Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bedford v. Canada - Ontario Prostitution Decision is Online

See the following link:
Bedford v. Canada (Attorney General) (Civil litigation, Criminal law; Ont. Superior Ct. of Justice; September 28, 2010) -- Criminal Code provisions that sought to address facets of prostitution actually endangered prostitutes by preventing them from engaging in actions to prevent violence and were not in accord with the principles of fundamental justice and were struck down.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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A U.S. Conservative View on Canada's Human Rights Tribunals

The Legal System that is Canada, from Ted Frank at Point of Law:
The University of Windsor might have a bit more trouble recruiting a dean for its law school after an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal announced that it reserved for itself the right to fire any dean hired and replace them with a complainant, Emily Carasco, who has argued that the search committee's consideration of allegations of plagiarism in her unsuccessful quest for the job reflected gender discrimination.
Yes, Mr. Frank, pretty soon nobody will seek appointment as dean of any Candian law school. And it will all be because of those nasty human rights tribunals.

When pigs (or conservatives) fly.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto


What interests me is the outrageous hostility towards the human rights tribunal and human rights law in both the [National Post] Editorial (by Jonathan Kay), but even more so by the loads of mouth-foaming commentators to the piece.
...If we abolish human rights statutes, then there would be no remedy for a person who, though most qualified, is denied a job because of her sex, religion, race, etc. But that seems to be what the Post and its readers want. Or are they making some other sort of argument that I can’t see through all the slobbering hatred and anger in their words?

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More Prostitution Punditry

The editorials continue to roll out:
Finally, for an excellent analysis of the ruling, its ramifications and approaches to moving forward, see Yosie Saint-Cyr's post at Slaw: Decriminalizing the Oldest Profession in the World.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
Update: October 1, 2010
More editorial musings:


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140Law - Legal Headlines for September 30, 2010

Here are today's leading legal headlines from Wise Law on Twitter.

- Rachel Spence, Toronto

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Unliking" the Facebook "Like" Button

Readers may have noticed that we've recently removed the Facebook "Like" button from Wise Law Blog.

We originally added this feature in May, 2010. Our primary reason for dropping it is that the "Like" widget was unacceptably slowing down our blog's load times - often by five seconds or more.

Apparently, we're not alone in this complaint.

Beyond that, it wasn't highly utilized, and given the slow load times, the "Like" button fell short in the ultimate cost-benefit analysis.

We'll wait for a Like 2.0 upgrade, and maybe, try again someday.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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“There Will Be No Further Bricks and Mortar Courthouses Built after 2015″

Our friend, David Bilinsky summarizes his Take Aways from the Canadian Forum on Court Technology, held in Ottawa last week.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Ontario Prostitution Decision to be Appealed

The federal government has confirmed it will appeal yesterday's Ontario Superior Court decision decision that found three Criminal Code provisions related to prositution contravene the Charter.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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140Law - Legal Headlines for September 29, 2010

Here are today's leading legal headlines from Wise Law on Twitter!

- Rachel Spence, Toronto

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Going Vegan With Bill

Bill Clinton goes vegan, presumably making his daughter proud.

(h/t: Jim Harris, former leader of the Green Party of Canada, via Facebook)
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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The Prostitution Ruling

The pundits are beginning to weigh in, and National Post's Barbara Kay sure doesn't like yesterday's ruling:
The danger to prostitutes will continue, because the kind of men who frequent prostitutes and the kind of men who control them don't have a lot of respect for them on the whole. Nor should they. Being a prostitute is a shameful, indecent activity, and any sex worker who demands respect as a matter of course is fooling herself. She is not respectable. Politically correct people will say she is, but she isn't. The danger will continue, the pimps will still control the desperate girls and society as a whole will think less of itself. And all because nobody really takes a good look at the word "harm" and asks themselves what a healthy society looks like, and what kind of newly designated "normal" behaviours, stamped kosher by the courts, bring harm to that healthy body.
(If only conservative commentators could get this worked up when our courts and leaders turn a blind eye to deeper human indignities, like state-sanctioned torture...)

A Globe and Mail editorial rails against an "activist" judge:
An Ontario judge had no business striking down three major anti-prostitution laws in the Criminal Code on Tuesday. “There has been a long-standing debate in this country and elsewhere about the subject of prostitution,” writes Madam Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court, but it is, apparently, over. Who is she to weigh all the potential harms at stake and decide matters, on either side? Who says she can do a better job than Parliament?
Additional conservative responses are summarized here.

