By: Ronaliz Veron
PDF Version: Access vs Privacy: A Mounting Rivalry
Case Commented On: Covenant Health v Alberta (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2014 ABQB 562
Covenant Health v Alberta, 2014 ABQB 562, addresses a difficult power struggle that can develop between government facilities responsible for caring for the elderly, and the family members who question that care. It also examines the conflicting interests that arise when a public health body is asked to disclose records that contain patient data and non-patient information. In navigating the interaction between the Health Information Act, RSA 2000, c H-5 and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000, c F-25 (Freedom of Information Act), Judge Wakeling’s reasons reveal a mounting rivalry between the right to access personal information and the right to privacy. In the end, the Court, after engaging in a balancing exercise, clearly chose to favour privacy rights over access rights.
By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton
PDF Version: Disagreement in the Court of Appeal about the Wisdom of Judicial Economy
Case Commented On: Calgary Jewish Academy v Condominium Plan 9110544, 2014 ABCA 279
In this judgement, the Court of Appeal reversed the decision of Justice Adele Kent in Calgary Jewish Academy v Condominium Plan 9110544, 2013 ABQB 134, where she had found the Academy’s lease of a portion of the Condominium Corporation’s land invalid. The Court of Appeal decision is of interest because of the different approaches taken by Justices Clifton O’Brien and Alan Macleod on the one hand, and Justice Brian O’Ferrall in a concurring opinion on the other, and what those different approaches might say about the wisdom of judicial or decisional economy. The case also illustrates (yet again) that no good deed goes unpunished.
The Calgary Jewish Academy, the plaintiff in this matter, and the condominium complex, the defendant, are neighbours on land adjacent to Glenmore Trail. The Academy has operated a school on their land since 1958. In 1978, the City of Calgary made changes to Glenmore Trail that cut off emergency access to the school. Fortunately, the City owned the land adjacent to the school and leased a portion of it to the Academy for use as a parking lot and for emergency access. The lease—the first lease—was for 10 years, and the Academy had an option to renew for a further period of 10 years on the same terms and conditions. The rent was one dollar per year. A caveat claiming an interest in land pursuant to the lease was filed against the City’s land.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board): The gatekeeper is alive and well
Case Commented On: Ernst v Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285
This comment adds to the earlier post by Martin Olszynski (here) on the Ernst litigation against Alberta Environment, the Alberta Energy Regulator/Energy Resources Conservation Board (AER/ERCB) and Encana Corporation concerning allegations of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing. Readers interested in more details on the substance of the litigation will find it here. My focus in this comment is on whether the Alberta Court of Appeal has correctly applied the law on a motion to strike under Rule 3.68 of the Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 124/2010 (the Rules). I argue the Court of Appeal has erred by applying the test too restrictively.
Simply put, Ernst alleges that Alberta Environment and the AER/ERCB owe her a duty of care and are negligent by failing to meet that duty. This is a question of regulatory negligence, and the parameters of the law on this question have been summarized by Professor Olszynski. The AER/ERCB applied to the Court to strike Ernst’s claim for failing to disclose a reasonable cause of action, and for summary judgment. In the first instance, Chief Justice Wittman granted the request to strike back in September 2013 (Ernst v Encana Corporation, 2013 ABQB 537).
By: Sarah Burton
PDF Version: The Debate over the Charter’s Reach Continues: A Question Regarding Free Expression at Airports
Case Commented On: The Calgary Airport Authority v Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2014 ABQB 493
In The Calgary Airport Authority v Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, 2014 ABQB 493 (“CAA v CCBR”), Chief Justice Wittmann granted an interim injunction prohibiting an anti-abortion group from protesting at the Calgary International Airport. Separate and apart from the polarizing subject-matter, this case is interesting because it raises some basic Charter questions that stubbornly refuse to be settled. Despite raising interesting questions regarding the reach of the Charter to quasi-governmental entities and the meaning of public property, the Court did not provide any answers at this stage. Given the nature of an interim injunction application, Chief Justice Wittmann was only asked to determine if the matters raised “serious issues to be tried” – a decision he had little difficulty making. Even without final answers though, this decision still merits attention. Not only are the issues themselves thought-provoking, the parties clearly viewed the application as one of massive importance, and accordingly prepared forceful arguments. At the very least, Chief Justice Wittman’s direction that the matter move expeditiously via case management signals that the Court will be providing a substantive answer to these questions in the not-too-distant future.
