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Alison Latimer of Underhill Boies Parker Gage & Latimer LLP, in Vancouver, who acted as lead counsel for the appellant, hailed the decision for providing clarity on election sponsorship.
|Alison Latimer of Underhill Boies Parker Gage & Latimer LLP, in Vancouver, who acted as lead counsel for the appellant, hailed the decision for providing clarity on election sponsorship.|
Bumper stickers, sandwich boards, pamphlets and handmade window signs expressing views on potential political issues in British Columbia do not require their creators or holders to register with British Columbia’s chief electoral officer under that province’s Election Act, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled today; however, “sponsors” of election advertising are required to register, no matter how little they may have spent on the advertising.
At issue in the case was the registration requirement that s. 239 of B.C.’s Election Act imposes on sponsors of election advertising. In 2009 and 2013, the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association sponsored election advertising, and was therefore subject to the registration requirement. The Association sought a declaration that the registration requirement, to the extent that it applied to sponsors of election advertising who spend less than $500 in a given campaign period.
In dismissing the appeal in B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association v. Attorney General of British Columbia, the Supreme Court found that although the imposed registration requirement did limit sponsors’ right of expression as guaranteed by s. 2 of the Charter, the limit was justified under s. 1 and “the scope of the infringement is minimal.”
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin also found that “the [Election] Act does not catch small-scale election advertising” such as homemade window signs, bumper stickers or T-shirts with political slogans on them.
“By confining the registration requirement to sponsors and exempting individual political self-expression by persons who are not sponsors, s. 239 tailors the impingement on expression to what is required by the object of the Act,” the chief justice wrote, with Justices Michael Moldaver, Andromache Karakatsanis, Richard Wagner, Clément Gascon, Suzanne Côté and Russell Brown concurring.
Alison Latimer of Underhill, Boies Parker, Gage & Latimer LLP in Vancouver, who acted as lead counsel for the appellant, hailed the decision for providing clarity on election sponsorship.
“The chief electoral officer in B.C. has always said that [the requirements of] this Act applies to anyone expressing personal views,” Latimer told Legal Feeds; “the lower courts agreed. The Supreme Court ruled today that the law does not capture those activities. Individuals … can express their own views without registering” with B.C.’s chief electoral officer during an elections campaign.
“So, from our perspective, this is a really positive development for free speech in B.C., because it's a much narrower interpretation of the Act.”
Latimer also notes that this case turned in part on the concept of “sponsorship” of election advertising that exists in British Columbia.
Chief Justice McLachlin noted that Parliament had selected a quantitative threshold under the Canada Elections Act, while B.C. had opted for a qualitative one. Under the federal legislation, only third parties who incur election advertising expenses of a total amount of $500 must register, while in B.C. only third parties who “sponsor election advertising” need register.
“Each threshold is low, but each permits small-scale individual election advertising without registration,” she wrote.
Rob De Luca, staff lawyer for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, an intervener in the case, suggests that privacy concerns remain from this decision. “The [B.C.] registration provision includes ‘sponsors’ who either pay for election advertising services or receive some benefit without paying for it,” he says. This might include someone who receives a number of hats with a political slogan on them, or someone who pays someone else to deliver flyers in their neighbourhood. As “sponsors,” these individuals might wish to remain anonymous, but would still be required to disclose their name and contact information to the chief electoral officer.
Individuals would then have the choice to either sponsor and publicly register their support for an issue, or not sponsor in order to maintain their anonymity, De Luca said.
In a published statement, the respondent Attorney General of British Columbia, Suzanne Anton, said:
“Today, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed Election Act provisions requiring third-party sponsors of election advertising to register with the Chief Electoral Officer. … The Court accepted the Province’s position that the law is limited to sponsors who pay others for election advertising services or receive services free of charge as a contribution, and that it does not apply to those who wear political t-shirts, put up homemade signs, or other similar expression. …
“Our government believes that the B.C. electoral process should be fair, transparent and accountable – and this provision does just that.”
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Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP has partnered with professional services firm PwC Canada for the provision of e-discovery services, the firm announced today.
|Vera Toppings, partner in Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP's litigation and dispute resolution group, says efficient delivery of e-discovery services is ‘top-of-mind’ for law firms.|
Prior to the arrangement with PwC Canada, Faskens dealt with e-discovery on a “case-by-case” basis, which was often more costly and less efficient for clients.
“We would go to the market and solicit quotes from different providers, analyze them, then go back and forth with the providers, and then go back and forth to the client,” Toppings says.
“We were dealing every time with different people in the marketplace — sometimes you don’t have responses from everyone right away, or they aren’t able to provide all the same types of services you may want to be able to offer to the client,” says Toppings.
She notes the pairing is more of a contractual arrangement than a formal partnership.
The e-discovery services will be scalable to any level of client demand and will offer improved predictability of costs. Faskens clients will have access to PwC Canada’s specialists who can share e-discovery industry best practices.
This move follows McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s acquisition of Wortzmans earlier this month, and Toppings says if there seems to be a trend that’s fueling these moves, there’s a good reason for it.
“I think it’s an issue that’s front-of-mind for a lot of law firms,” she says, noting it’s becoming more necessary to be in “the best position possible” to provide these services to clients.
