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Trinity Western University Wins Legal Fight To Open Law School

Trinity Western University, an evangelical Christian university based in British Columbia, won a legal victory that puts them one step closer to opening a law school.

The Appeal Court of B.C. released a unanimous decision in favour of the university on Tuesday, November 1. The court stated that the British Columbia law society’s efforts to deny accreditation to Trinity Western law graduates is “unreasonable”. All 5 judges on the appeal panel stated that the negative impact on the university’s religious freedoms would be severe and outweigh the “minimal effect” accreditation would have on LGBTQ rights.

The legal dispute started over Trinity Western University’s code of conduct that bans students from having sexual relations outside of heterosexual marriage. The Law Society argued that this rule discriminates against gays and lesbians who want to enter the legal profession. However, the Appeal Court found that denying approval to the university would not enhance access to law school for members of the LGBTQ community and that creating 60 new law school seats would divert some law school hopefuls from other programs, therefore increasing the number of seats available to LGBTQ applicants overall.

The judgment officially states that “a society that does not admit of and accommodate differences cannot be a free and democratic society – one in which its citizens are free to think, to disagree, to debate and to challenge the accepted view without fear of reprisal.” It also stated that the case overall “demonstrates that a well-intentioned majority acting in the name of tolerance and liberalism can, if unchecked, impose its views on the minority in a manner that is in itself intolerant and illiberal.”

B.C. Law Society spokeswoman Vinnie Yueng said in a written statement that Appeal Court decision “added another dimension to an already complex issue”. She also said that the society would review the ruling before considering next steps.

This isn’t the first time that Trinity Western University has faced push back on its “push for recognition” in the legal community. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal denied the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s efforts to prevent the law school’s graduates from receiving accreditation. However, Ontario’s Appeal court upheld the ruling against Trinity Western, denying recognition to the university’s future law graduates.

Read more about this case on the CTV News website.

Story and featured image source: CTV 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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When and How Brexit Begins – Remains Up For Debate

If you’ve turned on the TV, read a newspaper or checked social media, you’ve likely heard the historic news about Brexit — Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Britain has been a part of the EU for forty-three years, alongside twenty-eight other countries on the continent. Last week, 52 per cent of British citizens voted to leave the EU, while 48 voted to stay.

After the results of the referendum were made public, Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron announced his resignation in tears. Economists around the world have predicted that this decision could unleash dire economic consequences for British citizens — indeed, the British pound has already dropped to the lowest it has been in over twenty years.

Even if others are more optimistic about the country’s future, there is one outcome of the decision that remains clear to everyone: for better or for worse, Brexit will undoubtedly reshape the nation’s place in the world for years to come.

But the logistics of Brexit remain a murky, grey area to navigate, especially given the lack of historical precedent for this decision — no country has ever left the EU before. When Cameron resigned, he said his successor should be responsible for dealing with the logistics of Brexit — an undoubtedly difficult job for whoever takes on his role come October 2016.

Despite the outcome of the referendum, for the time being, Britain remains a member of the EU. So when exactly would Britain cut ties with the EU, and is this truly a final decision?

This weekend, the foreign ministers of Luxembourg, Italy, France, Germany, Belgium and Netherlands met in Berlin to presumably discuss the next steps of this process. Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty stipulates that there is a two-year exit period in which the U.K. is able to renegotiate trade dealings and other matters with the rest of the EU. But when — and how — this process should officially begin remains up for debate. Some leaders have suggested that the exit could be initiated simply through a formal statement made by Cameron at the European Council, while others are adamant that a formal letter to the EU’s president is required instead.

While some have accepted that the people have spoken, others are frantic to stall the process in any way they can, whether it be through protests or calls for new referendums to appeal this decision.

For more on this story, visit CBC.

Featured image source: The Guardian.

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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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Canadians Are Legally Required To Fill Out Long-Form 2016 Censuses

Whether it’s online, by phone, or on paper, being part of or taking a census isn’t really regarded as an enjoyable activity by most Canadians. If anything, censuses are generally seen as something of a nuisance to Canadians, given how long one can take to fill out.

But regardless of your personal feelings towards censuses, ready yourself should Statistics Canada send you access codes to be a part of their latest survey. For failing to oblige is actually a convictable crime.

Beginning May 2nd, 2016, the Statistics Canada 2016 survey will be sent to 1-in-4 Canadian households. Those chosen will receive access codes to then take the long-form census (which numbers to 36 pages) or have the option of filling out a hard copy version.

As mentioned, if any chosen household fails to complete the mandatory form, one could receive a $500 fine or be forcibly imprisoned for three months. Both summary convictions are also a possibility.

