Excluding Mere Intimate Relationships: The Alberta Court of Appeal Interprets the Protection Against Family Violence Act

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Excluding Mere Intimate Relationships: The Alberta Court of Appeal Interprets the Protection Against Family Violence Act

Case Commented On: Lenz v Sculptoreanu, 2016 ABCA 111 (CanLII)

The Protection Against Family Violence Act, RSA 2000, c P-27 (PAFVA) allows “family members” to obtain emergency protection orders (EPOs) on an ex parte basis, in circumstances where “family violence” has occurred, the claimant “has reason to believe that the respondent will continue or resume carrying out family violence”, and “by reason of seriousness or urgency, the order should be granted to provide for the immediate protection of the claimant and other family members who reside with the claimant” (section 2). In the context of intimate relationships, “family member” is defined to mean “persons who are or have been married to one another, who are or have been adult interdependent partners of one another or who are residing or have resided together in an intimate relationship.” Family member also includes those who are “parents of one or more children, regardless of their marital status or whether they have lived together at any time” (section 1(1)(d)).

In Lenz v Sculptoreanu, 2016 ABCA 111 (CanLII), the Alberta Court of Appeal (Justices Rowbotham, Wakeling and Schutz) made a “comprehensive consideration of the language used in the legislation, the scheme of the legislation, and its objects”, and concluded that this definition does not include persons who have been involved in an intimate relationship without residing together and do not fall within the definition of “adult interdependent partner” in the Adult Interdependent Relationships Act, SA 2002, c A-4.5(at para 4).

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Expiration of Confidentiality also gives Boards the Liberty to Copy and Distribute

By: Nigel Bankes

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Case Commented On: Geophysical Services Incorporated v Encana Corporation, 2016 ABQB 230

This decision involves rights to seismic data. Under Canadian law (and here specifically the rules established for federal lands in the north and the east coast offshore) seismic data filed with government is treated as privileged or confidential for a period of years. The principal issue in this case was the question of what rules apply once that protection comes to an end. Is it open season or do the creators of the seismic data retain some rights and in particular their copyright entitlements? In her decision Justice Kristine Eidsvik has decided that it is open season.

The decision is part of complex case-managed litigation commenced by Geophysical Services Inc (GSI) in 25 actions against the National Energy Board (NEB), the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNOPB) (the Boards) and numerous oil and gas companies, seismic companies and companies providing copying services. GSI claims that copyright subsists in seismic data and that its copyright protection survives the confidentiality period. Furthermore, it claims that access to the seismic information after the loss of confidentiality is governed by the Access to Information Act, RSC 1985, c A-1 (AIA) and that there is no open season on access or copying.

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Posted in Intellectual Property, Oil & Gas, Property, Statutory Interpretation | Leave a comment

Comparing the Views of Alberta Judges and Lawyers with Those in the Rest of Canada on Selected Family Law Issues

By: Lorne Bertrand

PDF Version: Comparing the Views of Alberta Judges and Lawyers with Those in the Rest of Canada on Selected Family Law Issues

Report Commented On: Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation (2016)

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family recently released a report that compares the views of Alberta judges and family law lawyers with legal professionals in the rest of Canada on parenting after separation, self-represented litigants, access to justice, and mediation. The report, written by John-Paul Boyd and myself, presents the findings of a survey conducted at the 2014 National Family Law Program in Whistler, B.C., and provides recommendations in several areas including:

  • the language used in the Divorce Act, RSC 1985, c 3 (2nd Supp), with respect to the care of children;
  • the provision of unbundled legal services to promote access to justice;
  • the use of mandatory mediation where at least one party is self-represented;
  • the provision of limited legal services in family law matters by paralegals; and
  • the use of standardized questionnaires by lawyers screening for family violence.

The report notes some striking differences between the views and experiences of Alberta practitioners and those from elsewhere in Canada.

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Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act: Reporting Without Context Will Subvert Reconciliation Efforts

By: Emily Stanhope

PDF Version: Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act: Reporting Without Context Will Subvert Reconciliation Efforts

Legislation Commented On: Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act, SC 2014, c 39, s 376

Canada’s new Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), which came into force on June 1, 2015, requires companies engaged in the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals to publically report certain payments made to governments in Canada and abroad. Notably, in February of this year, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) released an information sheet responding to long-standing concerns surrounding ESTMA and payments to Indigenous governments.