At the other end of the spectrum, lawyer Pei-Shing B. Wang:
Likely the saga isn’t over yet. The federal government has vowed to appeal. Many legal practitioners believe that this challenge will eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.

...Professor Alan Young of Osgoode Hall Law School has been working on the project for years, dating back to when I was in his Criminal Procedure class.

I am proud to say that I am a student of Professor Young’s. A big round of applause to his fine work.

Jody Paterson of the Victoria and Vancouver Island Times-Colonist strikes a human chord:
The moment Ontario Superior Court Judge Susan Himel handed down her decision yesterday, sex workers finally became people. They became flesh-and-blood women and men, out there working for a living like the rest of us.

...People struggle with the idea that sex work could ever be part of their community. But the truth is that it already is.

Thank you, Judge Himel, for seeing the people in the shadows.

Clearly, with appeals likely, this debate will not be ending any time soon.

Also see our earlier post on the decision: Canada's Prostitution Laws Struck by Ontario Superior Court Ruling
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Privacy Commissioner Responds on Veterans Affairs Investigation "Request"

Canada's Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, has announced her office will conduct a privacy audit of the federal Veterans Affairs department, after last week's shocking reports that confidential medical records regarding a critic of the department were widely circulated in ministerial briefing notes.

The Privacy Commissioner's office made it clear Wednesday that its audit of the Ministry's privacy policies was commenced at its own intiative, and not due to any request from the Ministry, as had been suggested by the Veterans Affairs Minister, Jean-Pierre Blackburn.

An email received Tuesday sets out a statement by the Privacy Commissioner:

I understand that the Veterans Affairs Minister made public earlier today the fact that he has asked our Office to conduct a broader investigation of privacy issues within his department.

I know you’ve been following this issue and wanted to provide the following update from our Office:

The Privacy Commissioner welcomes the minister’s invitation to conduct a systemic investigation into the privacy policies and practices of his department.

The Commissioner has advised Minister Blackburn’s office that her investigation into a complaint about the handling of one veteran’s personal information has raised concerns about the possibility of systemic privacy issues. As a result, she had already decided to initiate an audit of the department’s privacy practices.

Investigations are an important tool used to examine specific incidents. An audit will examine whether there are systemic issues that need to be addressed.

As part of this audit, the Privacy Commissioner’s Office will examine the department’s policies and practices against federal privacy requirements. We are still in the process of determining the scope of this audit and the timeline for its completion.

Our Office’s investigation into the individual complaint is in its final stages and we will be in a position to comment on our findings shortly.

Regards, Valerie

Valerie Lawton
Senior Communications Advisor /
Conseillère principale en communications
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

More on the controversy from CTV: Veterans Affairs facing privacy investigation

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Do Texting Bans Reduce Auto Accidents?

No, according to a U.S. study by the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI). In response, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood called the report "misleading and flawed."

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Nevada Lawsuit: Blogs, Copyright and News Excerpts

A Nevada lawsuit, considering whether copyright is infringed by the widespread practice of blogs to excerpt short snippets of news items, has enormous implications for the blogosphere, as a whole. Via Raw Story:

The practice of excerpting news and linking to its source is what drives the blogosphere, engages millions in political discussion and aides the dissemination of information the world over.

However, if [the Planitiff] is successful, a vibrant political forum for American progressives could be shut down, all thanks to a five sentence excerpt from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that caught the paper's attention.

The forum Democratic Underground (DU) which frequently reposts news excerpts for users to discuss, was sued in August for quoting and linking to the Nevada paper. Backed by Internet freedom advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Foundation (EFF), DU filed a counter-suit on Monday, accusing the paper and Righthaven of engaging in copyright fraud.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Facebook, My Space and Pre-Sentencing Reports

