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Monday, September 21, 2009

DEMOCRACY WATCH LOSES ELECTION CHALLENGE

Democracy Watch will appeal a Federal Court decision last week striking down its challenge to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 election call.

“It’s unprecedented, so the higher courts need to rule on this,” Democracy Watch co-ordinator Duff Conacher tells Law Times. “[These are] very important issues of statutory interpretation and constitutional conventions.”

Democracy Watch argued that a new fixed election date law introduced by Harper’s government in 2007 should have kept him from going to Governor General Michaëlle Jean to make way for the October 2008 vote. It also argued that the move ran counter to democratic rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

But Justice Michel Shore ruled the watchdog group’s evidence was misguided.

“This court disposes of this matter to ensure that political issues (in time and context) are not made to be legal ones,” he wrote.

WOMEN’S COURT SEEKS PAPERS

The Women’s Court of Canada is calling on lawyers, legal academics, and activists to produce papers for its growing list of reconstituted Supreme Court of Canada equality decisions.

This time, the group is looking for a rewrite of 2008’s R v. Kapp and 1989’s Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, both of which deal with the analysis for adjudicating claims under s. 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“More than 20 years of equality rights jurisprudence appear to have brought us full circle, providing an opportune moment to reflect on what we have learned over these two decades of equality rights litigation and advocacy and to put forward alternative visions of the framework for applying the s. 15 guarantee,” read a release from the organization.

The Women’s Court wants the papers to be no more than 10,000 words and encourages authors to focus on “particular aspects of the analytical framework under s. 15.”

Those interested in participating can e-mail a one-page abstract to Diana Majury at diana_majury@carleton.ca by Oct. 1.

UNLICENSED SOFTWARE PROMPTS BIG FINES

A group of 12 Canadian companies has been slapped with more than $431,000 in damages by the Business Software Alliance for using unlicensed copies of software on computers.

“These settlements demonstrate that even well managed organizations need to pay careful attention to software licensing requirements, especially during challenging economic times,” said BSA Canada Committee chairman Michael Murphy.

The Canadian Copyright Act sets fines of up to $20,000 for each software title that is illegally copied. The companies that reached the settlements with the BSA also agreed to delete all unlicensed copies of software; purchase licences needed to ensure compliance; and improve their management of software.

LAW FIRM WANTS HOUSES HAUNTED

A Lindsay, Ont., law firm hopes to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Kawartha Lakes, attract tourists, and build community spirit through a Halloween house-decorating contest.

Wards LLP is offering a first-place prize of $10,000 in the contest with half of the proceeds directed to the Boys and Girls Clubs.

The entirely web-based contest will include an online voting system. More information on the contest is available at www.wardlegal.ca.

The firm said it hopes the contest will make the town Canada’s “Halloween central.”

BRENNER JOINS FARRIS FIRM

Former Supreme Court of British Columbia chief justice Donald Brenner has signed on to practise dispute resolution with Farris Vaughan Wills & Murphy LLP.

“We are honoured and delighted that Don Brenner has decided to join Farris,” said the firm’s chairman, Keith Mitchell. “His wise counsel will be available to our lawyers and our clients.”

Before being called to the province’s Supreme Court bench in 1992, Brenner focused his practice in the areas of aviation, professional indemnity, and products liability.

He also serves as director and vice chairman of the Vancouver Foundation, considered Canada’s largest community foundation with assets of $800 million.

The move marks a return to the firm for Brenner, who spent a summer at Farris in 1968 while a law student.

OTTAWA TARGETS FRAUD SCHEMES

Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson declared plans last week to crack down on white-collar crime with mandatory jail terms.

“Canadians lose faith in the criminal justice system when they feel that the punishment does not fit the crime,” said Nicholson. “We heard the call from victims of white-collar crime and we are taking action. The legislation we plan to introduce will send the message that committing fraud will have serious consequences.”

But opposition parties suggested the government should stop dragging its feet on the matter.

“We wish the minister would actually introduce legislation . . . and not call their ninth news conference on the same topic,” Liberal justice critic Dominic LeBlanc told The Canadian Press.

The government said the plans will add to its previous efforts to deter white-collar crime, such as the proposed ending conditional sentences for property and other serious crimes act, which would target offences such as theft over $5,000.

The government said in a release that the eventual creation of a federal securities regulator would also “strengthen both regulatory and criminal enforcement.”

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