There has been significant dialogue around whether Indigenous governments should be included as “payees” under ESTMA (see Open Canada here). Regardless of one’s opinion on that broader issue, this post argues that reporting the quantum of funds paid to Canadian Aboriginal governments through confidential impact and benefit agreements (IBA), without providing essential context, is folly. In other words, the contents of IBAs should be publicly disclosed in full or remain entirely confidential.

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Occupier’s Liability Arises at the Garage Party

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Occupier’s Liability Arises at the Garage Party

Case Commented On: Motta v Clark, 2016 ABQB 211

This recent judgment written by Mr. Justice R.J. Hall caught my attention because the facts are a scenario with which I am familiar and I suspect other readers are as well: The impromptu garage party hosted by a neighbour. While some of us actually park vehicles in our garage, others turn their garage into a very comfortable social venue fully equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system, stocked beer and wine fridge, humidor, gas heating, and possibly even lounge chairs. In these households, the garage takes on the persona of a “man-cave”, where neighbours and friends get together for small talk in the surroundings of golf clubs, hockey nets, skis, bikes, tires, wrenches, air compressors, camping gear, dogs and a table saw. On the odd festive occasion, the garage becomes a sort of time vortex where you step in during the early evening and the next thing you remember is walking out the next morning. Motta v Clark tells the story of such a garage party gone wrong, and provides a word of caution for those who host such parties. It also reads like a tragedy of sorts, with the downfall of a friendship being played out in cross-examination before Justice Hall at the Court of Queen’s Bench.

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Alberta Human Rights Act Applies to Condominium Corporations

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: Alberta Human Rights Act Applies to Condominium Corporations

Case Commented On: Condominium Corporation No 052 0580 v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2016 ABQB 183 (CanLII)

A few years ago I wrote a post arguing that the Alberta Human Rights Act, RSA 2000, c A-25.5 (AHRA), applies to the relationship between condominium owners and their condominium corporations. The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench was recently faced with a case where it had to address that issue directly. In Condominium Corporation No 052 0580 v Alberta (Human Rights Commission), 2016 ABQB 183 (CanLII), Justice Robert A. Graesser held that the AHRA does indeed apply to condominium corporations. This post will explain his reasons for decision, and comment on a remark he made about the lack of authoritativeness of blog posts as secondary sources.

This case arose when Condominium Corporation No 052 0580 (the Corporation) brought an application for judicial review challenging the jurisdiction of the Alberta Human Rights Commission to investigate a human rights complaint by one of its owners. The underlying dispute involved Dennis Goldsack, the owner of a condominium unit in Tradition at Southbrook, Edmonton, who was confined to a wheelchair and had been assigned a parking stall closest to the building’s elevators. The Corporation’s Board decided to repurpose that stall for bicycle parking and storage, and reassigned Goldsack a parking stall that was further from the elevators and narrower. After failed negotiations with the Corporation, Goldsack brought a human rights complaint against it under section 4 of the AHRA. This section prohibits discrimination on the ground of physical disability (as well as other grounds) in the provision of “goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public”.

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When Should Judicial Discretion Trump Expert Testimony?

By: Erin Sheley

PDF Version: When Should Judicial Discretion Trump Expert Testimony?

Case Commented On: R v Clark, 2016 ABCA 72 (CanLII)

In Regina v Clark the Alberta Court of Appeal reinforced the principle that trial courts should enjoy broad discretion in making evidentiary decisions. On the other side of the scale in this particular case was the great problem of ensuring the accuracy of witness identifications when they are the primary basis for conviction. In the United States at least, 70% of exonerations obtained through DNA evidence occurred in cases involving eyewitness misidentifications (see data collected by the Innocence Project, available here).

Clark involved a trial by judge of a bank robbery case. During the crime the suspect had partially obscured his face with a hood and a hat pulled down over most of his features (at paras 3-4). At trial, the Crown relied on the testimony of three eyewitnesses, and in particular that of one woman who had stood about 5-6 feet away from him at the bank counter and glanced at him several times during the robbery at para 54). Several other witnesses identified a photograph of the robber taken from the security camera as an individual who went by the street name “Lips,” a name by which the accused had identified himself to a police officer prior to the robbery (at para 51).