By: Martin Olszynski
PDF Version: Revisiting Regulatory Negligence: The Ernst Fracking Litigation
Case Commented On: Ernst v. Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board), 2014 ABCA 285
On September 15, 2014, the Alberta Court of Appeal released its decision in Ernst v. Alberta (Energy Resources Conservation Board). Ms. Ernst owns land near Rosebud, Alberta, and is suing EnCana Corporation, the ERCB (now the Alberta Energy Regulator) and Alberta Environment (now Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resources Development) for negligence in relation to the alleged contamination of her groundwater as a result of EnCana’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activities in the area. The ERCB (but not Alberta Environment – a point further discussed below) applied to have the action against it struck. The case management judge, Chief Justice Wittmann, agreed that this particular negligence claim was not supported in law: he found that the ERCB owed no private law duty of care to Ms. Ernst and that, in any event, any claim was barred by s 43 of the ERCB’s enabling legislation (see Ernst v. EnCana Corporation, 2013 ABQB 537). The Alberta Court of Appeal (Justices Côté, Watson and Slatter, writing as “The Court”) dismissed Ms. Ernst’s appeal. This post considers the regulatory negligence aspects of both the Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal decisions.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: Divergence at the Court of Appeal on What Amounts to Unreasonable Decision-making
Case Commented On: Hunter v College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta, 2014 ABCA 262
In this judgment the Court of Appeal reviews a disciplinary decision made by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta against one of its physician members. I think the judgment is noteworthy to a broader audience of administrative law scholars and practitioners because of the stark contrast in how the majority and the dissent apply the reasonableness standard to review the College’s decision. The majority judgment written by Justice Slatter and Madam Justice Veldhuis dismisses the appeal by the physician using only 6 paragraphs of reasons to conclude the disciplinary decision is reasonable. The dissenting opinion written by Justice O’Ferrall concludes the College’s decision is unreasonable and in doing so probes much further into the impugned regulatory process and the record in this case. There would appear to be a divergence of views at the Court of Appeal in how to apply the reasonableness standard in judicial review.
By: Jennifer Koshan
PDF Version: Sentencing in an Unusual Domestic Violence Case
Case Commented On: R v Hernandez, 2014 ABCA 311
The most recent edition of Eugene Meehan’s Supreme Advocacy newsletter lists R v Hernandez, 2014 ABCA 311, as the Court of Appeal case of the week nation-wide. The case involves a Crown sentence appeal in the domestic violence context. Sadly, domestic violence cases are not uncommon, so what is so remarkable about this case?
First, it involves a female perpetrator. As annual Statistics Canada reports on family violence show, domestic violence is a gendered crime. In the most recent Stats Can report, 80% of all domestic complaints made to police in 2011 were made by women, a number which is consistent over time. At the international level, gender-based violence has been recognized as a form of discrimination against women in documents such as General Recommendation No. 19 to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. But in this case, Luisa Amelia Hernandez was the accused, and the complainant was her former common-law husband.
By: Bryce Tingle
PDF Version: A ‘Victimless’ Crime Just Lost its Perpetrators
Case Commented On: Walton v. Alberta (Securities Commission), 2014 ABCA 273
In Walton v. Alberta (Securities Commission), 2014 ABCA 273 (the “Eveready” decision), the Alberta Court of Appeal has just decided the most important insider trading case in recent memory. It may also be the last insider trading case for a long time.
By: Alice Woolley
PDF Version: Tweeter or Twitter? Teaching a Federation Approved Legal Ethics Course
This summer I again provided the Federation of Law Societies with the syllabus for my legal ethics course. The Federation requested the syllabus for, presumably, the purpose of verifying that the University of Calgary’s course complies with the Ethics and Professionalism Competency as set out in Table B of the Federation’s Implementation Report for the Approved Law Degree. As it did the past two summers fulfilling the Federation’s request left me feeling both uneasy and uncertain.
Uncertain because I am not sure what the Federation wants to do with the syllabus. Are they simply ascertaining that it is a stand-alone course on professional responsibility? Is this just something to let them demonstrate that they really are reviewing those programs they approve? Or are they going to review it more substantively to see if it addresses the broad variety of topics set out in Table B (noted below and here)? Will they tell me if they do not think I am teaching the right topics? Will they go beyond the syllabus to see what I am actually teaching in various areas? And – ultimately – is the status of our degree as approved at stake as a result of what my syllabus contains? How much freedom do I still have?
By: John-Paul Boyd
PDF Version: Learnings from the Demographic Data on Litigants Without Counsel
The demographic information on litigants without counsel available to date reveals a number of interesting patterns: most litigants appear to be 40 years old and older, and people in that age range are involved in litigation at rates far higher than those in younger age groups; although most litigants have lower incomes, a significant number have incomes around or exceeding the average income; and, litigants’ often high incomes match their educational achievements, which often exceed the average. All of this information strikes me as potentially useful when designing services and reforming processes for litigants without counsel.