Empathy in the Law: Does the Robin Camp Inquiry Committee Recommendation Encourage a “Postempathy era”?

By: Alice Woolley

PDF Version: Empathy in the Law: Does the Robin Camp Inquiry Committee Recommendation Encourage a “Postempathy era”?

Matter Commented On: Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry Committee Report Regarding Justice Robin Camp

What role should empathy have in a system of laws? What does an empathetic legal system look like? In a recent article on the Robin Camp case, Brenda Cossman raised concerns about the Canadian Judicial Council Inquiry Committee recommendation that Justice Camp be removed from the bench. She raised, in particular, the concern that removing rather than educating Justice Camp facilitates a growing “post-empathy” culture:

I worry even more about the impulse to punish in light of the recent rise of a powerful backlash against any and all equality-seeking groups. We have moved into a new postempathy era, where more people are prepared to stand defiantly and unapologetically in favour of discrimination, sexism, and racism. I worry that we dismiss the possibility of education and move to punish those who are genuinely remorseful (“For Judge ‘knees together’ Camp: Education is Power”, Globe and Mail, December 1, 2016).

I am not entirely sure what Professor Cossman meant, but I think that her point is that the absence of empathy in those who seek to remove Justice Camp encourages by example the absence of empathy in those who “stand…in favour of discrimination, sexism, and racism”. Our own insufficient empathy creates and empowers the post-empathy culture, which in turn creates the very sexism and discrimination that we seek to prevent. Continue reading

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The Dangers of Inconsistency (and Consistency) in Supreme Court Jurisprudence

By: Alice Woolley

PDF Version: The Dangers of Inconsistency (and Consistency) in Supreme Court Jurisprudence

Case Commented On: Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner) v. University of Calgary, 2016 SCC 53 (CanLII)

I can’t decide whether I am more excited that the Supreme Court issued a decision dealing with two legal issues of great interest to me – administrative law standard of review and statutory incursions into solicitor-client privilege – or irritated that the Court’s handling of both issues is so annoying. Because it is the end of term, and I’m as grumpy as any other professor at the end of term, I am mostly irritated. Irritated because on standard of review the Court seems literally incapable of a consistent and practical approach, while on solicitor-client privilege the Court has been so consistent that it risks fetishizing the significance of solicitor-client confidentiality to the point of jeopardizing other important legal interests.

On standard of review the Court needs to stop. It needs to stop trying to articulate and apply a set of rules for judicial deference to administrative decision-makers. It should instead let administrative judicial review be a matter of practice and the appropriate judicial attitude, one of respectful attention to any decision-maker’s reasons for a particular decision, while recognizing that judges provide a sober second thought through judicial review, particularly on matters of legal interpretation. Along with significantly shifting every decade or so, the rules identified end up being misleading at best and unhelpful at worst, failing to capture the basic and in the end relatively straightforward idea that standard of review reflects. The Court’s attempt to articulate rules governing standard of review is like a baseball coach trying to develop a set of rules for players to use when deciding whether to swing, when the appropriate advice is both simple and incapable of more precise articulation: swing at a strike; don’t swing at a ball (or, alternately, swing at a pitch you have the skill to hit, and leave the rest alone).

On solicitor-client privilege, the Supreme Court can certainly claim to have been consistent: solicitor-client privilege is generously defined and strenuously protected. On the whole, that seems to me a good thing. But this decision raises the possibility that that consistent and vigorous protection may go beyond what is necessary for protection of the privilege, and may occur at the expense of other values of importance to the legal system. Continue reading

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Posted in Administrative Law, Ethics and the Legal Profession, Supreme Court of Canada | Leave a comment

Commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Matter Commented on: National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

PDF Version: Commemorating the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

December 6 is the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women in Canada. This date marks the anniversary of the murders of fourteen women at the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal. A memorial service is being held at the University today, and people may also wish to visit the moving sculpture by artist Teresa Posyniak, Lest We Forget, in the Faculty of Law across from the law library.

