A Constitutional Right to Free Transcripts?

By: Sarah Burton

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Case Commented On: Taylor v St. Denis, 2015 SKCA 1

Last fall, the Supreme Court of Canada found a hearing fee scheme unconstitutional because it prevented people from accessing courts (see Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v British Columbia (Attorney General), 2014 SCC 59 (Trial Lawyers)). In Taylor v St. Denis, 2015 SCKA 1 (St Denis), the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal was asked to extend this reasoning to exempt a self-represented litigant from the cost of mandatory trial transcripts. The Court declined this request, choosing instead to distinguish the landmark Supreme Court decision. Unfortunately, the decision in St Denis was impacted by deficits in the applicant’s evidence and arguments. Despite these shortcomings, St Denis serves as a useful indicator to highlight how the Supreme Court’s decision will function as a future precedent.

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University of Calgary is the Place to be for Environmental Law in 2015

By: Martin Olszynski, Scott Allen and Allan Ingelson

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Conferences Commented On: 2015 CAELS Conference: “Igniting a Spark”; CIRL/CBA NEERLS Symposium on Environment in the Courtroom; JELP 5: “Après le Deluge”

When it rains, it pours. And so it is that the first half of 2015 has the University of Calgary Faculty of Law hosting a series of national environmental law conferences.

2015 Canadian Association of Environmental Law Students (CAELS) Conference: “Igniting a Spark”, February 13 & 14, 2015

Formed in Ottawa a couple of years ago by the membership of the-then University of Ottawa Environmental Law Students Association, CAELS is a networking body connecting environmental law students across Canada. This past year, responsibility for organizing CAELS’ annual conference was transferred to the University of Calgary’s Environmental Law Society (ELS).

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Providing an Effective Remedy for the ISO’s Unlawful Line Loss Rule

By: Nigel Bankes

PDF Version: Providing an Effective Remedy for the ISO’s Unlawful Line Loss Rule

Decision Commented On: AUC Decision 790-D02-2015, Milner Power Inc. and ATCO Power Ltd, Complaints re the ISO Transmission Loss Factor Rule and Loss Factor Methodology, Phase 2 Module A, January 20, 2015

In this decision the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) has decided that it has the jurisdiction to grant tariff-based relief in a case where a rule of the Independent System Operator (ISO) is found to be unlawful on the basis that it was unjust, unreasonable, unduly preferential, arbitrarily and unjustly discriminatory and inconsistent with various provisions of the Electric Utilities Act (EUA) (now SA 2003, c. E-5.1) and the Transmission Regulation (now Alta Reg 86/2007). Such relief may involve retrospective or retroactive adjustments to the ISO tariff going back to the date when the Rule first entered into force (January 1, 2006, Milner Power having originally filed its objection to the ISO Line Loss Rule in August 2005 before the rule came into force).

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First Nations Community Election Codes and the Charter

By: Jennifer Koshan

PDF Version: First Nations Community Election Codes and the Charter

Case Commented On:  Orr v Peerless Trout First Nation, 2015 ABQB 5

In December Jonnette Watson Hamilton and I wrote a post commenting on Taypotat v Taypotat, 2012 FC 1036; rev’d 2013 FCA 192; leave to appeal granted 2013 CanLII 83791 (SCC), a case currently before the Supreme Court which involves the constitutionality of a First Nations election code.  A similar case arose in Alberta recently.  In Orr v Peerless Trout First Nation, 2015 ABQB 5, Master L.A. Smart dismissed a claim by a member of the Peerless Trout First Nation alleging that that Nation’s Customary Election Regulations were unconstitutional.

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Posted in Aboriginal, Constitutional | 3 Comments

Deconstructing Investigative Detention

By: Dylan Finlay

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Case Commented On: R v Rowson, 2014 ABQB 79

Crime scenes are often intense and dynamic environments. This presents a challenge to investigators who – prior to making an arrest – must collect enough evidence to satisfy the standard of ‘reasonable and probable grounds.’ The recent case of R v Rowson, 2014 ABQB 79 displays this hurdle. The scene of the alleged crime – a motor vehicle collision – was attended by paramedics, firefighters, the police, and an air ambulance helicopter. Collecting enough evidence to make an arrest was not the police’s immediate priority. To mitigate the challenge that inevitably arises in situations such as this, police are armed with the common-law power of investigative detention. This post will deconstruct this power.

The common law power of investigative detention was developed incrementally and recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Mann, 2004 SCC 52. This case involved two police officers who, while responding to a break and enter, encountered an individual who matched the description of the offender. The individual, Mr. Mann, was stopped and made subject to a pat-down search during which one of the officers felt a soft object in his pocket. Upon reaching inside the pocket, the officer found 27.55 grams of marijuana and a number of small plastic baggies. Mann was subsequently arrested; prior to this he had only been under a state of detention. At trial, Connor Prov. Ct. J. held that while the police were justified in searching Mann for security reasons, reaching into the appellant’s front pocket after feeling a soft item therein was not justified in the circumstances. The conduct thus contravened s. 8 of the Charter, the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. On appeal, the Manitoba Court of Appeal held that it was not unreasonable for the police to continue the search inside of the pocket. This was further appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

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We Versus Me: Normative Legislation, Individual Exceptionalism and Access to Family Justice

By: John-Paul Boyd

PDF Version: We Versus Me: Normative Legislation, Individual Exceptionalism and Access to Family Justice

In many of Canada’s family law courts, especially our provincial courts, the majority of litigants now appear without counsel. This state of affairs should have been a foreseeable consequence of the diminution of legal aid representation in family law cases coupled with the relative absence of market forces impelling private family law lawyers to reduce their rates or embrace new service models, but it is nonetheless where we find ourselves today.

