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Monday, August 3, 2015

LAWYER AWARDED $1K FOR HUMAN RIGHTS BREACH

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has awarded a lawyer $1,000 in damages over a security guard’s treatment of him when he entered a mall with his service dog.

The July 16 award followed lawyer Andrew Sprague’s complaint the guard at the mall owned by RioCan Empress Walk Inc. made him wait when he tried to enter it with his dog, Flicka, in August 2014.

Sprague said he’s often questioned when going in places with his dog but is fine when he presents certification and a medical note. In this case, the guard made Sprague and his pregnant wife wait at the door for about four minutes while he purportedly sought clarification from a supervisor on what to do but instead went to an office to watch the couple on video.

“The applicant testified that during the wait, he was particularly concerned about his wife, who was 37 weeks pregnant,” wrote adjudicator Brian Cook. “She told him that she was feeling discomfort from standing as they waited.”

After waiting for four minutes, Sprague went into the mall and to the security office. After telling the supervisor the guard had prevented him from entering with his dog, he said Sprague could go in as long as it was a service animal.

As Cook noted in his decision, a key issue for Sprague was the presence of his pregnant wife. “It is thus clear that the fact that the applicant was with his very pregnant wife was an important contextual component of why the applicant felt that his human rights were infringed on August 22, 2014, and not on other occasions when he and Flicka had been stopped and delayed when entering business establishments,” wrote Cook, who went on to file a violation of the Human Rights Code.

“In considering the context of the events on August 22, 2014, I find that the applicant did experience an infringement of his Code-protected rights when he was denied entrance to the mall,” wrote Cook, who found the encounter was “not one that would be expected to result in a high amount of damages” and awarded Sprague $1,000 for injury to dignity, feelings, and self-respect.

NEW LAO FUNDING GOING WHERE NEEDED

As Legal Aid Ontario expands eligibility for legal aid, it says it will provide new funding to clinics based on the needs of the particular areas they serve.

Last week, LAO announced it will provide $1.5 million to support legal clinics serving areas with the most number of people living in poverty. The funding is on top of $2.4 million it provided to clinics for the 2014-15 fiscal year, says legal aid. It will also allow clinics to hire more staff, expand existing services or launch new services to support clients.

The need-based allocation of funds means so far clinics such as Kensington-Bellwoods Community Legal Services Toronto have seen no increase in funding, while the Community Legal Clinic of York Region is getting a 65-per-cent boost in support.   

The allocation strategy recognizes the inequalities in funding to clinics over the years as poverty changed its postal code, says Cynthia Harper, LAO’s director general for the Toronto central district.

“Poverty has moved,” says Harper. “The money is being allocated where the greatest need is.”

In the GTA, this means funding will follow poverty in areas such as Scarborough, Brampton, Etobicoke, North York, and Mississauga, according to Harper.

UPDATE ON NADARAJAH V. LAD

In an update to a case Law Times reported on in February, the Divisional Court has dismissed an appeal of Master Joan Haberman’s ruling upholding a decision to dismiss a personal injury case for delay.

Nadarajah v. Lad included an attempt to blame an articling student for delays in the matter.

Haberman was critical of comments by the plaintiff’s former counsel that it was the law firm’s practice to have articling students keep track of cases to ensure the court didn’t dismiss them for delay. The articling student had substance abuse problems, the court heard, and after resigning from the firm in March 2012, he “sadly took his own life in July 2012,” Haberman noted.

On July 20, the Divisional Court, while noting some errors by Haberman, found her reasons stood up to the standard of review when looked at in their entirety and said it would have reached the same result regardless.

“There is a preference toward having civil actions determined on their merits,” wrote Justice Anne Molloy.

“However, there is also a countervailing policy concern about the need for timeliness in the delivery of civil justice,” she added. “It is also important to uphold the Rules of Civil Procedure by which all actions are to be governed. For me, the length of the delay and the egregious conduct of plaintiff’s counsel take this matter over the top. It is one thing to allow indulgences, recognizing that mistakes get made, and to therefore alleviate the harshness of strict compliance with rigid rules. It is another thing to ignore the Rules altogether with impunity. In my view, weighing all of these factors into the balance and taking into account the competing public interest factors, the scales of justice are tipped toward the defence in this matter.”

REFUGEE APPEAL FUNDING MADE PERMANENT

Legal Aid Ontario is making permanent funding available for refugee appeals.

After previously providing assistance as a pilot project, LAO is using additional funding from the 2014 provincial budget to make it permanent. As a result, refugee applicants who have been unsuccessful at the refugee appeal division and are eligible to appeal can apply for legal aid to pursue their case. LAO will pay for up to 16 hours for the preparation of written submissions to the appeal division with up to four hours available should the case proceed to an oral hearing.

The permanent funding follows other recent improvements to refugee assistance, including changes announced in June in relation to humanitarian and compassionate applications, stay motions, and deferral requests.

POLL RESULTS

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

According to the poll, 56 per cent of respondents feel the Ontario government isn’t doing enough to maintain and build courthouses. The poll follows a July 20 story about mould problems at the courthouse in Halton County that showed how capital spending on courthouse construction across Ontario has varied in the past few years and has been on the decline in recent provincial budgets.

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