ABlawg has published several posts on gender-based violence this year, which we have gathered below. These posts analyze the treatment of gender-based violence by the courts and legislatures, in criminal, constitutional and other contexts, drawing to attention those bodies’ varying levels of understanding of and commitment to preventing violence. It is worth noting that the Inquiry Committee of the Canadian Judicial Council into the conduct of Justice Robin Camp recently stated as follows with respect to the role of judges in cases involving gender-based violence:

The Intervener Coalition submitted that, conceptually, the reasonable person “must include the perspective of survivors of sexual assault, and marginalized women generally, as they are entitled to a judiciary that rejects sexual myths and stereotypes and understands and respects equality.” We agree. A judge performs a unique role in society and his or her capacity to continue in the execution of that role cannot be judged without regard to the perspective of those who would most likely be affected by the Judge remaining in office.  That is not to say that such a perspective is the sole or the dominant one in evaluating public confidence, but it is one that should be included, and must be understood. (at para 252)

With that in mind, we encourage our readers to reflect on the various approaches to gender-based violence captured here:

Continue reading

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Posted in State Responses to Violence | Leave a comment

No Offence, But I Hate You: American Freedom Defence Initiative v Edmonton (City)

By: Ola Malik, Jeff Watson and Holly Wong 

PDF Version: No Offence, But I Hate You: American Freedom Defence Initiative v Edmonton (City)

Case Commented On: American Freedom Defence Initiative v Edmonton (City), 2016 ABQB 555 (Can LII )

Our Canadian courts are jealous guardians of the freedom of expression, which the Canadian Charter protects in section 2(b). The rationale for protecting freedom of expression is that society should be free to discuss and decide what is true, what is right and what is good. As with most things Canadian, we have accepted that the way in which we speak to one another should be politely regulated. Our courts have accepted that for expression to be truly valued, our public square must provide everyone with the opportunity to speak as equals, where no one is made to feel marginalized or devalued. How very Canadian, indeed! To a large extent, how we speak to one another is as important as what we say, and that, in our view, is a good thing. Defining the limits of appropriate speech isn’t just an exercise in legal abstractions, nor does it just involve lawyers. Rather, it goes to the heart of how all of us live together in a peaceful community with our neighbours and what we, together as a community, aspire to be.

Those of us who practice municipal law and who are interested in freedom of expression issues have been eagerly awaiting the case of American Freedom Defence Initiative v Edmonton (City), 2016 ABQB 555 (AFDI). Indeed, we were so intrigued by the issues this case raises that we commented on them long before trial, here, and in a companion piece titled “Controversial Advertising on City Buses – Are Municipalities Ready for What’s To Come?” (2015) 7:5 DMPL (2d) 1-6. Continue reading

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Posted in Constitutional, Municipal Law | Leave a comment

Arbitrations Added to the PPA Soup

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Arbitrations Added to the PPA Soup

Case Commented On: TransCanada Energy Ltd v Balancing Pool, 2016 ABQB 658 (CanLII)

The power purchase arrangements (PPA) dispute in the Province continues to evolve along a number of different tracks. As noted in a previous post, the negotiation track seems to be producing some positive results with a number of tentative settlements announced. As a second track, ENMAX has its application to determine the effective date of termination of the Battle River PPA (this application is discussed at para 5 of the current decision). This application had been adjourned sine die but ENMAX has recently applied to have the application set down for a hearing. As a third track, the Province, through the Attorney General (AG), continues to maintain its judicial review application. The decision that is the subject of this post reveals a fourth track, that of arbitration actions commenced by some of the PPA buyers (although perhaps some of these arbitrations might be withdrawn under the terms of the tentative settlements referenced above). This decision of Chief Justice Neil Wittmann deals with whether or not the arbitrations were properly commenced (i.e. had a dispute crystallized?) and the interaction between the judicial and arbitral tracks. Continue reading

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Posted in Arbitration, Energy, Utility Regulation | Leave a comment