By: Erin Sheley
PDF Version: Parole Ineligibility and the Double Edges of Consistency in Sentencing
Case Commented On: R v Ryan, 2015 ABCA 286
In R v Ryan the Alberta Court of Appeal clarifies how trial courts should apply some of the sentencing factors set out in sections 718-719 of the Criminal Code RSC 1985, c C-46 to the calculation of a period of parole ineligibility under section 745.4 for a person convicted of second degree murder. In that sense alone it has obvious pragmatic relevance for criminal practitioners and suggests answers to some interesting theoretical questions about the relationship between parole ineligibility and the denunciative function of a life sentence. Of potentially broader long-term significance, however, is the difference between the majority justices in this case. Madam Justice Ellen Picard reaffirms the status quo of broad judicial discretion in criminal sentencing. Though concurring in the result of allowing the Crown’s appeal in this case, Justice Wakeling writes separately to assert that the interests of rationality, predictability and consistency require appellate courts to construct an analytical framework that will encourage sentencing courts to adopt a common methodology for sentencing. The justices’ reasons trace lines of battle familiar to those who have watched the experiment with mandatory sentencing guidelines and its fallout in the United States. In the event that Ryan presages a sea change, practitioners should be aware of the analysis in both positions. But Canadian courts should be leery of starting down this fraught path.
By: Alice Woolley
PDF Version: The Volkswagen Scandal: When We Ask, “Where Were the Lawyers?” Do We Ask the Wrong Question?
Every institutional ethics scandal – Watergate, the 2008 Financial Crisis, Enron, the Savings and Loan Scandal, the Daily Mail hacking scandal – prompts the question: where were the lawyers?
In its asking, “the question” expresses both faith and disappointment – faith that lawyers help ensure lawful conduct; disappointment that in this case (whichever case it is) they appear not to have done so. “The question” is, in short, fundamentally optimistic. While it acknowledges that here the lawyers failed, it rests on the premise – or at least maintains the hope – that, somehow, lawyers can do better: lawyers can prevent unlawful things from happening.
By: Fenner L. Stewart
PDF Version: Chevron Corp. v Yaiguaje: Judicial Activism and Cross Border Complexity
Case Commented On: Chevron Corp. v Yaiguaje, 2015 SCC 42
In 2013, Ecuador’s highest court held that Chevron was liable to pay US$9.51 billion to forty-seven indigenous Ecuadorian villagers (the plaintiffs). Prior to this final judgment, in 2012, the plaintiffs started an action to seize Chevron Canada’s CAN$15 billion in assets to satisfy the judgment. Chevron Canada’s assets include its stakes in the Athabasca Oil Sands, the Hibernia Field, the Hibernia South Extension, the Hebron Field, the Duvernay Shale Field, and the Kitimat LNG Project.
In Chevron Corp. v Yaiguaje, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) addressed two questions. First, must there be a real and substantial connection between the defendant (or the dispute) and Ontario before an Ontario court has jurisdiction to recognize and enforce a foreign judgment? The Court answered no. Second, can an Ontario court have jurisdiction over a foreign judgment debtor’s subsidiary when the subsidiary has no connection to the foreign judgement? The Court answered yes.
By: Nigel Bankes
PDF Version: The Alberta Energy Regulator Announces that It will Publish a Broader Range of Decisions
Matter Commented On: AER Bulletin 2015-28, Posting of Participation and Procedural Decisions, September 23, 2015
Over the past few years, ABlawg and this writer in particular, have criticized the practice of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) in not publishing important procedural rulings. Examples of those posts are available here, here and here. It is therefore appropriate that we also acknowledge that the AER has recently announced an important and positive change in its practice. On September 23, 2015 the AER issued Bulletin 2015-28 in which it announced that “effective immediately” the AER will begin posting on its website participation or standing decisions and substantive procedural decisions made by both hearing panels and other AER decision-makers. These decisions will be available by following Applications & Notices > Decisions on the AER website.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: The Niqab, the Oath of Citizenship, and the Blurry Line between Law and Policy
Case Commented On: Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 194
Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq involves a challenge by Zunera Ishaq against a federal requirement that she remove her niqab (a veil that covers most of the face) when taking the Oath of Citizenship at a public citizenship ceremony administered under the Citizenship Act, RSC 1985, c C-29. Ishaq was previously successful at the Federal Court Trial Division before Mr. Justice Keith Boswell in Ishaq v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2015 FC 156 and on September 15 the Federal Court of Appeal issued a 6 paragraph decision from the Bench dismissing the Minister’s appeal and confirming that the federal requirement is unlawful. This is a significant policy issue for the Harper government. The Prime Minister himself has spoken strongly in favour of the requirement (see here), and not surprisingly the matter is now a significant issue in the federal election campaign. This comment uses the Federal Court of Appeal decision as an opportunity to revisit the rules governing the somewhat difficult relationship between law and policy.
By: Jennifer Koshan
PDF Version: Is There a Right to Private Health Care in Alberta? A “Constitutional Vivisection”
Case Commented On: Allen v Alberta, 2015 ABCA 277
To what extent do precedents in constitutional cases allow litigants to take short cuts on evidence and procedure in subsequent claims? According to the Alberta Court of Appeal in Allen v Alberta, 2015 ABCA 277, it depends on a number of considerations. Many of the criteria that Justice Slatter enumerates in his opinion in Allen are sensible ones. However, he uses this case – involving a section 7 Charter challenge to the ban on private insurance in the health care context – to mount a critique of previous section 7 decisions, the Supreme Court of Canada, and even the framers of the Charter. Justice Slatter’s critique is arguably inconsistent with the role of the courts as guardians of the constitution, and Justices Martin and Watson, although concurring in the result, distance themselves from his critique. Ironically, Justice Slatter’s reasons for judgment are often devoid of precedential support even as he is writing on that very subject.
