Technology, Taxicabs, and Transportation in Toronto: City of Toronto v Uber Canada Inc

A defining feature of this decade has been the advent of disruptive technological innovation. Airbnb is now challenging the traditional hotel industry, Rover is providing drivers with alternatives to astronomically high parking rates, and RelayRides is making it increasingly easier for city-dwellers to not own vehicles. These services are creating increased competition among established industries—residential rentals and commercial parking, for example—and are providing ordinary people with increased alternatives, lower prices, and the chance to earn a bit of extra spending money.

Perhaps the most widespread, disruptive, and controversial of these new technologies is Uber, an online “ride-sharing” application operating in hundreds of cities across forty-five countries. Although it continues to receive the backing of thousands of Torontonians who regularly use its services, it has drawn the wrath of the taxi industry and its regulator, the City of Toronto (the “City”). The tension between these camps culminated in legal action, with the City seeking an order prohibiting Uber from operating within its boundaries without a proper license. Despite the City’s best efforts, the request was dismissed by Justice Sean Dunphy of the Superior Court of Justice earlier this year, in City of Toronto v Uber Canada Inc et al, 2015 ONSC 3572 [City of Toronto].

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[filed: Regulatory Law]

BC Court of Appeal Rules Mexico Improperly Interfered with BC Unionization Effort: United Mexican States v BC

At issue in United Mexican States v British Columbia Labour Relations Board, 2015 BCCA 32 [United Mexican States], was whether the Mexican government could claim sovereign immunity from prosecution under the Labour Relations Code, RSBC 1996, c. 244 [the Code]. The Mexican government had argued that its sovereign immunity would be violated if the British Columbia Labour Relations Board (“the Board”) ruled as to whether Mexico and its Vancouver consulate colluded with a BC agricultural employer to prevent the formation of a union of agricultural workers.
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[filed: Administrative Law]

Canada (Attorney General) v Cold Lake First Nations: Transparency is Not a Top-Down Approach

First Nations and the Harper Government

First Nations in Canada have reason to be hopeful in light of national and legal developments this past week. In the federal election on 19 October 2015, some First Nations communities saw their voter turnout increase by as much as 270%. This increase in turnout happened despite the Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act, SC 2014, c. 12, which made voting harder without approved identification. In addition, ten Aboriginal Members of Parliament were elected to the House of Commons—a positive step in bringing First Nations issues closer to the attention of the federal government.

Most importantly, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is no longer in power. Ten years of Conservative power has been detrimental for Canada’s relationship with First Nations. The Conservative-sponsored Bill C-51 was seen by many as criminalizing First Nations activists. The Harper government also cut funding to Aboriginal organizations; weakened environmental protections that impact First Nations lands; and passed the First Nation Financial Transparency Act, SC 2013, c C-7 [FNFTA], which many First Nations opposed. The enforcement of the FNFTA was the subject of Canada (Attorney General) v Cold Lake First Nations, 2015 FC 1197 [Cold Lake], which saw the Federal Court (“FC”) declare that the federal government should not enforce the FNFTA while legal challenges to its validity are pending.

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[filed: Aboriginal Law Administrative Law Charter]

Youth Sentencing and The Death of Officer Garrett Styles: Punishing with a Cause?

Within a few weeks, Ontario Superior Court Justice Alex Sosna will deliver his sentence in one of the most prolonged and closely watched youth offender cases in Canadian history. He will have to decide the appropriate punishment for a now 19-year-old whose actions led to the death of a York Regional Police constable over four years ago. This case has ignited strong views on what is “fitting” for the offender given the nature of the offense.

As it stands, the youth offender, S.K., is a convicted first-degree murderer but, somehow, this reality does not seem to par with other examples we have of cold, merciless teens torturing and slaughtering innocent parties (see R v MBW, 2007 ABPC 292; R v JJ, [2009] OJ No 6143 (ONSC)).

