Monday, July 18, 2016

In a dramatic reversal, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned what had been called a “game-changing” decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, and ruled that non-unionized employees of federally regulated business are entitled to similar protections against dismissal as those afforded to unionized workers.

The SCC ruled six to three in the case of Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. In February 2015, the Federal Court of Appeal had held that federally regulated employers may dismiss employees without cause.

The general consensus previously was that employees governed by the Canada Labour Code could only be terminated for just cause.

The decision affects half a million non-unionized employees working in banks, telecommunications, airlines, and other federal enterprises.

“It sets the law to what we thought it was prior to the Federal Court of Appeal decision,” says Stacey Ball, of Ball Professional Corp., who was counsel for the intervener Canadian Association for Non-Organized Employees.

“Basically, you can’t dismiss someone on a without cause basis. The adjudicator has a standard right to challenge your dismissal now — that’s been reconfirmed,” he added.

The decision was disappointing to Ronald Snyder, partner at Fogler Rubinoff LLP in Ottawa, who represented Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. in the case. He calls it “unsettling” with “very significant consequences.”

The Law Society of Upper Canada has launched an Indigenous Advisory Group to help guide the legal community’s implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report’s calls to action.

The group, which will be made up of legal professionals and elders from aboriginal communities, will provide advice to the law society on unique issues faced by Ontario’s aboriginal peoples.

“The IAG looks forward to working with the law society to advance and encourage reconciliation of indigenous peoples and legal systems with the Canadian legal system – its constitution, laws, legal framework, and jurisprudence,” said the group’s interim chairwoman Kathleen Lickers.

A junior mining exploration company has appealed the dismissal of its $110-million claim against the provincial government for breach of duty to consult.

Sudbury-based Northern Superior Resources Inc. filed a notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal in June, after an Ontario Superior Court justice threw out its claim concerning a loss of access to mining in an area new Thunder Bay, Ont.

The company lost its access in 2012 because of disputes with the Sachigo Lake First Nation. In its claim, the company said the government had failed in its duty to consult the First Nation and that the disputes were the result of a breach of duty on the part of the province. The trial judge dismissed the claim, saying the company could not reasonably expect to be compensated by the province, as it was never directly involved in the company’s relationship with the community.

Law Times reported recently that the Law Society of Upper Canada voiced concerns over a proposed policy at the Ontario Securities Commission that would make lawyers eligible for up to $5 million in whistleblower awards.

Readers were asked if they thought this policy is dangerous for lawyers.

Around 40 per cent of respondents said yes, this proposed policy is harmful and puts lawyers in breach of law society rules and it should be nixed.

But 60 per cent said no, awards like this help root out wrongdoing and provide incentives to people to report unethical practices.

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