Long waits to file family court documents affect self-represented litigants in Brampton

Statistics from the Ministry of the Attorney General show wait times to file family matters at Brampton’s Superior Court of Justice reached nearly five times the ministry’s standard earlier this year

Most court filing is still done in person in Ontario. While many attorneys can afford to hire process servers or law clerks to file court documents for their clients, unrepresented members of the public must take care of this task themselves. And the more individuals there are filing family matters in fast-growing Peel Region, the longer the lines grow at Brampton Superior Court.

Statistics from the Ministry of the Attorney General show that average wait times to file documents at Brampton’s Hurontario Street courthouse, the A. Grenville and William Davis building (named for the province’s former premier, who might be troubled by the hardship being caused inside for some of his fellow Brampton residents) are some of the longest in the GTA.

According to the ministry, the “standard is to provide counter service to court clients in 30 minutes or less.” But in early summer, average wait times to file family matters at Brampton’s Superior Court of Justice reached two hours and 20 minutes, clocking in at nearly five times the ministry’s standard.

More recent figures show that the average wait is now down to 1 hour and 12 minutes — similar to the same quarter the year before, but still far longer than most GTA courts. (Only Newmarket’s time was longer in the quarter ending Sept. 30: 1 hour 13 minutes, up from just nine minutes in the previous quarter, an anomaly the ministry said could be blamed on that court being “in the process of replacing its queuing system.”)

Court delays have received more attention in the past two years because of a precedent set by the 2016 Jordan ruling, which capped provincial and Superior Court proceedings at 18 and 30 months, respectively. But administrative bottlenecks increasingly affect individuals in contact with the legal system.

Read the rest at ThePointer.com.

“Nishtown” for Christie Pits?

Toronto, the ancestral territory of the Ojibway, the Anishnawbe and the Mississaugas of the New Credit, is often touted as one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with dozens of ethnically evocative neighbourhoods. Yet none are dedicated to our first residents.

City councillors and community organizations want to change that by creating an Indigenous business district, but perspectives differ on how and where.

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam explains that the Indigenous business district would not only be a destination similar to other cultural neighbourhoods. Rather, an “Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” could be the seed that helps grow the area by offering programming, mentorship and co-op space to nascent businesses. Wong-Tam believes she’s found the prime location, at 200 Dundas East, a space the city will take over in 2019.

“The main thing we want to see is a community that’s safe for Indigenous people of the GTA,” says Johl Whiteduck Ringuette, a spokesperson for TIBA and the owner and chef of the Annex’s NishDish restaurant.

Read the rest in NOW Magazine.

City brandishes court order to threaten remaining dispensaries

At a spartan Queen West storefront on a sunny afternoon, more than 20 people sit shoulder to shoulder, waiting to be served by one of several busy employees. Eden, the Bellwoods-adjacent marijuana dispensary, is already seeing some of the overflow effects of last week’s court ruling that shut down a group of Toronto dispensaries for violating zoning bylaws.

The Ontario Superior Court granted the City’s request last week to close operations at Toronto’s remaining Canna Clinics—a chain of marijuana dispensaries—while the matter remains before the courts. For the City, the court order means another way to fight illegal marijuana dispensaries in what has become a costly game of whack-a-mole. For other Toronto dispensaries, it means more business, at least in the immediate future.

Read the rest at Torontoist.com.

The Long Road to Overturning a Wrongful Conviction in Canada

According to data from Canada’s Department of Justice, most wrongful conviction cases fail to make it past the first stage

In 1992, Maria Shepherd pleaded guilty to a crime she didn’t commit: killing her three-year-old stepdaughter. Her lawyer told her she didn’t stand a chance against the testimony of renowned pathologist Charles Smith. Knowing she could spend years in prison away from her young children if she fought and lost her case, Shepherd pleaded guilty to manslaughter and lived with a wrongful conviction on her record for 25 years.

Thanks to the lawyers who worked on her behalf and a public inquiry that discredited the doctor, Shepherd’s wrongful conviction was finally overturned in 2016 on appeal. Although she only spent eight months in prison, less than half of her two-year sentence, the consequences of her wrongful conviction stayed with her for decades.

Although Shepherd’s wrongful conviction was overturned on appeal, sometimes appeals can serve to cement a wrongful conviction instead of correct it. Recognizing this possibility for gross injustice, the Department of Justice has established a review process for people who have been wrongly convicted even after an appeal. These individuals can apply for ministerial review to get a new appeal or—in cases involving more egregious miscarriages of justice—a new trial.

While the road to exoneration may be long and winding, the destination is desolate. The last 15 years of data from the Department of Justice show that the vast majority of ministerial review applications are unsuccessful.

Read the rest on the data journalism site the10and3.com.

The Outcome of This Obscure Lawsuit Could Undermine Constitutional Government

curious case about to be decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia could have profound implications for constitutional government in the United States.

In 2012, the state legislature passed a so-called “fetal pain law,” which bans abortions after 20 weeks and grants district attorneys access to patients’ medical records. Three doctors promptly filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that the law violates individuals’ privacy rights under the state constitution. Claiming “sovereign immunity” from litigation, officials in the state argued that its legislature cannot be sued by citizens who claim they have been harmed by its unconstitutional laws.

The case—Lathrop v. Deal—has taken five years to wind through the Georgia court system. In the process it has created some unlikely alliances among special interest groups—including a pro-gun group and human rights organizations—and sparked an intense debate about state immunity from citizens’ lawsuits.

According to one lawyer involved in the case, if the court sides with the state, the Bill of Rights will be subservient to the whims of the Georgia legislature.

