Civil Rights

The law is settled on sexual assault. When will the legal system catch up?

March 30th, 2017 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Over the past year, the treatment of sexual assault complainants in the justice system has received a great deal of mainstream media attention. Much of the coverage has focused on how unfairly sexual assault complainants are treated. Examples include:

  • The cross-examination of complainants in the Jian Gomeshi case and the judge’s findings that inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimony made them not credible.
  • Comments made by Justice Robin Camp during a sexual assault trial in Alberta — asking why the victim didn’t keep her knees together — that ultimately led to his resignation.
  • A comment by a Nova Scotia judge that a drunk person can consent — in a trial where the complainant was found by police unconscious and undressed in the back of a cab.

And then, just this past week, the Supreme Court of Canada released a one-sentence decision that sums up the exasperation at the failings of the justice system when it comes to sexual assault.

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With judges like Robin Camp, how impartial is Canada’s justice system?

September 29th, 2016 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

I was recently listening to a radio program featuring racialized lawyers in Ontario discussing the challenges they faced in the legal profession and was struck by my reaction. I thought: how unfortunate that this was all being shared publically. Unfortunate, not because I did not believe the experiences of these individuals or sympathize with the challenges they were describing, but because I didn’t want people to know about the challenges. Why would anyone hire a racialized lawyer if they knew that the lawyer felt that there was a higher standard placed on them in court, by judges, as compared with their non‑racialized colleagues?

I wish my reaction was that this was the unusual experience of one lawyer and not a reflection of the justice system’s treatment of marginalized groups generally. Instead, it was one which exposed my own distrust in the Canadian judicial system and its impartiality. And my belief that the justice system as a whole does not provide the same opportunities and access to justice for individuals of colour, women, and other marginalized groups.

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Privacy compromised: Legal rights and protections in Canada

August 4th, 2016 by Michael Hackl

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Privacy and secrecy are two interrelated concepts that raise a great many legal and ethical questions, with few easy answers. A recent example of the interplay between these concepts comes from the recent misuse of surveillance video by a liquor store employee. To set the stage, we have to go back to 2013, when a nasty verbal altercation between a feminist activist and men’s rights supporters at an event at the University of Toronto was recorded and uploaded to the Internet. The online response was truly appalling, as the woman involved received numerous serious threats. The level and nature of the abuse (including death and rape threats) was so egregious that she withdrew from her advocacy work, and instead tried to disappear from public attention.

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Alberta parents ‘morally blameworthy’ in son’s death: The moral dimension of alternative health care

June 30th, 2016 by Celia Chandler

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Last April, a jury found David and Collet Stephan guilty of “failing to provide the necessaries of life,” under section 215 of the Criminal Code, when their nearly 19-month-old son Ezekiel died in March 2012 of meningitis. Rather than pursuing traditional health care for their son, they made a series of decisions about his health care from February 27, 2012 — the day little Ezekial’s symptoms emerged ‑‑ through to the evening of March 13, 2012, when he stopped breathing and they called 911. Those decisions involved treating him with, among other things, hot peppers, garlic, onions and horseradish, despite a nurse family friend suggesting his symptoms might point to meningitis. Their defence at trial was that they had pursued a legitimate, alternative course of treatment.

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Carter & Assisted Suicide: Where We Stand One Year Later

March 2nd, 2016 by Safia Lakhani

This article was first published on the Ontario Bar Association’s website. It is an update to an earlier article which was first published on Rabble.ca.

February 6, 2016 marked one year since the Supreme Court released its ruling in Carter v. Canada, 2015 SCC 5. That decision struck down the constitutionality of Sections 14 and 241(b) of the Criminal Code, which prohibit assisted suicide, on the basis that they infringed on the individual’s right to life, liberty and security, and the right to equal protection under the law, in a manner that could not be justified under Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Carter was a departure from the Court’s earlier ruling in Rodriguez, in which the provisions prohibiting assisted suicide were found to violate the individuals’ right to life, liberty and security, but in a manner that was justified under Section 1 of the Charter.

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The state of assisted-dying legislation after Carter

December 7th, 2015 by Safia Lakhani

This post was first published on rabble.ca

On November 13, 2015, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided his Minister of Justice, Jodi Wilson-Raybould, with a mandate letter. First on the list of priorities is that Ms. Wilson-Raybould “lead a process, supported by the Minister of Health, to work with provinces and territories to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision regarding physician-assisted death.”

It has been nine months since the Supreme Court released its ruling in Carter v. Canada, 2015 SCC 5, striking down the constitutionality of Sections 14 and 241(b) of the Criminal Code which prohibit physician-assisted suicide. The Court in Carter departed from the 1993 ruling in Rodriguez, which also dealt with the issue of physician-assisted suicide. In that case, the Court found that the provisions prohibiting physician-assisted suicide violated the individual’s right to life, liberty and security, but in a manner that was justified under Section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. By contrast, the Court in Carter found that the offending provisions of the Criminal Code infringed on the individual’s right to life, liberty and security, as well as the right to equal protection under the law in a manner that could not be justified. Read the rest of this entry