Law Students, Legal Services, and Access to Justice

By: Eleanor A. Carlson

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Legislation and Rules Commented On: Legal Profession Act, RSA 2000, c L-8; Rules of the Law Society of Alberta; Law Society of Alberta Code of Conduct

In June, an ABlawg post reviewed the decision of R v Hanson, 2015 ABPC 118, written by Judge Gaschler. The judgment included an analysis of Calgary based court agent Emmerson Brando’s personal history, his ability to appear as agent on behalf of his client, and the factors that should be considered in making this decision. Judge Gaschler denied Mr. Brando’s leave to appear, finding that to do so would undermine the integrity of the justice system due in part to Mr. Brando’s criminal past as well as the deceptive information found on Mr. Brando’s website where he advertised his agent services (at paras 21 & 22). In their blog post (read the post here), Heather White and Sarah Burton discuss Judge Gaschler’s decision in relation to the unregulated nature of agents and paralegals in Alberta, access to justice, and the disparity in the quality of justice for the those who can afford lawyers and those with lower incomes who cannot. They conclude with the hope that Judge Gaschler’s decision will facilitate a conversation surrounding the regulation of agents in Alberta. In this post, I highlight an additional important player in the conversation surrounding the provision of legal services by non-lawyers and access to justice, the Alberta law student. Continue reading

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Announcing Oil and Gas Contracts: An ABlawg ebook

Editor’s Note

ABlawg is pleased to announce the launch of the first in a series of ebooks which we will put together from time to time when we have a critical mass of posts in a particular area. Our first ebook, compiled by Nigel Bankes, concerns oil and gas contracts. Other ebooks that are currently planned will cover oil and gas leases, the Alberta Energy Regulator, Charter equality rights, standing, and carbon law and policy.

Our ebooks will be accessible from a new tab at the top of the ABlawg website, and each ebook will be introduced with a post that will go out by email, RSS feed and Twitter to our subscribers. Each ebook will have a table of contents with hyperlinks to the collected posts and will be fully searchable.

If readers have ideas for ebooks in particular areas or other feedback on this initiative we would be pleased to hear from you.

The introduction to our first ebook happens to be Nigel Bankes’ 200th post for ABlawg, and we congratulate him for being the first ABlawgger to reach this milestone. We also thank Evelyn Tang (JD 2016) for her hard work in producing the ebook.

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Prosecutors as Ministers of Justice?

By: Alice Woolley

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Three recent cases have brought to light bad behaviour by criminal prosecutors.

In R v Suarez-Noa, 2015 ONSC 3823 Justice Reid ordered a mistrial after the prosecutor suggested “to the jury that the accused had behaved like an animal rather than a human being,” calling the characterization “highly improper” and incapable of being “erased from the minds of the jurors” (at paras 10-11).

According to the CBC, in the Nuttall/Korody bombing trial British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce said the prosecutors “took my breath away” with the “impropriety” of their decision to show a video to the jury that contained “footage of an actual pressure-cooker explosion.” She further described the prosecutor’s decision to ignore her express instruction not to refer to defences of duress and entrapment as “unspeakable” and as something she had “never experienced… before. Ever.” The CBC reported that Justice Bruce “said she would have called a mistrial had the proceedings not been so protracted and difficult”.

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Posted in Criminal, Ethics and the Legal Profession | 1 Comment

Province of Alberta Announces a Two-step Process for Developing a New Climate Change Policy

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Province of Alberta Announces a Two-step Process for Developing a New Climate Change Policy

Matter Commented On: Minister Shannon Phillips’ Press Conference on Alberta’s climate change strategy, June 25, 2015

A central element of Alberta’s climate change strategy is the Specified Gas Emitter Regulation (SGER), Alta Reg 139/2007. The SGER imposes greenhouse gas emissions intensity reduction obligations (ultimately 12%) on regulated emitters (facilities that emit in excess of 100,000 tonnes of CO2e per year). A facility may achieve compliance in one of four ways: (1) meeting its target by producing its product with lower carbon inputs, (2) Alberta based offset credits (emission reductions over a business as usual scenario achieved by a non-regulated entity in accordance with an approved protocol), (3) emission performance credits (credits achieved by a regulated facility which beats its compliance target), or, (4) contribution of $15 per tonne (for excess emissions over the compliance target) to the Climate Change and Emission Management Fund (the so-called compliance price).

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Worldwide Delisting from Google Search Results: The Significance of Equustek Solutions Inc. v Google Inc.

By: Emily Laidlaw

PDF Version: Worldwide Delisting from Google Search Results: The Significance of Equustek Solutions Inc. v Google Inc.

Case Commented On: Equustek Solutions Inc. v Google Inc., 2015 BCCA 265

Last week the British Columbia Court of Appeal issued its much anticipated decision in Equustek Solutions Inc v Google Inc, 2015 BCCA 265, concerning an interlocutory injunction against Google requiring it to delist certain websites from its search results. There is much to analyze concerning this case. For the purposes of this post I will focus my discussion on why this case is of such significance, not only to Canada, but internationally, contextualizing the case within the wider international legal debates concerning the legal and social responsibilities of intermediaries such as Google.

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The Social Licence to Operate: Mind the Gap

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: The Social Licence to Operate: Mind the Gap

This post is based on an invited presentation that I gave at the Canadian Energy Law Forum on May 14, 2015 in Lake Louise. I began my remarks by looking at the three elements of the social licence to operate and then offered a summary of a lecture given by Rowland Harrison at the University of Alberta on March 10, 2015 from his position as the TransCanada Chair in Administrative and Regulatory Law, entitled “Social Licence to Operate: The Good, the Bad and the Ominous.” Mr. Harrison is a former member of the National Energy Board. I concluded my remarks by reflecting on four issues: (1) the normative context for thinking about the social licence to operate, (2) why it is that industry itself uses the term “social licence to operate”, (3) the need to narrow the gap between the legal licence and the idea of the social licence, and (4) the implications of allowing the social licence to operate as a veto.

