Joint Intervenors’ Submission to the Arar Inquiry

The Joint Intervenors’ Submission to the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar was submitted on September 10, 2005.

Law Union 2007 Annual General Meeting

The Law Union’s 2007 AGM will be held on Thursday, November 1st 2007 from 6:30-8:00pm.

Friend’s Meeting House
60 Lowther Avenue, Toronto

Meeting to be followed by a social event with food, drinks, and kindred spirits at a nearby member’s house.

Among other things, in the first part of the meeting,

*The current Steering Committee will give a report on this past year’s activities, as well as exciting new projects planned for the coming year.

*The AGM will also see the launch of the long-awaited but well-worth-the-wait new LUO web-site

*Elections will be held for the new Steering Committee


Steering Committee members run Law Union Activities. We oversee administration and operation of the Law Union, and determine the organization’s direction. In the past, Steering Committee members have worked with other volunteers to put together our annual conferences, bring in speakers, publish our newsletter (more on this at the AGM.)

The Steering Committee will meet on the third Thursday of every month, in the evening. All Steering Committee members are required to attend.


The projects committee organizes and delivers much of the Law Union’s content. The particular topics that the Committee works on, be they immigration, policing, international law, securities, criminal justice, equality rights, etc., depend on the members’ personal interests, current news, and the memberships’ interests. The annual conference has been a mainstay of the organization for many years, but we have also brought in speakers, put together guidebooks for activists, made submissions to various levels of government, acted as intervenors in court cases, and so on.

In the past, the Projects Committee and the Steering Committee have often had joint or back to back meetings. This year, the Projects Committee will meet on the first Thursday of every month, in the evening.

Any Law Union member may join the Projects’ Sub-Committee. Steering Committee members have traditionally devoted much time to the Law Union’s projects and will continue to do so.

Update: Law Union Mining Law Reform Project

October 18, 2006

A majority of the world’s global mining industry is based in Canada. It is an industry targeted internationally for being associated with environmental harm and human rights abuses. There is a federal government-led national consultation underway evaluating corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) and the extractive sector. The Law Union will be making a submission to the Government in favour of legal reforms to hold Canadian-based mining companies accountable for environmental harms and human rights abuses abroad.

In June 2005, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SCFAIT) issued a report titled “Mining in Developing Countries and Corporate Social Responsibility” calling for greater accountability of Canadian mining companies.

The Government response to the Committee focused on the establishment of a roundtable consultation on CSR and the extractive sector. Whether the Government will commit to legal reforms or proceed exclusively with “soft” approaches is a major unknown at this time.

The Law Union hosted a panel at the 2006 Annual Conference titled “Canadian Corporations and Environmental Crimes” and released a background paper (written by Sarah Dover) titled “Fighting Canadian Corporations and Environmental Crimes: Human Rights Violations and Environmental Harms by Canadian Mining Companies – A Call for Law Reform”.

The Law Union then organized a working group to provide law reform ideas and momentum (this group has been “resting” over the summer…). Simon Archer and Sarah Dover are currently working on a written submission to the roundtable (due November 17th). Next steps will involve looking to the law union membership and the mining working group for ideas and involvement in law reform efforts.

Further Resources:

The Halifax Initiative: Extractive Industries and
Corporate Social Responsibility

National Roundtables on Corporate Social
Responsibility and the Canadian Extractive Sector
in Developing Countries

The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and
International Trade Fourteenth Report

Save the Court Challenges Program!

The federal government announced on Sept. 25, 2006 that it was abolishing the Court Challenges Program, a small program that provided modest contributions to the cost of important test cases dealing with language and equality rights. Without this Program, Canada’s constitutional rights are real only for the wealthy. A website is now online to coordinate national efforts to save it:

Examples of cases supported by the Court Challenges Program – Equality Rights

Canadian Newspapers Co. v. Canada (Attorney General), [1988] 2 S.C.R. 122
A man was charged with sexually assaulting his wife. The woman applied for an order banning publication of any information that would identify her. Canadian Newspapers Co. took the position that the Criminal Code contravened the guarantee of freedom of the press in the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the the Criminal code section is justifiable since ito encourages victims of sexual assault to come forward by protecting them from the trauma of publication resulting in embarrassment.

R. v. Butler, [1992] 1 S.C.R. 452
The Supreme Court of Canada articulated a harms-based test for determining when material should be considered obscene: the “community standard of tolerance” test, i.e. what Canadians would not tolerate other Canadians being exposed to. Material which may be said to exploit sex in a “degrading or dehumanizing” manner will fail the community standards test because it is perceived to be harmful to society, particularly women.

R. v. Prosper, [1994] 3 S.C.R. 236
In this case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that where an impoverished arrested person requests counsel, the police must desist from attempting to obtain a statement until counsel has been provided. “The poor are not constitutional castaways.”

Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513
A gay couple from British Columbia challenged the definition of spouse in the Old Age Security Act, which denied a spousal benefit available to opposite sex partners. The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited by the Charter – a breakthrough for lesbians and gays seeking protection from discrimination.

Corbiere et al v. The Queen and Batchewana Indian Band, [1999] 2 S.C.R. 203
The Supreme Court of Canada agreed that the Indian Act residency requirement violated the equality rights of Aboriginal band members living off reserve. Particularly affected by the voting bar are women and their adult children who regained their Indian status under Bill C-31 and who never had the opportunity to live on the reserve.

R. v. Mills, [1999] 3 S.C.R. 668
Mills, accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl, wanted to obtain records of visits she made to a counseling agency and a psychiatrist. He did not want to follow the procedures for accessing these records which are imposed by the Criminal Code. The Supreme Court of Canada found that the provisions do not interfere with an accused person’s right to a fair criminal process under sections 7 and 11(d) of the Charter.

R. v. Wu, [2003] 3 S.C.R. 530
Mr. Wu was disabled and on social assistance, with a dependent daughter. He was convicted of possession of contraband cigarettes, an offence which is subject to a mandatory minimum fine. The trial judge provided no time to pay and ordered a conditional sentence of 75 days in default of payment to be served in the community. The Supreme Court accepted submissions of an intervener representing poor people and found that those living in poverty should not face any form of incarceration solely because of their inability to pay a fine.

Signez cette pétition afin de demander au gouvernement du Canada le rétablissement du Programme de contestation judiciaire et des autres programmes coupés par le gouvernement Harper le 25 septembre 2006 :

Le Programme de contestation judiciaire du Canada permet à des causes types fondées sur les droits linguistiques et les droits à l’égalité d’accéder au système judiciaire. Ces droits ne sont que des garanties sur papier si les personnes visées ne peuvent accéder aux tribunaux pour les faire appliquer.

À maintes reprises, le gouvernement du Canada a avisé les organes de traité des Nations Unies qu’il finançait le PCJ afin de se conformer à son obligation de garantir l’égalité d’accès aux tribunaux et de pourvoir d’efficaces recours en vertu des traités internationaux de droits de la personne
Dans une démocratie constitutionnelle comme le Canada, les causes-types constitutionnelles permettent d’examiner la signification des droits et leurs limites. Les montants alloués par le PCJ ne représentent qu’une fraction des coûts d’une cause-type fondée sur les droits constitutionnels.