The modern condition

I once heard a very smart insight, that if we look back at the circumstances of our own lives over one-year increments, momentous change would be difficult to discern.

I once heard a very smart insight, that if we look back at the circumstances of our own lives over one-year increments, momentous change would be difficult to discern. However, when we look at 10-year increments, it becomes easier to make out significant shifts in ourselves and in public attitudes. 

Now, more than ever, the ability to telescope back from the issues of the day is crucial. 

In this issue of Law Times, that shift is showing. Take the upcoming challenges on mandatory minimum sentencing for child pornography convictions.

“Not all offenders are the same. Some are less morally blameworthy than others,” says Samara Secter, a Toronto defence lawyer who notes that mandatory minimums “sacrifice individualized sentencing at the altar of generalized deterrence.”

Take surrogacy law, a morally thorny issue if there ever was one. Fertility lawyers have taken different positions in Law Times about whether or not compensation for surrogates (and egg and sperm donors) should be criminalized. This week, Cindy Wasser argues that “ever since the Assisted Human Reproduction Act was enacted in 2004, Canadian parents have been at risk of facing 10 years in prison, a $500,000 fine or both for reimbursing donors or surrogates for any expense that might be deemed unreasonable or for providing them with any form of gift or payment.” This could soon change. 

Or look at even more subtle shifts around old chestnuts such as women’s engagement in certain aspects of the economy. As one feature notes, a federal IP strategy highlights the need for women to receive more education about intellectual property. Many women already understand the need for IP strategies, says Ottawa lawyer Janet Fuhrer. The real need, she says, is to have more intellectual property professionals who are women. 

This week, the narrative around lawyer Joseph Groia — and the battle over what constitutes civil behaviour in a trial that ended in acquittal in 2007 — ended with a barn-burning Supreme Court ruling. Sometimes, change comes quickly. But as Groia can attest, more often, it is a slow, grinding process.

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