By: Martin Olszynski
PDF Version: Federal Court of Appeal Reviews CEAA “Justification” Determination for Lower Churchill Falls
Case commented on: Council of the Innu of Ekuanitshit v. Canada (Attorney General), 2014 FCA 189
At least three times in the course of the past year, an environmental assessment (EA) panel convened under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, SC 2012, c 19 (CEAA, 2012) has concluded that a project is likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects: Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion, Taseko’s New Prosperity Mine, and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. In the case of both Jackpine and Northern Gateway, the federal Cabinet determined that these effects were “justified in the circumstances,” but not so for New Prosperity. In none of these instances, however, did the relevant “Decision Statement” pursuant to section 54 of CEAA, 2012 contain any explanation or reasons for Cabinet’s decision. The Federal Court of Appeal’s recent decision in Council of the Innu suggests that this approach is wrong. This litigation involved the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project proposed by Nalcor in Newfoundland. This project was reviewed under the previous CEAA regime but the relevant provisions are virtually unchanged. Like the three EAs referred to above, the panel concluded that the project was likely to result in significant adverse environmental effects. Unlike the three projects referred to above, however, the government did provide a detailed explanation for its determination that the significant adverse environmental effects were justified in the circumstances. The Council challenged this determination (the Council also challenged the sufficiency of Aboriginal consultation; this post focuses only on the justification issue). Continue reading
By: Sarah Burton
PDF Version: Judicial Dissent over Priorities in Civil Justice: Queue-Jumping and the Commercial List
Cases Considered: Lustre Studio Inc. v West Edmonton Mall Property Inc, 2014 ABQB 525
In Lustre Studio Inc. v West Edmonton Mall Property Inc, 2014 ABQB 525, the Honourable Mr. Justice B.R. Burrows provided a candid window into judicial frustrations with access to justice in Alberta. In pointed words, he expressed dissatisfaction with the courts’ willingness to prioritize and accommodate commercial cases through mechanisms unavailable in family and non-commercial matters. While Justice Burrows clearly criticizes this preferential treatment, he also expresses resignation in quelling the tide. This decision implicitly questions the priorities of our justice system and the preference given to commercial matters over non-commercial cases, even when they urgently require the court’s attention. Practically speaking, Justice Burrows may be correct in stating that expanded accommodations for commercial cases are here to stay. If so, this innovative project should be harnessed to create equally effective mechanisms for family and other non-commercial cases. Continue reading
By: Martin Olszynski
PDF Version: Federal Court to Syncrude: Climate Change is a Real, Measured Evil, Whose Harm has been Well Documented
Case commented on: Syncrude Canada Ltd. v Attorney General of Canada, 2014 FC 776
“The fall term in the 1997-1998 academic year,” wrote Professor David Beatty, “was a constitutional law teacher’s dream.” Professor Beatty was referring to the release of two Supreme Court of Canada decisions that touched some of the “most politically charged issues” of the day and which “together raised almost every important issue in constitutional law” (one of which was R v. Hydro Quebec,  3 SCR 213, 1997 CanLII 318 (SCC), central to the Syncrude decision being commented on here; see David Beatty, “Canadian Constitutional Law in a Nutshell” (1998) 36(3) Alta L Rev 605). As it turns out, the summer of 2014 has shaped up to be an environmental law teacher’s dream. In May, the Federal Court released its decision in Greenpeace Canada v Canada (Attorney General), 2014 FC 463 (CanLII), a decision that I have suggested represents a major development in Canadian environmental assessment law. Then in August, the Federal Court handed down its judgment in Syncrude, which my colleague Professor Nigel Bankes has observed is the “first case in which a party has challenged the constitutional validity of any federal greenhouse gas regulations.” This post focuses on that very issue; Professor Shaun Fluker has also written a post on the decision, focusing on the administrative law issues.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: Syncrude v Canada: Where is the gatekeeper when you need one?
Case commented on: Syncrude Canada Ltd v Attorney General of Canada, 2014 FC 776
This post continues on from the introductory comment posted by Nigel Bankes on September 11, 2014 (here) concerning this case, and discusses the administrative law aspects in Justice Zinn’s decision. Briefly put, Syncrude challenges the validity of the Renewable Fuels Regulations, SOR/2010-109 enacted pursuant to section 140 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, SC 1999, c 33 [CEPA]. Section 139 of CEPA together with the Renewable Fuels Regulations require diesel fuel produced, imported or sold in Canada to contain renewable fuel of at least 2% by volume. Syncrude produces diesel fuel, and is thus subject to this requirement unless it can successfully argue the Renewable Fuels Regulations are ultra vires the authority of the Governor in Council or that there is some other legal defect in how the rules have been administered against it. My comment focuses on two points in the decision, namely: (1) are the Renewable Fuels Regulations unlawful because they do not conform to the regulation making powers of the Governor in Council set out in section 140 of CEPA?; and (2) did the Minister err in law by failing to afford Syncrude procedural fairness in administering the regulations?
By: Nigel Bankes
PDF Version: The Federal Renewable Fuels Regulations Survive an Aggressive and Comprehensive Challenge from Syncrude
Case commented on: Syncrude Canada Ltd. v Attorney General of Canada, 2014 FC 776
In the dog days of summer (August 6, 2014) Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court of Canada handed down his judgement in a case in which Syncrude sought to challenge the validity of the federal Renewable Fuels Regulations, SOR/2010/189 (RFR) on both constitutional and administrative law grounds. The judgment seems to have passed almost without comment in the media. The RFR require that diesel fuel produced, imported or sold in Canada must contain renewable fuel of at least 2% by volume. This requirement can be met by blending diesel with biodiesel (although this can be challenging at cold temperatures). Failure to comply with the RFR is an offence although a regulated entity can achieve compliance by purchasing compliance units from other regulated entities who have exceeded their own compliance targets. See the judgement at para 4.