Read the rest at TheNation.com.

There’s a $1 Million Subsidy for Toronto’s Top Water Polluters

Council keeps voting for a subsidy that gives an incentive to the city’s water polluters. Why?

Torontonians pay more than $1 million annually to subsidize wastewater pollution from over 100 companies. Every year, Mike Layton (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) moves to end this subsidy so that these companies pay the City the cost to treat their pollution. And every year, council votes down this motion.

A majority of councillors believe the economic incentive is part of the price to keep thousands of jobs in town; previous staff reports provided by the City state that prices in surrounding municipalities are higher, and there’s room to move to a cost-recovery model. Environmental advocates and a minority of city councillors call the cost absorption unfair and unproductive to curbing pollution. As part of the rate-supported budget, City Council will vote today on whether to charge companies the full cost of treating the pollutants they release into Toronto sewers.

Under the current program, private companies that release excess pollutants into the public wastewater system are charged only for the pollutant that they emit the most of. This means that anyone who pays for water in Toronto is also paying to treat private companies’ pollutants at an annual cost of around $1.6 million.

Read the rest at Torontoist.com.

Why does this beer taste bad? Laws vary on clean taps in New England

HAVERHILL — A rookie line cleaner disconnected a keg, dismantled the faucet and keg coupler, and connected the cleaning can to one of the lines that link kegs to taps at the AMVETS bar here. Sporting a pair of protective rubber gloves, he ran an alkaline solution through the draft line and began washing the disassembled parts with the same teal-colored cleaner, while his more practiced colleague narrated like the voice-over of a surgical drama.

It was a routine draft-line cleaning — the first stop on the men’s route through Northern Massachusetts. While the faucets air-dried, military veteran Shaun Murphy described the microscopic beasts that breed in lines left unchecked. “I can walk into a place and smell whether the taps are clean,” said Murphy, who since 2013 has been cleaning lines for Tibs Taps, a company that installs and maintains draft beer systems; he placed his fingers under the water that now ran through the lines, turning from green to clear as the chemicals dissipated.

While rare, there has been at least one documented case in Massachusetts where a beer distributor failed to flush out the caustic cleaning solution from the draft lines, injuring a patron who suffered burns on her throat. Like the one that Tibs Taps uses, many cleaning solutions now contain color pigments to easily identify whether the lines are completely free from the solution before drawing beer from the tap.

Massachusetts law places responsibility on the bar or restaurant, rather than the distributor, for ensuring draft beer lines are clean and safe, but like similar laws in most states, the regulation is relatively unenforceable until an individual files a complaint or the business is subject to inspection.

Read the rest at BostonGlobe.com.



Can Quebec take a joke? Comedy and human rights clash in court

“If I don’t have a lawsuit against me now, it’s not for a lack of trying,” Quebecois comedian Mike Ward joked in front of a Montreal audience in 2009. Fast forward to 2016.

On July 20, Quebec’s Human Rights Tribunal (HRT) ordered comedian Mike Ward to pay a combined total of $42,000 in moral and punitive damages to Jeremy Gabriel and his mother for jokes he made about them during his three-year comedy tour. The tribunal found that the jokes infringed on the plaintiffs’ human rights.

Ward’s lawyer has begun the appeals process and maintains that the tribunal misinterpreted important cases, going beyond the intended goals of Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling received widespread news coverage, with parties on both sides of the debate weighing in on the controversy about political correctness and comedy, the right to offend and the right to free expression. Many critics fear the HRT decision may set an unwanted precedent for Quebec comedians, while others argue the ruling is a just repercussion for jokes that discriminated against Gabriel because of his disability.

Read the rest at Rabble.ca.

Cyber safety laws bullied into submission

Court ruling calls law inspired by the Rehtaeh Parsons suicide a “colossal failure,” raising new questions about policing online conduct

Cyberbullies returned to their keyboard crusades with a vengeance just days after the Nova Scotia Supreme Court struck down the province’s anti-cyberbullying law back in December, raising questions as to what extent the legal system should deal with cyberbullying, if at all.

Passed after the death of teen cyberbullying victim Rehtaeh Parsons, the 2013 Cyber-safety Act allowed judges to issue protection orders against online bullies and established CyberSCAN, an investigative unit working under the aegis of the province’s Department of Justice. The act offered a civil law option to handle cyberbullying.

In the wake of the Nova Scotia decision, and recent Ontario court rulings, the federal government is calling for proposals to evaluate cyberbullying – and possible intervention methods – across the country.

Read the rest in NOW Magazine.

Will Canada turn on or tune out to psychedelics as medicine?

Current studies on addiction, anxiety and depression are exploring the benefits of psilocybin and a variety of popular party drugs as possible therapies

Experimental research on psilocybin, the active compound responsible for the “magic” in magic mushrooms, suggests it has potential for treating alcohol and tobacco addictions, obsessive-compulsive disorder and end-of-life anxiety.

While these studies may signal good news for people who are resistant to other forms of treatment, most trials involve only 10 to 20 participants, which means that their clinical significance remains unproven until more research can corroborate their findings. That’s easier said than done.

UBC professor Mark Haden chairs the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is currently conducting a study administering MDMA to PTSD patients during psychotherapy sessions. Its hypothesis is that MDMA’s efficacy in treating PTSD may be due in part to its ability “to produce a sense of calming empowerment, not painful stress, as the individual reflects on the traumatic experience,” Haden says.

He explains that the study required “four years of back-and-forth with Health Canada” in order to receive approval. The research is subject to frequent government inspections, and the MDMA used in the study costs $75 per dose.

Read the rest at NOW Magazine.