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Mastery or Misogyny? The Ghomeshi Judgment and Sexual Assault Reform

By: Joshua Sealy-Harrington

PDF Version: Mastery or Misogyny? The Ghomeshi Judgment and Sexual Assault Reform

Case Commented On: R v Ghomeshi, 2016 ONCJ 155

On March 24, 2016, Justice Horkins of the Ontario Court of Justice acquitted Jian Ghomeshi of five criminal charges: four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcoming resistance to sexual assault by choking. The judgment, like the original controversy surrounding his CBC dismissal and related sexual assault allegations, has polarized Canadian discourse on sexual assault – with reviews of Justice Horkins’ reasons ranging from a “total masterclass in misogynist, arrogant windbaggery” to a “masterful job of analyzing the evidence, identifying the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and coming to the right decision.”

It is undeniable that the Canadian administration of sexual assault law must be improved. But, in pursuing that improvement, it is critical to isolate where this administration truly fails, and how best to address those failures in a manner that properly balances the interests of the accused and victims of sexual assault. The Ghomeshi judgment, which contains both strengths and weaknesses, provides a unique opportunity to deconstruct our administration of sexual assault laws, note its flaws (and strengths), and begin developing a constructive strategy moving forward. This balanced approach is most likely to manifest in targeted reforms that will actually enhance the administration of justice and provide greater protection and support to victims of sexual assault.

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Posted in Criminal, State Responses to Violence | 4 Comments

Does the Standard of Review Analysis Apply to a Vires Determination of Subordinate Legislation?

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Does the Standard of Review Analysis Apply to a Vires Determination of Subordinate Legislation?

Case Commented On: Sobeys West Inc v Alberta College of Pharmacists, 2016 ABQB 138

The substance of the dispute in this decision is whether a prohibition enacted by the Alberta College of Pharmacists is lawful. Specifically, in April 2014 the College voted to amend its Code of Ethics to prohibit pharmacists from providing inducements – such as loyalty program points or other forms of consumer purchase rewards – to a patient for the acquisition of a drug or a service from them. The College provides a description of the inducement issue and its rationale for the prohibition here. Sobeys challenges the lawfulness of this prohibition, and thus seeks judicial review. It seems that the standard of review to be applied in this case became a significant issue in the hearing, and this decision by the Honourable Mr. Justice V.O. Ouellette is the Court’s reasons for selecting correctness – notwithstanding that both Sobeys and the College had agreed the standard should be reasonableness. The decision illustrates, or perhaps exposes, some uncertainty in the application of administrative law principles to legislative acts by delegates of the Legislature, and unfortunately I am not sure the reasoning provided by Justice Ouellette is helpful in resolving this uncertainty.

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What Ought Crown Counsel to do in Prosecuting Sexual Assault Charges? Some Post-Ghomeshi Reflections

By: Alice Woolley

PDF Version: What Ought Crown Counsel to do in Prosecuting Sexual Assault Charges? Some Post-Ghomeshi Reflections

Case Commented On: R v Ghomeshi, 2016 ONCJ 155

The Ghomeshi trial made me think about the ethical duties of prosecutors in sexual assault cases. Not because I have any basis for saying that the prosecutors violated their ethical duties. I have no personal knowledge of what the prosecutors did or did not do in their preparation and presentation of the Ghomeshi case. I also do not know either the pressures they faced or the policies that governed their decisions.

Rather, I have thought about the ethical duties of prosecutors because of claims made by people in response to criticisms of the Ghomeshi prosecutors. Specifically, I have heard the following:

  • The prosecutor simply takes the case the police provide: “You do the best you can with the evidence you’re given” (Laura Fraser, “Jian Ghomeshi trial questions answered by criminal lawyers” CBC February 12, 2016, here).
  • The prosecutor should not prepare witnesses. Otherwise, the prosecutor risks becoming a witness due to his disclosure obligations pursuant to R v Stinchcombe, [1991] 3 SCR 326: “Crown interference, even through so-called preparation, can result in a Crown Attorney becoming a witness to the own proceeding or worse still a stay of proceeding for an abuse of process” (Sean Robichaud, “In Defence of the Crown in Ghomeshi”, here).
  • The prosecutor represents the public, not the complainants, and owes the complainants no obligation in his role as prosecutor.

(See also here and here)

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Posted in Criminal, Ethics and the Legal Profession, State Responses to Violence | 9 Comments