From, a very thorough survey of the emerging importance of defendants' social media postings in sentencing dispositions by U.S. criminal courts:
Embarrassing Facebook photos and regrettable MySpace statements are starting to become commonplace in pre-sentencing reports and disposition hearings. At the same time, defendants and their advocates are acknowledging the power of social media as a tool to generate mitigating evidence.
...How deeply must defense attorneys delve into social media in representing their clients at sentencing? The U.S. Supreme Court in Townsend v. Burke, 334 U.S. 736, 741 (1948), cautioned that defendants ought to be guarded from punishments based on false or misleading information. It would seem that this injunction compels counsel to challenge sentencing information drawn from the social centers of cyberspace.
Due process must temper the unchecked use of aggravating social media evidence at sentencing, as well as arraignment and other proceedings. At the same time, these online forums are opening unprecedented opportunities for developing mitigating evidence that can provide courts with a fair picture of the person appearing for sentence.
Read the article by Ken Strutin, director of legal information services at the New York State Defenders Association: The Role of Social Media in Sentencing Advocacy.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Not Mickey

Via BBC, this bread fail tale (or should I say tail?) is for strong stomachs only. Click at your own risk: U.K. firm fined after dead mouse found in loaf of bread

(h/t: David B.)

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Canada's Prostitution Laws Struck by Ontario Superior Court Ruling

Madame Justice Susan Himel of the Ontario Superior Court today released her decision in the challenge to Canada's prostitution laws launched by sex trade worker Terri-Jean Bradford.
"By increasing the risk of harm to street prostitutes, the communicating law is simply too high a price to pay for the alleviation of social nuisance."
-- Madame Justice Susan Himel
  • keeping a common bawdy house (s.210(1));
  • communication for the purposes of prostitution (s.213(1)(c)), and
  • living on the avails of prostitution (s.212(1)(j)),
All provisions were struck on the basis that the laws unnecessarily endanger prostitutes working on the street.

The Crown is moving for a stay of the ruling, to allow the law to stand until Parliament can address the situation with amendments to the Code.

- Christopher Bird, Toronto


A PDF of the full, 140 page text of Madame Justice Himel's ruling in Bedford, Lebovitch and Scott v. Attorney General of Canada is here (h/t Simon Fodden at Slaw).

Update: September 30, 2010

The quicker-loading html version is now online here

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140Law - Legal Headlines for September 28, 2010

What a dreary, rainiy Toronto day! You know what will fix that? Checking out today's leading legal headlines from Wise Law on Twitter:
- Rachel Spence, Toronto

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Canadian Airport Security Checks and the Charter

An informative discussion at Toronto Defence Lawyers Blog on security checks at Canadian intenational airports:

There is no place on Canadian soil where individuals have less constitutional protection than at an international airport. The government and the courts have determined that overriding concerns for effective law enforcement, security, and national sovereignty are more important than the protection of Charter rights in the airport context.

Section 1 of the Charter allows the government to limit Charter rights as much as is reasonably justified in a free and democratic society. For all intents and purposes, the court has ruled that it is reasonably justifiable to limit Charter rights against search and seizures to facilitate customs and security at an international airport. This limitation of freedom applies only in the context of international flights. When you are flying domestically, Charter rights apply to you the same way as they do anywhere else in the country. However, when you are flying between countries, the protection afforded by the Charter is severely limited.

Reads the balance of the article: Airport Security
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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Interns and Employment Standards

Professor David Doorey tackles a thorny question: Are Unpaid Interns Illegal in Canada?

And on a related note, see this post from a leading U.S. law blog: Above the Law Seeks Student Interns.

(The crucial caveat appears to be that the internships are available only to students in New York City who are eligible to receive academic credit for interning).

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, September 27, 2010

The Weinberg-Springsteen Rule

With drummer Max Weinberg's announcement today that he will not be joining Conan O'Brien's new talk show as bandleader, Bob Tarantino of Heenan Blaikie's Entertainment and Media Law Signal recalls this gem from a 2009 Rollling Stone article:
About 10 years ago, a well-known actress on an NBC sitcom (Weinberg doesn’t reveal her name) requested a sabbatical from the series to make a movie. NBC said no. Her agent pointed out that Weinberg was allowed to go off [from the NBC show Late Night with Conan O'Brien] for six months at a time to play with Springsteen. “The NBC lawyer thought for a second, then said, ‘The next time Bruce Springsteen asks your client to play drums with him, she can do that.’ ” Weinberg grins, noting that in the NBC legal department, “it is known as the Weinberg-Springsteen Rule.”
Wise's corollary: The drummer may beat for many, but there shall be only one Boss.
- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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How Do Ontario’s Six Law Schools Compare?

