Legalizing Marijuana Use in Canada: Some Concerns

Legalizing Marijuana Use in Canada: Some Concerns

Photo: Flickr/Tomas de Aquino

The possession of marijuana in Canada is unlawful under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, SC 1996, c 19 (CDSA), but the use of marijuana is legalized for medical purposes under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, SOR/2013-119 (“MMPR”). However, as far back as 2013, Canada’s Liberal Party expressed its intention to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes. After winning the election in 2015, the current federal government has stated that it intends to legalize marijuana use for recreational purposes within the next year.  This article discusses the main potential concerns regarding the decision to broaden the legalized use of marijuana.

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Genetic Discrimination is Being Addressed in Canadian Law

Genetic Discrimination is Being Addressed in Canadian Law

Photo: Flickr/ Thomas Hawk

With many recent advances in technology, testing can disclose information about people’s health that was not available even a few years ago. For example, genetic testing can reveal that a person has a gene mutation that causes or increases the risk of an inherited disorder. This information may be very important to the individual, but may also cause concern if employers or insurance companies obtain that information and make decisions about hiring or coverage based on genetic information.

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Payday Lending and Debt Cycles: the Act to End Predatory Lending and Criminal Interest Rates

Payday Lending and Debt Cycles: the Act to End Predatory Lending and Criminal Interest Rates

Photo: Flickr/Gord Fynes

Over the last decade, the exorbitant interest rates charged on payday loans have been the subject of multiple class action proceedings against payday lenders in provinces across Canada. Most recently, in Ontario, a class action against Cash Store and Instaloan concluded last summer with a $10 million settlement in favour of the plaintiffs, which potentially number 100,000 (“Class action settlement for borrowers of Cash Store and Instaloans” CBC News (7 July 2016) online: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/sudbury/payday-loans-illegal-1.3668316).

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Age Discrimination in Long Term Disability Plans: Reasonableness Not Required in Alberta

Age Discrimination in Long Term Disability Plans: Reasonableness Not Required in Alberta

Photo: Flickr/ Grant Neufeld

This case demonstrates grievance arbitration panels’ shared jurisdiction with the Alberta Human Rights Commission on human rights issues. It also shows one of the fairly rare circumstances when individuals (or their employers) can effectively contract out of human rights protection. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1007 represented Darrell McGowan in a grievance wherein he asserted that he was forced to resign and access his pension instead of being able to access his long term disability (LTD) benefits. The LTD Policy negotiated between McGowan’s employer (Epcor) and its third party benefits provider (Sun Life) expressly excluded access to LTD benefits for people “who retire or those who are eligible to retire with a full pension” (Re Epcor Utilities Inc. and IBEW, Local 1007 (McGowan), 2015 CarswellAlta 1657 (IBEW Arbitration) at 2).

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Human Rights Cannot Be Renounced or Waived

Human Rights Cannot Be Renounced or Waived

Photo: Flickr/ AFS-USA Intercultural Pro....

The Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta recently upheld a human rights decision that found Webber Academy, a private school in Calgary, had unlawfully discriminated against two Muslim high school students by prohibiting them from performing certain prescribed Sunni prayers at school. Dr. Webber, President and Chairman of Webber Academy, said that bowing and kneeling was too overt and such prayers would be not allowed on campus. The Alberta Human Rights Tribunal in 2015 found that Webber Academy discriminated against the two students and awarded the students $12,000 and $14,000 respectively as damages for distress, injury and loss of dignity (see 2015 AHRC 8 (CanLII)). The Academy did not explicitly claim that the complainants had waived their rights prior to enrollment. However, on appeal Justice GH Poelman addressed the issue of waiver, as the pre-enrollment discussions between the students and staff were discussed at length by the Tribunal.  Justice Poelman held that waiver is not a possible defence in any case, as human rights are a matter of public policy and protect the inherent dignity of every individual; thus they “cannot be waived or contracted out of” (at para 106).

 

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Gender Equality in Canadian Politics

Gender Equality in Canadian Politics

Photo: flickr/ Asian Development Bank

There is a long-standing concern about the under-representation of women (and minorities) in our political system. There are several theories about why these groups are not reflected in politics in ways that represent their numbers in Canada. The issue has been recognized, and recently, a proposed amendment was introduced in Parliament and received second reading: Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity)(First Session, Forty-second Parliament, 64-65 Elizabeth II, 2015-2016). Will this proposed amendment, if implemented, actually result in any change in the gender balance in Parliament?

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Freedom of Expression, Publication Bans and the Media

Freedom of Expression, Publication Bans and the Media

Photo: flickr/ Aphrodite

The issue of publication bans in the context of criminal matters ordered by the courts became more complex with the advent of the Internet. Some may remember when the criminal proceedings of Karla Homolka were subject to a publication ban. There were several alleged breaches of the ban when the close proximity to the United States and the inability for an Ontario court order to apply to the United States, coupled with public access to the Internet, effectively nullified the court’s order. In addition, in 2005, author Stephen Williams was sentenced for violating a publication ban by including details of the criminal activities of Homolka and Paul Bernardo in two books (Nick Pron and Robert Benzie, “Bernardo Author called ‘a criminal’ Stephen Williams guilty of breaking publication ban” Toronto Star (15 January 2005) online:http://www.thefreeradical.ca/moviesBernardo/articlesOnStephenWilliams.html).

 

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Sexual Harassment at the University of Calgary Food Court

Sexual Harassment at the University of Calgary Food Court

Photo: flickr/ Joelle Hatem

On some occasions, there is an Alberta Human Rights Tribunal (AHRT) case where the respondent may have been far better off settling the complaint in private, instead of steadfastly denying discrimination occurred, or refusing to settle even after an investigation, thereby experiencing what should be embarrassing publicity inherent in a reported AHRT decision against them. This may be one of those cases. The Director of the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) had carriage of the complaint before the AHRT (at para 6), which indicates that the AHRC had previously determined that the complaint had merit and that the parties were unable to settle or unwilling to accept the terms of a proposed settlement.

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Same-Sex Families in some Canadian Provinces still Face Discrimination Challenges

Same-Sex Families in some Canadian Provinces still Face Discrimination Challenges

Photo: flickr/ The UpTake

Across Canada we have seen many developments in GLBT rights in the past few years. With the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, we might have thought that true equality for same-sex families had been reached. However, some of our provincial family laws have not kept up to these legal changes. In particular, in some provinces, when married gay or lesbian partners have a child, the non-birth parent(s) must legally adopt the child before they have any status as parents.

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Balancing Freedom of Expression and the Privacy of Child Victims

Balancing Freedom of Expression and the Privacy of Child Victims

Photo: flickr/Daniel Arauz

The Court in R v Canadian Broadcasting Corporation allows the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to maintain pre-publication ban articles on the web, thus allowing access to the identity of a deceased child victim. One of the major purposes of a publication ban is to protect a child victim’s privacy and thereby ensure future victims will come forward with the assurance of anonymity. This case demonstrates that freedom of expression of the media can take priority over a victim’s privacy rights. The case also demonstrates the lack of policy and legal authority dealing with web-based material, the transmission of information, victim’s privacy, and publication bans.

 

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