“The expectations on clients, and of course their counsel in guiding them through the process, are very high. I think for that reason lots of firms are thinking about what’s the best way that we can provide this service to our clients and ensure we are advising them and offering them the best options possible for navigating what has become a more complex, involved and risky proposition because the courts have really set high expectations for how these processes will be managed and for the consequences that can flow from doing it improperly.”
The Law Foundation of Ontario’s Responsive Grants Program is accepting applications from non-profit groups interested in improving access to justice.
Each year, the Responsive Grants Program includes one round of major grants (up to $100,000) and two rounds of small grants (up to $15,000). The next deadline for both small and major grants applications is March 31.
“We really leave it to the community and to the organizations that know the legal needs of the communities to tell us what needs to happen and what projects are beneficial to the community,” says Kirsti Mathers McHenry, director, policy and programs with The Law Foundation of Ontario.
Responsive Grants aim to encourage new ideas, innovations, approaches and relationships that can help address emerging needs and connect more people to legal information and supports, especially people who are not currently being reached.
Organizations based outside Ontario can apply to the foundation for a grant if the proposed project offers a benefit to the people of Ontario.
The grants have provided seed money for hundreds of innovative projects across Ontario. For example, past grants have provided legal information support for street youth, funded a theatrical production to educate Thunder Bay high school students about restorative justice and funded the pilot of “That’s Not Fair!”— an animated series of videos, online games and lesson plans to introduce children to critical thinking about democracy.
Organizations that are interested in applying are encouraged to review the foundation’s full listing of grants made and to contact one of its grants officers with any questions or ideas they may have.
“We do see timely projects like LifeLine Syria’s application that respond to emerging and current needs,” says Mathers McHenry.
Some applications come from lawyers or non-profit organizations run by lawyers.
“There are also a lot of community agencies that know there is a legal need among the population they are trying to serve and they can connect to a lawyer and bring the expertise in to the organization temporarily for the project,” she says.
In some cases, the applications seek to develop an app or deliver information through a web portal or site.
“We see a lot of interesting ideas around technology and access to justice. We do a lot of work training front-line workers and we fund training to support those front-line workers,” she says.
The Law Foundation’s board of trustees makes the decisions on who receives the grant funding. The current chairwoman is Linda Rothstein of Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP.
“They are thoughtful, accomplished leaders in the justice sector and they make all the decisions about what gets funded,” says Mathers McHenry.
For full details and funding criteria, go to lawfoundation.on.ca.
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A paralegal who was sexually harassed by an employer at the legal services business she had just started working for — and who had evidence of the harassment via a series of text messages — has been awarded $22,000 plus back pay by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
|Nicole Simes of MacLeod Law Firm says only with even higher damage awards that employers and managers will consider the financial cost of engaging in, or not preventing, harassment in the workplace.|
The applicant was also awarded $5,400 for wages withheld from her as reprisal for refusing to enter into a sexual relationship with the individual respondent. The applicant began work at the law office in January 2014 and left two months later.
Practitioners working in the area of human rights claims hailed the decision and pointed to the value of digital technology in providing evidence during hearings.
“This is an example of the type of conduct that many women face in the workplace,” Nicole Simes of MacLeod Law Firm in Toronto told Legal Feeds. “Solicitation from an employer, even where not accompanied by sexualized language, can deeply affect an employee’s sense of dignity and self-worth.
“I was glad to see that the award for damages was over $20,000. However, it is only with even higher damage awards that employers and managers will consider the financial cost of engaging in, or not preventing, harassment in the workplace.”
The applicant was also awarded $2,000 for future counselling sessions. The harassment did not include physical touching.
Kate Sellar, a lawyer at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre in Toronto, told Legal Feeds that the digital evidence — which showed the respondent soliciting the applicant through a series of text messages — was useful in determining the outcome of the case.
“In sexual harassment cases, text messages can be fabulous evidence,” Sellar says; “they can take the focus away from the traditional ‘he said/she said’ credibility battle about the facts that has kept so many women from coming forward over the years.” However, Sellar notes, the Human Rights Tribunal has issued many decisions finding sexual harassment survivors credible even without “smoking gun” evidence.
The phone texts as they appeared in the decision showed two key things, she adds. “First, they showed how people who are sexually harassed in the workplace are often in an almost impossible situation. The applicant in this case found ways of rejecting advances via text … on more than one occasion. That’s not always easy to do, especially when faced with such a big power imbalance in the workplace.”
Second, she said, the applicant’s texts to her friend about the harassment “were contemporaneous and showed how much she needed her job but also how quickly the situation became intolerable and toxic.”
One factor in the outcome for the individual respondent was that neither he nor his organization were represented by legal counsel before the tribunal. “We see it repeatedly; typically there are higher awards if the employer is unrepresented,” Simes says.
The individual respondent and the organization respondent were held to be “jointly and severally liable for all of the . . . violations of the Code,” the adjudicator wrote, since the individual respondent was the president, secretary, treasurer and manager of the organization respondent, Law Help Ltd.
A 2015 sexual harassment case, O.P.T. v. Presteve Foods Ltd. awarded a Mexican migrant worker $150,000 in compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect. That case involved multiple sexual assaults and “appalling facts,” says Simes, but “because that award was so high, it gave tribunals more scope for increasing damages — because of the high-water mark.”
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