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This week at the SCC

|Written By Elizabeth Raymer

The Supreme Court of Canada will hear six appeals this week, including two sets of companion cases: the first related to first degree murder convictions in the death of an Alberta child in 2011, and the second related to two law societies’ refusals to accredit Trinity Western University’s law school. The remaining (civil) appeals each involve jurisdiction; they are from the Canadian Human Rights Commission in its application for judicial review pursuant to the Indian Act and the Canadian Human Rights Act; and from Israel’s Haaretz newspaper in a defamation case heard in Ontario.

Nov. 27 – Alberta Magoon v. R.

Criminal law: Marie Eve Magoon and her common-law spouse, Spencer Lee Jordan, were charged with first degree murder following the death of Jordan’s six-year-old daughter, Meika Jordan. The child died in hospital in 2011 as a result of severe injuries suffered while in the custody of Magoon and Jordan. At trial, the Crown’s evidence included statements made by Jordan and Magoon during a “Mr. Big” operation. The pair were found guilty of second degree murder, which the Crown appealed, seeking first degree murder convictions. Both accused also appealed their convictions. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeals by the accused and allowed the Crown’s appeal, entering verdicts of first degree murder.

Read the Alberta appellate court decision here.

Related news stories:
Marie Magoon appeals murder conviction in beating death of Meika Jordan, 6; Calgary Herald

Father, stepmom who killed Meika Jordan see convictions upgraded to 1st-degree murder; CBC News Calgary

Nov. 27 – Alberta – Jordan v. R.

Criminal law: Spencer Lee Jordan and his common-law spouse, Marie Eve Magoon, were convicted of first degree murder following the death of Jordan’s six-year-old daughter, Meika Jordan. Companion case to the above.

Nov. 28 – Federal – Canadian Human Rights Commission v. Attorney General of Canada

Charter of Rights: Members of two First Nations filed complaints under the Canadian Human Rights Act with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complainants alleged that the eligibility criteria in s. 6 of the Indian Act, which precludes the registration of their children as “Indians” in their particular circumstances, violates their human rights because the impugned restrictions constitute prohibited discrimination in the provision of a service “customarily available to the public” under s. 5 of the CHRA. In two decisions, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal dismissed the complaints for lack of jurisdiction, and concluded such a challenge may only be brought under s.15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and therefore must be made to a court of law. The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal each dismissed the Commission’s applications for judicial review.

Read the Federal Court of Appeal decision here.

Related legal brief:
Human Rights, the Charter, and Access to Justice; (University of Calgary Faculty of Law)

Nov. 29 – Ontario – Haaretz v. Goldhar

Civil law: Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, published an article that was critical of the management style and business practices of Mitchell Goldhar, a Canadian businessman who owns Tel Aviv- based Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club. The article appeared in print and on the newspaper’s Hebrew and English-language websites. Goldhar commenced a defamation action in Ontario against the newspaper, its former sports editor and the author of the article; Haaretz moved to stay the action, arguing that Ontario courts lack jurisdiction simpliciter or, alternatively, that Israel is a more appropriate forum for the action.

Read the Ontario appellate court decision here.

Related legal brief:
Court of appeal affirms jurisdiction over Israeli publisher; Dentons

Nov. 30 — Dec. 1 – Ontario – Trinity Western University v. Law Society of Upper Canada

Charter of Rights, freedom of religion: The Law Society of Upper Canada denied accreditation to the law school of Trinity Western University in British Columbia, which is founded on evangelical Christian principles. TWU students must sign a Community Covenant, which prohibits sexual intimacy other than between a husband and wife. The LSUC’s benchers voted to refuse TWU’s law school accreditation in Ontario because of TWU’s covenant, which it considered discriminatory. On judicial review, the court held that the LSUC was entitled, in the exercise of its statutory mandate to act in the public interest, to refuse to accredit TWU’s law school. The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed TWU’s appeal.

Read the Ontario appellate court decision here.

Related news stories:
Supreme Court to hear appeals about Trinity Western University law school; Canadian Press

Ontario appeal court upholds law society rejection of TWU law school; Canadian Lawyer

Related legal briefs:
Of Diversity and Balancing of Rights: TWU v LSUC; Pierre Cloutier de Repentigny, CanLII Connects

Ontario Court of Appeal: The Law Society acted reasonably in deciding not accredit Trinity Western University’s proposed law school; Goldblatt Partners

Nov. 30 — Dec. 1 – British Columbia – Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western University.

Charter of Rights, freedom of religion: The Law Society of British Columbia denied accreditation to the law school of Trinity Western University. (Facts about TWU are as above.) In 2014, the LSBC held a referendum amongst its members as to whether TWU’s law school should be approved as a recognized law faculty, and subsequently refused recognition. TWU and its representative student sought judicial review. The reviewing court found that the LSBC’s refusal to accredit TWU on the basis of its admissions policy was directly related to the LSBC’s statutory mandate, but the benchers’ delegation of the issue to members, and consequent acceptance of the outcome of the membership referendum, constituted an impermissible delegation and fettering of their discretion, as it ignored their obligation to consider and apply the proportionate balancing of the competing Charter rights at issue related to same-sex marriage and religious freedoms. The court therefore set aside the LSBC’s refusal decision, and the appellate court upheld the lower court’s decision.

Read the British Columbia appellate court decision here.

Related news stories:
Trinity Western University Law School wins legal battle in B.C. court; CBC News British Columbia

B.C. court rules in favour of Trinity Western University's law school; The Globe and Mail

Related legal brief:

“Intolerant and Illiberal”; Léonid Sirota, CanLII Connects




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