It is easy enough to point to the observable consequences of this superabundance of litigants without counsel – chief among them the increased number of ill-conceived chambers applications, the ever-expanding length of trials and the congestion presently plaguing court registries – and shudder in horror. However, it must be borne in mind that the justice system is not our system, a system for judges and lawyers, but their system, a system that belongs to the users of the system, the litigants themselves. As a result, despite the inconveniences enuring to the mutual discomfort of bench and bar, I am hard pressed to conclude that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the growing presence of unrepresented litigants; the situation is infelicitous, to be sure, but not iniquitous.

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Some Thoughts on the Presumption of Deference under the Dunsmuir Framework in Substantive Judicial Review

By: Shaun Fluker

PDF Version: Some Thoughts on the Presumption of Deference under the Dunsmuir Framework in Substantive Judicial Review

Case Commented On: Alberta Treasury Branches v Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, 2014 ABQB 737

This is a run-of-the-mill judicial review decision by Justice Don Manderscheid in early December. The decision reviews statutory interpretation conducted by the FOIP Commissioner acting under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, RSA 2000 c F-25 (FOIP Act) to settle a dispute between Alberta Treasury Branches (ATB) and the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) over the obligation of ATB to disclose certain bargaining unit information to AUPE. While there is nothing particularly unusual about this case, it does provide a good platform from which to revisit some of the fundamentals in judicial review as we enter 2015. This post first describes the legal issues in this case, and then summarizes how Manderscheid J. resolves them. I conclude with some thoughts on the developing presumption of deference in substantive judicial review post-Dunsmuir.

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The Website of the Alberta Courts

By: Nigel Bankes, Jennifer Koshan, and Jonnette Watson Hamilton

PDF Version: The Website of the Alberta Courts

Matter Commented On: The Alberta Courts’ website

This post deals with Court websites. We are posting it now because all three Alberta Courts have just made a significant change in their practice. At the beginning of this week (January 5, 2015) they announced that they will no longer post judgments on their own website. Instead, users are referred to CanLII for copies of recent judgments. Here is the notice that you will find on the ABQB and ABPC websites:

A collection of the judgments of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta is available from CanLII. The official version of the reasons for judgment is the signed original or handwritten endorsement in the court file. If there is a question about the content of a judgment, the original court file takes precedence. Copies of the original judgment may be obtained on payment of the applicable fee, by contacting the relevant court location.

You are about to leave the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta website. The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta is not responsible for the content of any external website.

Queen’s Bench judgments on CanLII

The Court of Appeal has yet to implement this decision but anticipates doing so in the near future.

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Posted in Access to Justice, Blogs and Websites | 6 Comments

A Methodology for Beginning Fundamental Justice Reform

By: John-Paul Boyd

PDF Version: A Methodology for Beginning Fundamental Justice Reform

Discussion on the reform of civil justice in Canada reached a new crescendo last year with the publication of the various reports of the national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters and the initiatives that have popped up here and there across the country, and continue to pop up, as a result. An enormous amount of learned discussion on justice processes, barriers to justice, the meaning of access to justice, potential solutions and reform processes is available on websites of organizations like the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice, Slaw and the Canadian Bar Association.

As the various initiatives move forward, the issue of reform processes has in particular taken on a new importance. The reasons for this are fairly straightforward: the rules and principles of the English common law justice system are 900 years old and somewhat hidebound as a result; the system engages a significant number of influential stakeholder groups that must be convinced to support efforts toward substantive reform; the system is managed by a dense bureaucratic administrative structure laden with regulations, politics and vested interests that must be reorganized and reenergized; and, the system itself is incredibly expensive, as are the cost of mistakes and false starts. The process most likely to be successful must be one that is capable of reconciling these intransigent, obdurate circumstances and achieving broadly supported change. At present, the most promising reform process available is the social lab approach, which has been eloquently written about by people such as Nancy Cameron and Nicole Aylwin.

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Expert Reports: Are They Inherently Material Evidence?

By: Camille Sehn

PDF Version: Expert Reports: Are They Inherently Material Evidence?

Case Commented On: E.G. v Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director), 2014 ABCA 396

This summer I posted a comment on a successful application to stay the Queen’s Bench decision of the Honorable Mr. Justice G.C. Hawco, which reversed a Permanent Guardianship Order (“PGO”) made by the Provincial Court at trial. On the hearing of the appeal of the Director of Child and Family Services (“the Director”) of Justice Hawco’s decision, there were several issues raised surrounding the expert reports that were entered as evidence at trial and relied upon in Justice Hawco’s decision, but not relied upon in the trial decision of the Honorable Judge L.T.L. Cook-Stanhope. This post will comment upon the Court of Appeal (Justices Côté, Rowbotham and Jeffrey) decision on those issues.


The background to the appeal is outlined in greater detail in the decision and my earlier post, but it is important to highlight several important developments within the case which began at trial. There were two reports entered as evidence by counsel for the parents, the reports of Ms. Debra Harland and Dr. Sonya Vellet, which were then withdrawn during trial. The authors of these reports were not called as witnesses, therefore not available for cross-examination, and counsel for the parents confirmed to Judge Cook-Stanhope that the parents were not intending to rely on them.

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