Monday, March 30, 2009

The province''s plan to harmonize the provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax will make legal fees subject to the provincial levy, creating a "further barrier in access to justice," says the president of the Ontario Bar Association.

"In these economically troubled times Ontario will, unfortunately, see an increase in domestic violence, family and marriage breakdown, and criminal activity, which puts increasing pressure on the justice system, the legal aid system, and those people seeking representation with private practitioners," said Jamie Trimble, in a letter to the provincial finance minister and Attorney General Chris Bentley.

"An increase in the cost of legal services as a result of harmonization will force significantly more self-representation, which severely strains court resources and too often results in unsatisfactory outcomes for vulnerable Ontarians," added Trimble.

The letter urges the government to spend more time seeking the input of stakeholders before moving forward with the tax harmonization plan.

Proposed federal legislative changes to the calculation of pretrial custody is a "step backwards," said Criminal Lawyers'' Association president Frank Addario.

"I''d challenge the minister of justice to show Canadians how this will make us safer in the long run," said Addario in a release. "Where has relentlessly harsh punishment solved social problems? He should tell us if he knows."

The comments followed Justice Minister Rob Nicholson's announcement that he would introduce legislation that would place new restrictions on judges' sentencing discretion.
The CLA release said that "dead time" is more taxing than post-sentence incarceration, made worse by conditions within many correctional facilities.

Addario called the government's move "toughness unguided by thinking. It won't make anyone safer. At a time when Americans are finding out that harsh sentences are expensive and ineffective, our government is taking us down the same road."

Judges in Ontario and most other provinces refuse the enhanced credit if a prisoner has deliberately delayed the imposition of a sentence, said Addario.

"So, this law won't improve a situation that needed fixing," he said. "It will promote harsher sentences, produce less guilty pleas, and give Parliament's approval to harsh and inhumane detention facilities."

He went on to suggest that the change would punish less fortunate individuals who end up in the court system. Many defendants unable to make bail are poor, homeless, mentally disordered, or aboriginal, noted Addario.
"Before imposing further restrictions and limiting judicial discretion, the focus should be on eliminating the opportunities for delay and their financial burden on the criminal justice system," he said.

Toronto's personal injury bar helped raise over $30,000 for spinal research through a recent charity hockey tournament.

The Third Annual Personal Injury Bar Charity Hockey Challenge was organized by Michael Henry of Howie Sacks & Henry LLP, and hosted by a long list of sponsors. Proceeds went to SFAC, a Canadian spinal research organization.

Six teams competed in the event, with the York Street Stars - led by Henry as captain - claiming the title. Casey Van Moorlehan was named MVP goalie, John Adair was MVP forward, and William Teggart was took top honours among defencemen.

Henry said he is thrilled with the level of support for the third annual event, and plans to increase the challenge next year to include eight teams, up from six this year.

The Law Society of Upper Canada last week hosted a special panel discussion on the continuing legal development of Métis rights.

The event, titled Métis Rights in an Era of Consultation and Accommodation - New Obligations, Opportunities, and Outcomes, was co-hosted by the law society and the Métis Nation of Ontario. It was part of the law society's Public Education Equality Series.

Panellists were to share their views on the advancement of Métis and aboriginal rights, and self-government issues regarding resource development.

The list of speakers included Pape Salter Teillet Barristers and Solicitors partner Jean Teillet, JTM Law lawyer Jason Madden, Bob Waldon of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and Calliou Group partner Tracy Campbell.

A conference held last weekend at the University of Ottawa's Faculty of Law attempted to find out how Canada's contribution to women's rights on the international scene affects Canadian women's own pursuit of equality.

Over 30 speakers from across the globe addressed the implementation, compliance, and follow-up mechanisms related to international human rights law. Globalization, sustainable development, employment equity, aboriginal women's issues, are some of the specific themes considered.

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