Author: Fraser Turnbull


BULLETIN: Text Messages are “Private Communications” in R v Telus Communications Co.

The Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) released their decision in R v Telus Communications Co., 2013 SCC 16 on March 27, 2013. The case was previously discussed here. In this case, the police wanted the production of text messages stored in the computer databases of Telus for a police investigation under a general warrant. Telus argued that daily production of text messages from a computer database constitutes an “interception of private communications” and therefore requires a wiretap authorization, not a general warrant, under Part VI of the Criminal Code (the “Code”). The Crown argued that the retrieval of messages...


Appeal Watch: Douglas Martin v Worker’s Compensation Board of Alberta, et al.

The Supreme Court of Canada (the “SCC”) has granted leave to appeal in Douglas Martin v Worker’s Compensation Board of Alberta, et al., 2012 ABCA 248, with a tentative hearing date of December 10th, 2013. Background Douglas Martin worked for Parks Canada in Banff, Alberta. On December 18th, 2006, Parks Canada delivered a disclosure letter to Martin requesting him to disclose information relating to data on his work computer. Parks Canada had received a request under the Access to Information Act and required information from Martin so they could comply with the request. Upon receipt of the letter, Martin claimed that...


Amici Curiae: Virtual Courts, Opposition to Manitoba’s Bill 18, and a National Pro Bono Duty Counsel Program

Justice – Just a Click Away? Litigating less serious small claims disputes may not require filling out lengthy paperwork or taking time off work to attend a court hearing anymore. The British Columbia Ministry of Justice recently released part two of their White Paper on Justice Reform. They are recommending a simplified and user-friendly court process called the Civil Resolution Tribunal that reflects the realities of our hyper-connected world: “Canada’s first ‘online’ tribunal, the Civil Resolution Tribunal, will meet citizen needs by making the majority of dispute resolution services available online or by email, telephone, and video. In-person meetings and...


Appeal Watch: Assessing an Evidentiary Issue in R v Taylor

In R v Taylor 2012 NLCA 33, the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal examined whether a judge can draw an adverse inference from evidence that was not disclosed to the police or the prosecution. The majority argued that on the facts of this case it was a material error and directed a new trial. The Crown has appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”), who will hear the case this month.


Amici Curiae: Why Edgar Schmidt is Suing the Department of Justice

Edgar Schmidt is a senior lawyer with the Department of Justice. That is, he used to be a senior lawyer with the Department of Justice until he was suspended on December 14th, 2012 after suing the Department by alleging that it has been conducting inadequate reviews to ensure proposed legislation complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”). The Department of Justice plays an important role in Canadian policy-making: it reviews proposed bills and legislations to make sure they are compatible with human rights legislation or the Charter. If the proposed legislation does not comply, the Department...


Appeal Watch: Court to Decide if National Security Certificates are Constitutional

Background Mohamed Harkat is a former gas station attendant, pizza delivery driver, and for the past decade, a suspected terrorist. Harkat was arrested on December 10, 2002 on a national security certificate alleging that he had ties with terrorists. Since 2006, Harkat has been required to wear an electronic tracking device, be in the presence of his wife or mother-in-law at all times, and is not allowed to leave his home unless he gives the Canada Border Services Agency 48 hours advance notice. A national security certificate allows the Canadian government to detain and deport permanent residents or foreign nationals...


Appeal Watch: Toronto’s Billboard Tax Stands

The Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) declined to hear an appeal regarding the City of Toronto’s billboard tax. The tax was enacted in 2010 and is directed at “third party signs”, fixed exterior signs that advertise goods or services not available at the premises where the sign is located. Pattison Outdoor Advertising (Pattison) and Out-of-Home Marketing Association of Canada (OMAC) challenged the tax on the basis that it imposes an indirect tax, which is prohibited under the City of Toronto Act and the Constitution Act.


Amici Curiae: US States Legalize Marijuana

On the same day that Canada implemented harsher penalties for marijuana possession through the Safe Streets and Communities Act, two U.S. states voted in favour of legalizing the drug. A majority of voters in Washington and Colorado approved initiatives on November 6th, 2012 allowing for personal use and regulation of marijuana for adults 21 and over. In Washington, Initiative 502 passed with 55% in favour. In Colorado, Amendment 64 passed with 53% in favour.


Appeal Watch: Freedom of Expression v. Privacy Rights

On October 25th, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) granted leave to appeal in United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401 v Alberta (Attorney General) 2012 ABCA 130. The case involves striking union workers who had videotaped people crossing a picket line and then threatened to post the images online. The issue before the SCC is whether posting such images is an invasion of privacy contrary to Alberta’s Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA). In 2006, workers at the Palace Casino in Edmonton went on strike after collective bargaining agreements broke down.  They videotaped the picket line, which the evidence disclosed...


Amici Curiae: Treating Junk Food Like Cigarettes

The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) has suggested implementing measures lifted from anti-tobacco campaigns to battle Canada’s obesity epidemic. The multi-pronged approach includes a tax increase on junk food, advertising bans, and perhaps most controversially, the placement of graphic images on the packaging of high calorie foods with low nutritional value such as pop and potato chips. The OMA has released mock-ups of what these warning labels would look like on products – such as the amount of sugar in chocolate milk, the risks to your liver of eating pizza, and diabetes complications from drinking too much grape juice. Initiatives like...