Ontario’s six law schools are:
1. Osgoode Hall Law School, York University
2. University of Toronto, Faculty of Law
3. University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law
4. University of Windsor, Faculty of Law
5. University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law
6. Queen’s University, Faculty of Law
Let’s briefly consider what each school offers in terms of programming.

Osgoode Hall Law School

The breadth of Osgoode Hall Law School's upper-year J.D. courses is undeniable: it offers more than 125 seminars and courses annually. It also has strong clinical programs.

Further, it has a number of joint programs, including a new joint J.D./LL.M. program with New York University.

For the J.D. program, the curriculum streams offered are: taxation law; international law; and dispute resolution law.

Osgoode now also offers a professional LL.M. program for the busy practitioner. In addition to the J.D. and LL.M., Osgoode also offers the Ph.D. in law for those seeking an academic career.

For more information, visit Osgoode’s website

University of Toronto, Faculty of Law

The University of Toronto also offers a rich and diverse legal education. It has a wide-ranging curriculum, though its upper-year course offerings are probably slightly less than Osgoode’s in any given year.

It does not offer formal curriculum streams though a student can take a disproportionate number of courses in certain areas of interest.

That said, it offers more joint programs than Osgoode, including a J.D./Ph.d. (political science) program.

Also of note, the school offers many – perhaps the most – community legal clinics and clinical education programs to its J.D. students, an enticing feature for those looking for a practical legal education.

Like Osgoode, the University of Toronto offers graduate programs in law, though they are smaller programs than Osgoode’s.

University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law

Ottawa’s J.D. program offers four different concentrations: social justice law; environmental law; international law; law and technology.

In terms of clinical programs, among other programs, the law school now offers the uOttawa-Ecojustice Environmental Law Clinic for those interested in the study and practice of environmental law. Of the all the Ontario schools, Ottawa is the only one which offers such a program.

Further, Ottawa offers a national program in which a student may graduate with both common law and civil law degrees. This is definitively a very attractive program for those considering careers in the civil service or for those Ontario students who are seriously contemplating practicing law in Quebec at some point in their career.

Ottawa also has graduate programs, the LL.M. and LL.D. programs, though their graduate department is smaller than either Osgoode's or the University of Toronto's, meaning, among other things, it does not have nearly the same breadth of graduate courses.

For more information, visit: The University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law’s website

University of Windsor, Faculty of Law

Windsor’s flagship program is the Canadian & American Dual J.D. program it has with University of Detroit Mercy Law School.

Its J.D. course offerings, while more than adequate, are not nearly as extensive as some of the other schools, such as Osgoode Hall. That said its social justice programming is second to none.

At present, the University of Windsor does not have any graduate programs in law though this is scheduled to change in September 2011 when the school launches its first LL.M. program.

For more information, visit: The University of Windsor, Faculty of Law’s website

University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Law

Western’s business law offerings are very impressive. The school offers concentrations in business law, criminal law, intellectual property, and taxation. It also has very strong advocacy programs.

Besides Queen’s University, Western is the only other school that offers a concentration in criminal law.

In terms of graduate programs, Western has an LL.M. program but no Ph.d.

For more information, visit: The University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law website

Queen’s University, Faculty of Law

The school offers combined J.D. programs, as well as a business law clinic. LikeOttawa, Queen’s has a combined civil law/common law degree program.

Queen’s law school is perhaps best known for its criminal law course offerings. It is the only school in Canada that offers a "correctional law project", a program that, among other things, deals with inmate appeals against conviction.

While Queen’s LL.M. program is well-established, it’s doctorate in law is a fairly new program.

For more information, visit: Queen’s University, Faculty of Law’s website

Concluding remarks:

Depending on the law applicant’s personal preferences and ultimate career aspirations, obviously each of the above schools may have varying levels of appeal. Nonetheless, regardless of which school you get into, you can be assured that you will be receiving a top-notch legal education.

The fact that you do not obtain an LL.B. or J.D. in a certain concentration (e.g., business law) from a particular law school is not a bar to practicing law in that area.

For more information on the Ontario Law Schools generally, see the Ontario Law School Application Service’s 2011 Instruction Booklet.

- Robert Tanha, Toronto

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