Written by: John-Paul Boyd
PDF Version: The Vicious Spiral of Self-Representation in Family Law Proceedings
A lot of good research on litigants without counsel has been published in the last three years, most notably, in my view, Julie Macfarlane‘s Identifying and Meeting the Needs of Self-represented Litigants, a trio of papers published by the Canadian Research Institute on Law and the Family on the views of Alberta judges and family law lawyers, and a report by the Canadian Research Institute on Law and the Family with professors Nicholas Bala and Rachel Birnbaum (in press) on the results of a national survey of judges and lawyers. Although this research doesn’t necessarily label it as such, I’ve noticed that there’s a bit of a slippery slope effect to litigating without counsel, in which the decision to self-represent, whether a choice was involved or not, seems to trigger a cascade of adverse effects that ultimately result in litigants without counsel achieving worse results in every major area of family law than would have been achieved with counsel. Continue reading
By: Bryce Tingle
PDF Version: The Quiet Decline of Canada’s IPO Markets
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s parent company has been travelling the country raising the profile of its new venture, TSX Private Markets. At the same time, Canada’s securities commissions are engaged in the most comprehensive overhaul of the private placement regime in more than a decade. In Ontario, in particular, this would reverse the increasingly restrictive trends of previous reforms and liberalize its private capital markets.
This is a curious state of affairs. The TSX is chipping away at the incentives for a company to go public and the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) is making it easier for companies to raise money outside of its regulatory “gold standard”: the public company prospectus system. What is going on?
By: Shaun Leochko
PDF Version: R v Navales and Reasonable Suspicion
Cases Commented On: R v Navales, 2014 ABCA 70; R v Canlas, 2014 ABCA 160; R v Ng, 2014 ABPC 62; R v Tosczak, 2014 ABQB 86
The engagement of section 8 and section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) in the drug sniffer dog cases has captured the interest of civil libertarians and law enforcement for what is required for a “reasonable suspicion.” The 2013 Supreme Court decisions of R v Chehil, 2013 SCC 49, and R v MacKenzie, 2013 SCC 50 effectively lowered what would be required of police officers to form the reasonable suspicion necessary to conduct a “sniff” search. This resulted from the Supreme Court allowing an officer’s training and experience, in the totality of the circumstances, to form the objective requirement necessary to the forming of reasonable suspicion. The Alberta Court of Appeal in R v Navales, 2014 ABCA 70, was tasked with applying this law in Alberta. At issue was how officers would use their training and experience, and a constellation of neutral “no win” behaviours on the part of the accused to form the objective grounds needed to find reasonable suspicion. The result has been what dissenting judges have referred to as a lowering of the standard to that of a generalized suspicion. Significantly, this line of decisions has been applied outside of the drug sniffing dog context, and even outside of the reasonable suspicion context, to other areas of criminal law in R v Canlas, 2014 ABCA 160, R v Ng, 2014 ABPC 62, and R v Tosczak, 2014 ABQB 86. Continue reading
By: Sarah Burton
PDF Version: A Smart Decision – Access to Counsel for the Poor and Disabled in a Legal Aid Crisis
Case commented on: R v Smart, 2014 ABPC 175
Access to justice advocates should to take a few moments to review R v Smart, 2014 ABPC 175, where the Honourable Assistant Chief Judge Anderson stayed proceedings against three accused persons who could not afford counsel, but did not qualify for Legal Aid. While such applications are not uncommon, the evidence considered in Smart extends far beyond the norm. This extensive evidence, coupled with Judge Anderson’s probing commentary on access to justice, places a welcomed spotlight on Alberta’s Legal Aid funding crisis. In Smart, Judge Anderson sought to provide concrete guidance to courts facing similar applications. While he accomplished this task, his engagement with access to justice issues may be the more lasting legacy of the judgment.
By: Camille Sehn
PDF Version: Deference, Discretion, and Adjudicative Substitution
Case commented on: E.G. v Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director), 2014 ABCA 237
Editor’s Note: The University of Calgary Faculty of Law runs a fantastic legal clinic, Student Legal Assistance (SLA), that employs several students during the summer. This year’s crop of students was encouraged by SLA’s Executive Director, Michelle Christopher, to submit posts to ABlawg in the criminal and family law areas. This is the second post in the series; the first is available here and there will be more to come.
In a recent decision from the Court of Appeal of Alberta, the Honorable Mr. Justice Jack Watson engages in a discussion around judicial discretion in an often nuanced and complex area of the law. At trial, the Director of Child and Family Services (“the Director”) applied for a Permanent Guardianship Order (“PGO”) of two twin boys; both parents contested the PGO. After 16 days of evidence at trial in Provincial Court, the Honorable Judge L.T.L. Cook-Stanhope concluded that there was gross abuse of the twins based on evidence of a pattern of maltreatment and poor attitudes towards parenting. Judge Cook-Stanhope found that the parents presented a substantial risk of further physical and emotional harm, and relied on the testimony of several witnesses to support this apprehension of substantial risk if the twins were to be returned to their parents. She granted the PGO on this basis. (E.G. v Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director), 2013 ABPC 311 at para 224)