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Monday, June 16, 2014

BENNETT JONES OPENS VANCOUVER OFFICE

Bennett Jones LLP says it has opened a new office in Vancouver as part of its “ongoing commitment to clients.”

“We are excited to add a Vancouver office to our platform,” says Bennett Jones chairman and chief executive officer Hugh MacKinnon.

“British Columbia is a strategic growth market and the Vancouver office will build on our commitment to serve our clients where they do business.”

In Canada, Bennett Jones has offices in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton. It also has lawyers in the Middle East and Washington.

“This latest expansion reflects the growing importance of Vancouver as a major Canadian business and energy centre,” the firm said in a release last week.

OBA AWARD SEASON IN HIGH GEAR

The Ontario Bar Association is honouring a slew of lawyers this month who have excelled in their practice areas.

Dentons Canada LLP partner Archie Rabinowitz received the OBA’s award for excellence in trusts and estates law, Barriston LLP lawyer Thomas Dart took the award for excellence in family law, and Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP’s John Goodwin got the nod for excellence in pensions and benefits law.

Meanwhile, lawyer Duncan Glaholt got the award of excellence in construction and infrastructure law and François Larocque of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law received the OBA honour for international law.

The OBA is also honouring William White of the City of Waterloo for excellence in municipal law and WeirFoulds LLP’s Lisa Borsook for her achievements in real estate law. Others, like Peter Israel of Israel Foulon LLP, got the nod for mentorship while Laura Russell of Mathews Dinsdale & Clark LLP is receiving the Ron Ellis award for her achievements in workers compensation law.

The various OBA sections are handing out the awards at events throughout June.

LAW PROF WINS LIBEL CASE

University of Ottawa Faculty of Law Prof. Joanne St. Lewis has won her three-year libel case against former colleague Denis Rancourt after he labelled her a “house negro.”

An Ottawa civil jury awarded her $350,000 in damages based on the harm to her reputation stemming from Rancourt’s use of the pejorative term in a 2011 blog.

The post on Rancourt’s blog carried the title: “Did Professor Joanne St. Lewis act as Allan Rock’s house negro?” In it, Rancourt took exception to St. Lewis’ criticism of a 2008 student-commissioned report that found the University of Ottawa guilty of systemic racism. At the time, Rock was serving as school president.

“The thing that was so stunningly problematic for me is that I was thinking this man is a stranger to me,” says Lewis, a law professor at the same university where Rancourt taught physics until it fired him in 2009. “He’s got an axe to grind with the university and he attacks me in a scatter gun.”

Rancourt says he intends to appeal the decision and sticks by his use of the term “house negro” that landed him in court.

“Everything I did, I did consciously and was a choice of language and content and context,” says Rancourt, who defended himself at the trial before eventually boycotting the proceedings after failing to have Justice Michel Charbonneau recuse himself.

“The political correctness sensitivity component of this is not relevant to defamation law as it applies in jurisprudence. Defamation law is about whether or not there is a defence for the expression that you made.”

Rancourt maintains he used the term in the same way that prominent black intellectuals such as Malcolm X have used it in the past.   

POLL RESULTS

The results of the latest Law Times online poll are in.

When it comes to the recent provincial election campaign, poll participants wanted to see legal aid funding at theforefront of justice issues considered by the parties.

In an election that had little to say about justice, about 30 per cent of poll respondents said they’d like to see legal aid on the agenda while 23 per cent said they wanted to see discussions around technological improvements at courthouses and 13 per cent said the leaders should have been talking about low-cost alternative justice programs.

Another eight per cent of participants said they wanted to hear about enhanced judicial resources and six per cent emphasized court infrastructure.

But at a time of austerity and in an election focused on budgets and cutbacks, another 13 per cent of poll participants said there’s no money to address any of these needs.

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It's unknown how widely police in Ontario utilize controversial surveillance techniques that can capture private data from non-targets in criminal investigations. Do you think there should be formal requirements to release this information?
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