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Posted in Energy, Environmental, Rule of Law | 1 Comment

Keep It To Yourself: The Private Use Exception for Child Pornography Offences

By: Joshua Sealy-Harrington and Ashton Menuz

PDF Version: Keep It To Yourself: The Private Use Exception for Child Pornography Offences

Case Commented On: R v Barabash, 2015 SCC 29

Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada revisited the Private Use Exception – a defence to the possession and creation of child pornography – in R v Barabash, 2015 SCC 29. The unanimous judgment, authored by Karakatsanis J, clarified the analytical framework relating to the Private Use Exception and elaborated on how courts should assess exploitative relationships in which child pornography may be made. This post explains the Private Use Exception, describes its evolution in the jurisprudence, and explores questions left unanswered by the Court’s decision in Barabash.

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Entering the Fray for Self-Represented Litigants

By: Ian Pillai

PDF Version: Entering the Fray for Self-Represented Litigants

Case Commented On: R v Crawford, 2015 ABCA 175

Judicial interventions are common in trials involving self-represented litigants, especially in family and civil courts. According to a report authored by Dr. Julie Macfarlane in 2013, self-represented litigants face a range of negative consequences as a result of representing themselves, including “descriptions of negative experiences with judges, some of which suggest basic incivility and rudeness.” However some judicial interventions are more positive, such as advice on court procedure or coaching on presentation. (The National Self-Represented Litigants Project: Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants at 13) Judges find themselves in a difficult position when one party is represented by counsel, and the other is not. Some interventions are necessary.

Although the accused in Her Majesty the Queen v Kimani Gavin Crawford, 2015 ABCA 175, was not a self-represented litigant, the case is interesting because the Alberta Court of Appeal ordered a new trial on the grounds that the trial judge’s numerous interruptions rendered the trial unfair. The multiple interventions by the court led to the appearance that the trial judge had entered the fray and left judicial impartiality behind (at para 7).

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Why We Should Care About Magna Carta

By: Ian Holloway

PDF Version: Why We Should Care About Magna Carta

I write this just as I’m returning to Canada from Runnymede, England. The Queen was there, as were the Duke of Edinburgh, the Princess Royal, and Prince William. The five of us — along with a thousand others from all over the world — were gathered to commemorate, and to celebrate, the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta by King John on June 15, 1215.

So what’s the big deal? Why is it that a document that, as a British civil servant once described it, is nothing more than an archaic piece of paper with no intrinsic value, should attract such attention?

After all, while bits of it continue to have the force of law, the majority of Magna Carta’s provisions reflect little more than an incoherent jumble of individual grievances from King John’s nobles. Moreover, John himself showed his disdain by reneging on the deal a mere nine weeks later. And the Pope formally nullified it as soon as he became aware of its terms.

Oliver Cromwell — someone not normally known for his sense of humour — called it “Magna Farta.”

So why were a thousand of us assembled in an English country meadow this morning?

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Court of Appeal Confirms ISO Rule on the Allocation of Intertie Capacity

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Court of Appeal Confirms ISO Rule on the Allocation of Intertie Capacity

Case Commented On: Saskatchewan Power Corporation v Alberta (Utilities Commission), 2015 ABCA 183

With the commissioning of the Montana/Alberta intertie – a transmission line for electric energy connecting neighbouring transmission systems and allowing the transfer of electricity between jurisdictions – the Independent System Operator (ISO), operating under the name of the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO), concluded that its existing last-in-first-out rule for the allocation of available transfer capability (ATC) on interties operated unfairly. It therefore engaged in a rule-making exercise as provided for under ss.20 – 20.4 of the Electric Utilities Act, SA 2003, c E-5.1 (EUA) resulting in the adoption of a proposed new ISO Rule on Available Transfer Capability and Transfer Path Management. The new Rule adopts a pro-rata methodology for allocating ATC. Section 20.2(1) of the EUA requires the ISO to file the proposed rule with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) so as to give market participants (MPs) the opportunity to object in s.20.4(1):

20.4(1) A market participant may object to an ISO rule that is filed under section 20.2 on one or more of the following grounds:

(a) that the Independent System Operator, in making the ISO rule, did not comply with Commission rules made under section 20.9;

(b) that the ISO rule is technically deficient;

(c) that the ISO rule does not support the fair, efficient and openly competitive operation of the market;

(d) that the ISO rule is not in the public interest.

Several MPs availed themselves of this opportunity but the AUC ultimately concluded in AUC Decision 2013-025 that (at para 1) it had “not been persuaded that the rule is against the public interest or the fair, efficient and openly competitive operation of the electricity market in Alberta or that the rule is technically deficient.” Several MPs thereupon sought and were granted leave to appeal the AUC’s decision on two grounds: (1) did the AUC err in law in its interpretation of s.29 of the EUA by finding that the Operator was required by statute to provide system access service to intertie operators; and (2) did it err in law in its interpretation of s.16 and/or s.27 of the Transmission Regulation, Alta Reg 86/2007 (TReg)? In this decision the Court of Appeal dismissed those appeals thereby confirming both the AUC Decision and the ISO Rule. Both grounds of appeal seem to have been argued under s.20.4(d) of the EUA and on the basis that an unreasonable interpretation of any of the above provisions would necessarily result in a conclusion that was not in the public interest. There was also a more general public interest argument which is discussed in the final paragraphs of this post.

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