By: Nigel Bankes and Jennifer Koshan
PDF Version: Tsilhqot’in: What Happened to the Second Half of Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867?
Case commented on: Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44
The Delgamuukw decision of the Supreme Court of Canada,  3 SCR 1010 was an important decision both on aboriginal title and also on the division of powers under the Constitution Act, 1867- in particular for its robust reading of the “lands reserved” head of s.91(24) and the companion language of s.109 (provincial title subject to “any interest other than that of the province in the same”): see Bankes, “Delgamuukw, Division of Powers and Provincial Land and Resource Law: Some Implications for Provincial Resource Rights” (1998), 32 UBC L Rev 317-351 and Kent McNeil “Aboriginal Title and the Division of Powers: Rethinking Federal and Provincial Jurisdiction” (1998) 61 Sask L Rev 431-465. The Tsilhqot’in decision is also an important decision on both issues; but it will be remembered (if it too does not go the way of Marshall and Bernard,  SCC 43 – read into nothingness as our colleague Jonnette Watson Hamilton points out here) on the division of powers issues as the decision that, in extended obiter dictum (see paras 98 and 126), eviscerated the lands reserved head of s.91(24).
By: Alice Woolley
PDF Version: Don’t Gossip About Your Client to the Press… Some (Mildly) Complicating Thoughts on Robidoux
Decision commented on: In the matter of the Legal Profession Act, and in the matter of a hearing regarding the conduct of Kristine Robidoux, QC, a Member of the Law Society of Alberta
On June 9 2014 the Law Society of Alberta suspended Kristine Robidoux for four months after she admitted to violating her duties of confidentiality and candour to her client, provincial Conservative party candidate and former journalist Arthur Kent. Robidoux was legal counsel to Kent’s election team in the 2008 Alberta provincial election. She was also Kent’s agent and the Conservative party’s quadrant chair for five of the electoral constituencies in Calgary. During that time Robidoux had e-mail correspondence with Don Martin, a journalist, in which she gave Martin information about problems with the Kent campaign and, in part based on which, Martin wrote a column that “was unbalanced and wholly negative, thereby leaving a misleading and false impression about the candidate” (Agreed Statement of Facts, para 24).
Because of Robidoux’s admissions, the Law Society Hearing Panel reasons (see here) are relatively limited. After noting that Robidoux was Mr. Kent’s counsel, they state that they had “no difficulty in accepting that she improperly disclosed confidential information” (para 11), that she was not candid about having done so (para 12) and that there was an “element of cover-up” given her failure to admit what she done, instead hoping that journalist-source privilege would mean her disclosures were never revealed (para 13). The bulk of the Panel’s decision focused not on the finding of professional misconduct, but rather on the issue of whether the 4 month suspension proposed by the Law Society and Ms. Robidoux was the appropriate sanction.
By: Shaun Fluker
PDF Version: Northern Gateway Approved Despite Uncertain Environmental Effects: Is This What Sustainable Development Looks Like?
Decision commented on: National Energy Board, Northern Gateway Decision Statement
On June 17, 2014 the National Energy Board issued a decision statement to Enbridge under section 54(1) of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, SC 2012, c 19, s 52 announcing that the federal Governor in Council had approved the Northern Gateway pipeline subject to the 209 conditions recommended by the Northern Gateway panel (The panel report was the subject of earlier ABlawg comments here and here). The Governor in Council accepted the panel’s recommendations that the pipeline will have significant adverse environmental effects to populations of woodland caribou and grizzly bears, but that these effects are justified in the circumstances. I will comment on this approval by comparing it to another major resource project decision issued on the very same day, June 17, 2014 – albeit one issued on the other side of the globe in New Zealand.
By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton
PDF Version: Establishing Aboriginal Title: A Return to Delgamuukw
Case commented on: Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44
The declaration of Aboriginal title by the Supreme Court of Canada on June 26, 2014 — a first in Canada — is a momentous decision that should have long-lasting significance for the Tsilhquot’in Nation, other Aboriginal groups, and the rest of Canada. The unanimous Supreme Court decision made new law in the areas of the duty to consult and accommodate, governments’ justification of infringements of Aboriginal title, and federalism — matters that my colleagues Nigel Bankes, Sharon Mascher and Jennifer Koshan will be writing about. On the law of Aboriginal title — the focus of this post — the decision is extremely important for at least two reasons. First, as part of its return to principles set out in the Court’s 1997 decision in Delgamuukw v British Columbia,  3 SCR 1010, Tsilhqot’in Nation includes a return to an equal role for Aboriginal perspectives that includes Aboriginal laws, instead of the exclusive focus on Aboriginal practices that was a feature of R v Marshall; R v Bernard, 2005 SCC 43,  2 SCR 220, the Court’s second post-1982 decision on Aboriginal title. Second, Tsilhqot’in Nation clarifies an understanding of occupation that accords with a territorial approach to Aboriginal title, one that does not require and piece together intensive use of well-defined tracts of land. In doing so, the Court turned its back on the approach it took in Marshall/Bernard, an approach that was the source of the arguments made by the governments of Canada and British Columbia in Tsilhqot’in Nation and the basis of the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision in this case (William v British Columbia, 2012 BCCA 285). The June 26 decision therefore brings increased certainty to the law of Aboriginal title by clarifying the type of occupation that will ground Aboriginal title. It also increases the likelihood of more successful Aboriginal title claims and, hopefully, more intensive and good faith negotiations in modern land claims and treaty processes.