By: Martin Olszynski and Meinhard Doelle
PDF Version: Ontario Power Generation Inc. v Greenpeace Canada: Form over Substance Leads to a “Low Threshold” for Federal Environmental Assessment
Case Commented On: Ontario Power Generation Inc. v Greenpeace Canada et al, 2015 FCA 186
In this decision, a majority of the Federal Court of Appeal (Justices Trudel and Ryer) overturned a ruling of the Federal Court (Justice Russell) finding that the environmental assessment of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Darlington New Nuclear project conducted by a Joint Review Panel failed to comply with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, SC 1992 c 37 (since replaced with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 SC 2012 c 19). Justice Russell found gaps in the Panel’s assessment (specifically with respect to hazardous substances emissions, spent nuclear fuel, and a failure to consider the effects of a severe ‘common cause’ accident) that in his view were unreasonable in light of the purpose and scheme of the Act. The majority of the Federal Court of Appeal, on the other hand, endorsed a more formal approach to judicial review in this context, holding that reasonableness was a “low threshold” (at para 151) such that a panel need only give “some consideration” to a project’s environmental effects (at para 130) to be reasonable; it is only where a panel “gives no consideration at all” that its assessment will be deemed unreasonable (at para 130). Justice Rennie dissented, agreeing with Justice Russell with respect to hazardous substances emissions (at paras 48 – 50) and endorsing the latter’s characterization of CEAA as a two-step decision-making process that is intended to be evidence-based and democratically accountable (at para 52). Because of its potential to seriously undermine the effectiveness of the federal environmental assessment regime, this post focuses on the majority’s approach to reasonableness review in this context. Both of us previously commented on Justice Russell’s decision in separate blog posts (see here and here), and one of us wrote up a full case comment on it (forthcoming in the Dalhousie Law Journal).
By: Brett Code, Q.C.
PDF Version: R v Porter: Self-incrimination – Judicial Restraint of State Coercion
Case Commented On: R v Porter, 2015 ABCA 279
It should not have been necessary, because the applicable law on the matter has been settled since 1999, but for those police officers and prosecutors who might have forgotten, the Court of Appeal in R v Porter has once again forcefully stated that statutorily compelled statements are inadmissible in criminal trials because they violate the principle against self-incrimination and section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Insistent upon guarding against the admissibility of potentially unreliable confessions, against potential abuse of state power, and against the improper use by the Crown of otherwise properly-collected, statutorily required information, the Court confirmed the principle of fundamental justice that the state may not conscript the accused against himself or herself but must build any case to meet without compelled evidence from the suspect.
At issue was the use, if any, that could be made of information contained in compulsory accident reports made to police under section 71 of the Traffic Safety Act, RSA 2000, c T-6 (TSA) and in compulsory statements made to insurers for insurance purposes following an accident. The Court’s decisive conclusions were that:
- such statements or the information contained in them are inadmissible in criminal proceedings arising out of a car accident; and
- the information obtained through those statements cannot be used as part of the reasonable and probable grounds of an informant in an Information to Obtain a Search Warrant or Production Order.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: What Policy Direction should Alberta Follow on Carbon Emissions?
Matter Commented On: Climate Leadership – Discussion Document (Government of Alberta, August 2015)
Alberta’s Climate Change Advisory Panel is seeking public input on what direction provincial climate change policy should follow going forward. One method of providing your input is to complete an online survey on or before September 18. This is the second part of a two-step process announced by the Minister of Environment and Parks in late June 2015 (see here for the post by my colleague Nigel Bankes on this announcement). To inform this important public dialogue, in August 2015 the Climate Change Advisory Panel published the Climate Leadership – Discussion Document. This 62 page document sets out the overall carbon emissions profile in Alberta (at 9 – 17) and then discusses emissions by individual economic sector and summarizes policy tools that have been used in Alberta and elsewhere to reduce emissions in that sector: oil & gas (at 20 – 26), electricity (at 27 – 34), transportation (at 35 – 40), commercial and residential buildings (at 41 – 46), industrial and manufacturing (at 47 – 51), agriculture, forestry, and waste (at 52 – 56). The Minister’s announcement together with the overall tone and content of the discussion document make it clear the current intensity-based emissions reduction policy implemented by the Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, Alta Reg 139/2007 will be replaced on or before the end of 2017. I believe the centrepiece of Alberta’s new direction should be joining the cap-and-trade system currently operating in Quebec and California, along with Ontario which in April 2015 announced its intention to join.
By: Nigel Bankes
PDF Version: ITLOS, The Enrica Lexie Incident and the Prescription of Provisional Measures: Saying That There is Urgency Does Not Make It So
Decision Commented On: ITLOS, The Enrica Lexie Incident: Order in respect of request for the prescription of provisional measures, Italy v India, 24 August 2015
Article 290 of the Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 (LOSC) accords the International Tribunal of the Law of Sea (ITLOS) the authority to prescribe provisional measures in two different circumstances. Paragraph one authorizes ITLOS (along with the International Court of Justice, and any relevant international tribunal properly seized with an application) “to prescribe any provisional measures which it considers appropriate under the circumstances to preserve the respective rights of the parties to the dispute or to prevent serious harm to the marine environment, pending the final decision” provided that ITLOS, the Court or an arbitral tribunal (as the case may be) has prima facie jurisdiction, to consider the matter.