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Social Media Scrutiny During Ghomeshi Case Could Prompt Reforms

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During the Jian Ghomeshi trial, many Canadians expressed outrage on social media over the verdict and the way the case was handled overall. It looks like the public reaction may actually change the way that sexual assault cases are handled by the legal system in the future.

Mary Rolf, a law student at Dalhousie University and researcher studying the public reaction to the Jian Ghomeshi case, presented her findings at an international law conference in Halifax this week. She stated that the case could lead to “crowd-sourced reforms” regarding how the legal system handles sexual assault cases.

According to Rolf, the reaction on social media was unprecedented because “you don’t usually hear ordinary Canadians commenting on whether they think the justice system is fair”. Rolf also stated in an interview that the social media reaction to the case was “a great example of people getting engaged in what they were unhappy with. I think social media could be such a great forum to poll people’s real-time reactions”.

As to how this reaction from the public could reform laws, Rolf stated that the “law is reciprocal. It’s just as much about people saying ‘This is the society I want to live in,’ as it is about the letter of the law”.

If Rolf’s findings are correct, that means that social media could potentially have an effect on a number of different laws in the future. If you own a business or a legal firm, it’s important to stay on top of new law reforms as well as public opinion regarding the law. LexisNexis provides legal management software that can help you search for legal information and insight quickly and easily. They also have programs that can help you manage bills and accounting, capture expenses, and gain control over client management. Visit the LexisNexis website to learn more about their software programs.

Featured image source: National Post

Story source: Metro News

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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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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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Filing Small Claims in Ontario Can Now Be Done Online

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Until last week, if you were suing someone in Ontario for less than $25,000, you would have to put together all the paperwork and documentation and then go to small claims court to file it. But last week, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General finally modernized the system and announced that all small claims can be filed online.

A pilot project within the Attorney General’s office was started in 2014 to test the efficacy of online filing for small claims court, and more than 20,000 people made use of the system, with 15 per cent filing outside of the court’s usual hours.

The whole process is, of course, secure thanks to requiring users to create a One-key ID and password, which is an electronic verification that gives the user the ability to communicate securely with the government.

This big and welcome change was made to make the process of filing court documents easier and faster for Ontarians, and the hope is that this service will go beyond just small claims court and be available in all court systems.

Another benefit is that if you have a paralegal or a lawyer representing you, the process will be a lot quicker because they’ll no longer need to use a process server.

And if you’re not particularly savvy when it comes to tech, the online system comes with a filing wizard that makes the process super easy to understand by breaking it down into steps. In spite of this newly streamlined system, it is valuable to keep the fact that small claims are difficult to draft in mind. You’ll likely still need help with that, and that’s why it’s great to have a lawyer or paralegal continuing to advise you.

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Love It Or List It Sued for Shoddy Work

A couple in North Carolina is suing the popular real estate and home renovation show Love It Or List It that airs on both HGTV and the W Network in Canada.

The plaintiffs, Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan, are suing for a number of reasons: shoddy work, breach of contract, unfair trade practices in violation of North Carolina’s general contractor laws, and a “bizarre business model that creates an inherent conflict of interest”.

If you haven’t seen the show, couples sign on to have their homes renovated to fix problem areas. They are also shown a number of homes on the market based on what they want in a dream home, so they can decide whether to love or list their existing home at the end of the program.

Murphy and Sullivan contacted the show after seeing an ad for it. They wanted to renovate and move into a rental property, but ended up filing a lawsuit against the production company (Big Coat TV) and the North Carolina contractor they used (Aaron Fitz Construction) after seeing the completed renovation.

They allege that the TV program did not use a licensed architect to develop renovation plans, that they were never shown houses on the market by a licensed North Carolina real estate agent that had the ability to broker the sale, and were left with “disastrous work done by Big Coat and its subcontractors”. They also state that the home was “irreparably damaged” because of holes left in the floor, industrial carpeting, windows painted shut, and other unpainted surfaces.

The suit also exposes how little “reality” actually occurs in reality TV shows. The show is apparently scripted with the TV personalities and couples on the show expected to play a certain role in the episode.

Learn more about the allegations and the lawsuit on Journal Now.

Featured image source: Epilepsy Halton peel Hamilton Blog

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Ontario Asks Lawyers To Apply For Sexual Assault Advice Program

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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.

Featured image source: weeklytimesofindia.com

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CLA Report: Women Leaving Criminal Law at High Rate

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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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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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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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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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