal, marking our country one of the first to allow sick people who want to end their lives to seek the help of doctors.

The new law does limit this option to only the incurably sick, and medical approval is required, as well as a mandated waiting period of 15 days.

The bill was introduced in April by the Canadian government, and it passed the final vote in the Senate this past Friday. It includes strict criteria that all patients who are seeking a doctor’s help in dying must meet.

That criteria includes eligibility for government-funded healthcare, which is meant to apply the law only to those who are Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and limit the possibility of suicide tourism.

The patient must also be 18 or older and mentally competent with a serious incurable illness, disease or disability, and they must be in an advanced state of irreversible decline that involves enduring and intolerable suffering.

When the patient officially signs their request for physician-assisted death, there must also be two independent witnesses present.

Most of the ongoing debate has to do with the criteria that stipulates the patient’s natural death is imminent, because some lawmakers want to broaden the law to include patients with degenerative diseases who are not close to death.

The law could be seen as immoral, based on the fact that those who are suffering a great deal but aren’t near to death could face even more suffering due to expensive court cases to gain the right to die.

That potential amendment was dropped, however, based on the fact that it could expand the law to those who have a wide variety of serious illnesses, be it PTSD, a spinal cord injury, or even someone plagued by the memories of a sexual assault.

Prime Minister Trudeau was an on-g0ing supporter of the legislation, ever since the Supreme Court struck down the ban on physician-assisted dying in 2015.

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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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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.

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Ontario Asks Lawyers To Apply For Sexual Assault Advice Program

The province of Ontario is officially looking for applications from lawyers who want to provide advice to sexual assault survivors, free of charge, under a pilot program called the Independent Legal Advice for Survivors of Sexual Assault.

This program will offer free and confidential legal advice to people who have experienced sexual violence, and it has been a part of Ontario’s plan to overcome sexual violence since 2015.

The legal advice offered to survivors will be customized to their individual cases and needs, and the aim will be to help them take more informed next steps. Lawyers will advise on all available options, including pressing charges, and all conversations will be protected by solicitor-client privilege.

Lawyers looking to apply have to be licensed to practice law in Ontario, and must have prior experience dealing with sexual assault survivors. Successful applicants will be trained, and then able to provide advice either in person or over the phone, but they will not represent those they advise in court. The Ontario government will be paying lawyers $136 an hour for their work, and they expect that the pilot program will be for survivors aged 16 and older.

The Ontario legal community is in support of this new program, and hopes it will make the justice system more accessible to survivors of sexual assault, as well as simplifying the scope of legal advice.

The program will be offered in Toronto, Ottawa and Thunder Bay until 2018, and lawyers have until April 15 to submit their applications.

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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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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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Quebec Passes New Animal Rights Law

Quebec’s relax animal rights rules were changed on Friday, December 4 when the province passed new animal-welfare legislation that defines animals as sentient beings. Agricultural Minister Pierre Paradis lead the bill and was inspired by Manitoba, Ontario, British Columbia, and France, which just updated their animal rights laws in January to define animals as sentient beings. The legislation, known as Bill 54, was passed by a 109-0 margin.

Before this law was passed, animals had as many rights as a piece of furniture in Quebec and the province was considered the puppy mills capital of North America, according to this article from the Toronto Star. With this new legislation, pet owners must ensure that their animals receive “care that meets their biological needs”. Bill 54 will help protect animals like cats, dogs, horses, and animals that are raised for fur. Farm animals will not get the same protection as pets, however, they must be treated in “accordance with generally recognized rules”.

Inspectors will now have the power to see an animal if they have reasonable cause to suspect it’s being abused or mistreated and can obtain a warrant to enter homes and seize animals. Judges can hand down fines to first time offenders as high as $250,000. These fines can be doubled or tripled for repeat offenders, and judges can also sentence offenders for up to 18 months of incarceration.

The Montreal SPCA believes that the bill does not go far enough because exotic animals and wildlife in captivity are excluded from this legislation. They are, however, hopeful that lawmakers will promote regulations that ban the permanent chaining of dogs.

Featured image source: Everyday Feminism

Story source: Toronto Star

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8 Random Laws in Canada

As Canadians, we are all familiar with the major Canadian laws, like not drinking alcohol in public and the mandatory 35% Canadian content on radio and television. However, there are a lot of minor, less well-known laws and by-laws  in cities around the country that you probably didn’t know existed until today. Here are the top 8 most random Canadian laws that have been in effect in our country:

No Swearing in Public

Hey Torontonians – did you know that swearing in a public park can cost you over $200? This Toronto by-law means that you need to keep your language clean when you visit any public green space – or at least make sure you keep it under your breath.

Taxi Driver Dress Code

In Halifax, taxi drivers are required to adhere to a strict dress code. That means collared shirts with sleeves, ankle length pants or dress shorts and shoes and socks at all times for cabbies.

You Can’t Pay With Too Much Change

Have you ever had someone try to pay with a pile of loose change? According to the law in Canada, they’re not allowed – sort of. The Canadian Currency Act of 1985 caps the amount of change you can use to pay for something. Part of the current limit is $5 for nickels and $25 for loonies.

Bathwater Limits

Be careful if you like to take baths in Etobicoke. A current bylaw states that no more than 3.5 inches of water is allowed in a bathtub in an effort to conserve water.

Butter Versus Margarine

There was a law in Quebec that made it illegal for butter to be the same colour as margarine that has since been repealed. It was put in place to help dairy farmers, but since butter has risen again in popularity amongst consumers, there wasn’t an issue when this law was repealed.

Don’t Remove Bandages in Public

Did you know that it’s against the law in Canada to remove your bandage in public? While weird, this law does seem to do a bit of public good since no one really wants to see a gaping wound or scab on another person.

No PDAs on Sunday

In Wawa, Ontario it’s against the law to show public affection on a Sunday, although I somehow doubt that this has ever been enforced.

Limits on Snowmen Height

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to break any snowmen building records in Souris. It’s against the law in this P.E.I city to build big snowmen.

If you’re looking for more information on court decisions and legislations, the LexisNexis legal research program can help. It provides comprehensive resources and tailored legal content at your fingertips to give you the most relevant content in less time. To learn more about it, click here for more information.

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