Statistics Canada reserves this power thanks to Section 31 of the Statistics Act which states that anyone who “refuses or neglects to answer, or willfully answers falsely” to the census questions or “knowingly gives false or misleading information or practices any other deception there under” can be charged with a summary offence.

Created in 1918, the Statistics Act provides Statistics Canada (originally the Dominion Bureau of Statistics) the power to “”collect, compile, analyze, abstract, and publish information on the economic, social and general conditions of the country and its citizens.”

While this does seem like an unfair amount of power given to an information-collection governmental agency, the Statistics Act also ensures that the identity of anyone partaking in a Statistics Canada census will be kept confidential.

The latest census to be sent out by Statistics Canada is longer than those of previous years, marking a return to the long-form, which was part of the Liberal Party’s platform during the election.

May 10th is currently marked as “Census Day” in Canada, the date in which the 2016 census should be completed. Of course, if you want to ensure you don’t receive any fines or the like, you can complete the census early and dodge any proverbial bullets.

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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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World’s First Robot-Lawyer Created By 19-Year-Old Programmer

Legal aid never comes cheap. Unless you’re lucky enough to be related to a legal professional, chances are you’re going to pay a few pretty pennies for any form of legal advice. No matter if you need a ticket contested or insights on a work contract, making the law work for you doesn’t come cheap.

But the days in which you need to pay a human to help you with your legal woes may be over, as a British programmer has just developed what many are calling the first robot lawyer in history. And he’s only nineteen.

Joshua Browder is the innovative teen in question, who is currently studying at MIT, and has appropriately dubbed his digital lawyer “DoNotPay,” as the online service is completely free.

Originally, the project began simply as a means to aid individuals in getting parking tickets appealed, but Browder saw more potential. After finding a way in which to allow his robot to learn and compare legal phrases and requests, DoNotPay is able to aid with almost any legal matter.

While the system isn’t exactly perfect, Browder does believe the DoNotPay formula can become a serious boon to society. In Browder’s words “if it is one day possible for any citizen to get the same standard of legal representation as a billionaire, how can that not be a good thing,” as he related to Techeblog.com.

To use the DoNotPay service, all you need to do is login or sign up. From there, you can ask the robotic lawyer any number of legal queries, from “I got an unfair parking ticket. Can you appeal for me?” to “My flight was delayed on the way to Paris. I would like some compensation” and more.

You can check out a DoNotPay demonstration in the video below, but if you want to see the service for yourself, head to the official website here.

Featured image courtesy of: Pixabay

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New Brunswick’s Ban On Menthol Tobacco Challenged By Imperial Tobacco Canada

Since January 1st of this year, it’s been next to impossible to get menthol flavoured tobacco in the province of New Brunswick, entirely due to a ban enacted by the provincial government.

With more than half of all smoking New Brunswick high school student preferring flavoured tobacco, New Brunswick’s leaders believed the ban to be the only reasonable way to nip adolescent cigarette addictions in the bud.

When you factor in the fact that 25% of the aforementioned student-smoker population solely use menthol, the tobacco ban gains even more justification. New Brunswick is simply acting in the best interest of its youth.

Imperial Tobacco Canada doesn’t quite agree. Unhappy with the menthol tobacco ban in New Brunswick, Imperial Tobacco Canada is launching a formal legal challenge to the province-wide prohibition, reports Global News.

As outlined in a press release put forth by Tamara Gitto, Vice President, Legal and External Affairs at Imperial Tobacco Canada, the “Government of New Brunswick has stepped beyond its legislative authority” be forcing the ban upon citizens. This has left Imperial Tobacco with “no other choice than to bring this matter before the courts.”

But despite the legal action taken by the large Canadian conglomerate, New Brunswick’s leaders are not backing down. New Brunswick’s Health Minister Victor Boudreau believes the legal challenge to be a par-for-the-course maneuver on the part of Imperial Tobacco Canada, with many other tobacco industry companies enacting the same process when a ban upon a product is put in place.

In fact, Imperial Tobacco Canada did the exact same thing last year in Nova Scotia, to no avail.

Thankfully, the province of New Brunswick recognizes the need for a ban on menthol flavoured tobacco products, especially in the long run. Boudreau noted how the tobacco ban will go a long way in preventing chronic diseases in the youth and lower health care costs overall, thus saving the province a fair amount of funds while putting its citizens first.

But Imperial Tobacco Canada is a major corporation, one not to be trifled with, and it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities if their legal challenge effectively reversed the provincial ban. Hopefully not.

Featured image courtesy of: xvaughanx

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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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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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