The two most high-profile criminal trials in Canada in the past year were ones that took place in provincial court. The prosecutions of Senator Mike Duffy and former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi were the source of voluminous media coverage — by national media outlets, on social media, and the subject of endless commentary by columnists, pundits, and academics. As well, the courtroom actions and eventual rulings by justices Charles Vaillancourt and William Horkins were subject to intense scrutiny.
|Illustration: Matthew Billington|
As much as talk in legal and broader commerce overall these days centres on David v. Goliath or even the clash of the titans (think BigLaw), there’s a very faulty set of assumptions around this type of thinking. Taking the view that it’s us versus them unduly limits the possibilities not just for better delivery of current services but also creation of new forms of value in the best interests of the ultimate client. An ecosystem approach with some level of co-ordination among many contributors provides the best and most interesting outcomes. It’s also a key driver of innovation.
This month’s cover story, “Snakes & Ladders: Provincial court edition,” looks at the state of Canada’s provincial courts, where more than 95 per cent of criminal cases end up. Reporter Shannon Kari talked to chief judges and justices across the country and the sense you get from what they had to say is: There are a lot of issues that we’re facing, but we’re also being creative in looking at ways of dealing with them. Resource pressures, including funding, will likely never go away, but that’s not stopping court administrators from addressing problems and working towards providing access to justice, administering an efficient and fair court system, and providing appropriate outcomes for defendants.
If James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine, thought getting a patent for his clunky machine in 18th-century London was tough, he’d not tried to protect something intangible that people cannot see, feel, or touch. Once exemplified by discoveries like Watt’s steam engine, innovation can now start and end with information, complicating exactly what we mean by “making something.” The value of protecting information-based inventions has risen with the speed of innovation, but designing intellectual property systems to suit today’s breakthroughs remains a slow, delicate art.
|Illustration: Carl Wiens, 121 Art|
In an overview of the law of sexual assault and the need both to encourage reporting of this crime and to ensure that myths about complainants are not part of the analysis conducted by a trier of fact, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made these comments: “[T]he reality is that evidence of sexual conduct and reputation in itself cannot be regarded as logically probative of either the complainant’s credibility or consent . . . the old rules which permitted evidence of sexual conduct and condoned invalid inferences from it solely for these purposes have no place in our law.” The statements are not recent; they were made in 1991 and form part of her majority judgment for the Supreme Court of Canada in R v. Seaboyer.
|Photo: Harris Studio|