By: James Coleman
PDF Version:U.S. Supreme Court Narrows Greenhouse Gas Rules: What It Means for the U.S. Climate Agenda
Case commented on:Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), USSC No. 12–1146 (June 23, 2014)
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a portion of the United States’ first regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from industrial sources. The Court held that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may not apply its “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” (PSD) program to new industrial sources on the basis of their greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, EPA can only regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new sources that are already subject to the PSD program because they emit other pollutants.
By: Jonnette Watson Hamilton
PDF Version: Conservation Easements and Fraud under the Land Titles Act
Case commented on: Nature Conservancy of Canada v Waterton Land Trust Ltd, 2014 ABQB 303
This 130 page, 605 paragraph judgment penned by Justice Paul R. Jeffrey deals with a number of note-worthy legal issues in a fascinating factual context. The case started when the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) tried to enforce a conservation easement that it had registered against its title to the Penny Ranch, a large cattle ranch near Waterton Lakes National Park in the south-west corner of the province. One of the main purposes of the conservation easement was to ensure that, when the NCC sold the Penny Ranch, development by the purchasers or their successors in title would not impede wildlife migration through the area, an area which the NCC described as the “North American Serengeti.” The case ended (barring appeals) with Justice Jeffrey finding that defendant’s new bison fence was not a breach of the conservation easement and ordering the NCC to pay over $700,000 to Thomas Olson for the NCC’s failure to issue him a timely tax receipt. In between, numerous legal issues arose, including: (1) the nature of conservation easements under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act; (2) contract rectification; (3) fraud as an exception to indefeasibility; (4) rectification of a caveat with a missing page in the underlying document; and (5) damages for the late issuance of a tax receipt. In this post, I will deal with only one of those issues and that is the fraud issue. Colleagues will address some of the other issues. Continue reading
By: Alice Woolley
PDF Version: Defining Prosecutorial Discretion (With an Invitation to the Court to Re-define Abuse of Process)
Case Commented On: R. v. Anderson, 2014 SCC 41
With its unanimous judgment in R. v. Anderson, 2014 SCC 41, the Supreme Court has clarified the scope of “prosecutorial discretion”, distinguishing it from matters that go only to “tactics and conduct before the court” (para 35) while confirming its application to a “wide range of prosecutorial decision making” (para 45). The Court also confirmed the non-reviewable nature of prosecutorial discretion absent demonstration of an abuse of process, and reviewed the law governing assessment of an abuse of process. Finally, the Court held that Crown counsel have no constitutional obligation to consider an accused’s aboriginal status when they tender Notice to the accused that the Crown intends to seek the mandatory minimum punishment that may be applicable given that accused’s prior convictions.
By: Sean Bullen
PDF Version: Crossed Wires: The AESO-Milner Transmission Loss Saga
Decision commented on: AUC Decision 2014-110, Application for Review of AUC Decision 2012-104: Complaint by Milner Power Inc. regarding the ISO Transmission Loss Factor Rule and Loss Factor Methodology
On April 16, 2014, an Alberta Utilities Commission panel released Review and Variance Decision 2014-110 (the “R & V Decision”) relating to a complaint made by Milner Power Inc. (“Milner”) in 2005. Milner is a subsidiary of Maxim Power Corp. and is the general partner of the limited partnership owner of the HR Milner power plant, a 150 megawatt coal-fired generation facility located near Grande Cache, Alberta. Milner’s 2005 complaint came on the heels of a change made by the Alberta Electric System Operator (the “AESO”) to the rule and methodology employed to determine the allocation among Alberta’s electricity generation owners of “transmission losses” resulting from the transmission of electricity from the sources of generation to the locations of consumer load. A lengthy regulatory entanglement has ensued involving each of the province’s leading electricity generators, including TransAlta, Capital Power, ATCO, ENMAX and TransCanada, together with Milner and the AESO. Coming nearly a decade after Milner’s original complaint, the R & V Decision represents a partial step toward resolution of the transmission losses issue. However, much remains unsettled. This comment will provide some background to the decision, summarize its procedural history, review the R & V Decision itself and consider the path forward. Continue reading
By: Jennifer Koshan
PDF Version: “Arbitrary Disadvantage”: A Slip of the Pen or Something More?
Case commented on:McCormick v Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, 2014 SCC 39
I have written several ABlawg posts on the test for discrimination under human rights legislation (see e.g. here, here and here). The ongoing issue in this series of cases is the extent to which the test for violations of equality rights under section 15 of the Charter should influence the approach in the human rights sphere. In the Supreme Court’s most recent human rights decision, McCormick v Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, 2014 SCC 39 (CanLII), the Court continues to muddy the waters on the appropriate test. Linda McKay Panos has already written about the McCormick case and its implications for employment related complaints of discrimination here. As she noted in that post I have a few things to say about the case as well.
By: Alice Woolley
PDF Version:#Yesallwomen/#Notallmen: Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession
How do we understand bad things done to women by men? Through the few men who do them (#Notallmen)? Through misogyny in our culture as a whole? Through the experience of all women living with the risk that such bad things can happen (#Yesallwomen)? The ferocity of recent internet debate on this topic clouds the possibility that harm done by men to women should be understood as about all these things: the men who inflict it, the society in which it occurs and the lives of the women who live with the possibility of that threat.
In this post I explore the thought that sexual harassment and sexual discrimination in the legal profession must be understood with this sort of breadth of perspective: it is conduct reflecting the pathologies of the specific men who do it; it in no way reflects the conduct of all – or even that many – men in the profession; yet it is conduct that reflects aspects of our professional culture, aspects that we need to address to achieve gender equity and fairness.