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[filed: Criminal Code Criminal Law Criminal Procedure Human Rights]

Wilson v British Columbia: A Clear-Cut Ruling to Save Lives

Throughout the years, various offences have been enacted, both in the Criminal Code and under provincial regulation, to deal with a matter of grave public apprehension in Canada: impaired driving. One attempt to address this concern has been through the automatic roadside driving prohibition scheme (the “ARP regime” or “ARP scheme”) that has been used in British Columbia, under the Motor Vehicle Act (“MVA”). The interpretation of this scheme is the core issue in Wilson v British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles), 2015 SCC 47 [Wilson].

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[filed: Administrative Law Statutory Interpretation Technology]

Keeping it in the Family: Municipal Conflict of interest in the Context of Familial Relationships

The decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario (“ONCA”) in Ferri v Ontario (Attorney General), 2015 ONCA 683 [Ferri] is the latest in a string of municipal conflict of interest cases involving prominent municipal politicians. Mario Ferri was a well-known Regional and City Councillor for the City of Vaughan, Ontario. On his own volition, he brought an application in the Ontario Superior Court (“ONSC”) to determine whether he could participate in Council proceedings with respect to an appeal of the City’s Official Plan to the Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”). The appellant of the Official Plan was represented by the Councillor’s son, Steven Ferri. Thus, father and son were on opposite sides of fence from the standpoint of their respective loyalties.

Section 5 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, RSO 1990, c M50 [MCIA] prohibits municipal council members from participating in council proceedings where a council member has a pecuniary interest in any matter under consideration by that municipal council. Furthermore, s. 3 of the MCIA deems a direct or indirect pecuniary interest of a councillor’s family member to be the pecuniary interest of the councillor. Section 4 of the MCIA functions as a saving provision, whereby the councillor can participate in the matter if the interest is so remote or insignificant in its nature that it cannot reasonably be regarded as likely to influence the councillor. This is referred to as the reasonable elector test.

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[filed: Municipal Law Uncategorized]

“An Indefinite Suspension Coupled with the Employer’s Failure to Provide Reasons to an Employee Equals Constructive Dismissal”: The Supreme Court of Canada Rules

In the recent decision of Potter v New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission, 2015 SCC 10, the Supreme Court of Canada [“SCC”] clarified several important rules pertaining to the law of constructive dismissal and administrative suspensions. This decision signifies a number of victories for employees who have been indefinitely suspended from their employment, and further restricts the employer’s ability to avoid their common law obligations in cases where the employment relationship comes to an end.

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[filed: Employment Law]

BC’s Latest Scheme to Deter Drinking and Driving Largely Upheld in Goodwin

For decades, provincial and federal governments have enacted schemes aimed at reducing fatalities related to impaired driving. British Columbia’s latest attempt to curb impaired driving was predominantly upheld in Goodwin v British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) 2015 SCC 46 [Goodwin] and its companion case, Wilson v British Columbia (Superintendent of Motor Vehicles), 2015 SCC 47.

In Goodwin, the petitioners alleged that the provincial Automatic Roadside Prohibition (“ARP”) was ultra vires, and infringed on ss. 8 and 11(d) of the Charter. The Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) held that the provincial ARP scheme was intra vires and did not create an offence within the ambit of s. 11(d). However, there was division within the bench on whether the seizure was reasonable, as guaranteed by s. 8 of the Charter. For the majority, Justice Karakatsanis held that only a part of the ARP scheme both infringed s. 8 and could not be saved under s. 1.

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[filed: Charter Constitutional Law Criminal Law]

ATCO Gas and Pipelines Ltd v Alberta: Why You Are Paying More on Your Electricity Bill

In December of 2013, a damning Ontario Auditor General report zeroed in on Ontario Power Generator (“OPG”) and its executive compensation packages. The report accused OPG of unnecessarily driving up electricity prices through nepotism, high labour costs, and one of the province’s most generous public-sector pension plans in comparison to the Ontario Public Service as a whole. In response, the provincial government promised to clamp down on executive bonuses and reign in spending—but not much seems to have happened since then.

Electricity and heating bills are one of the largest items for a household budget. For the average Ontario family that has seen the price of daily life skyrocket, it is deeply disturbing to find out that their electricity bills make an allowance for executive compensation, staff pensions, and living allowances. This is not to say that workers should not have pensions or competitive salaries, but what is the line that needs to be drawn?

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[filed: Administrative Law Competition Law Consumer Protection Provincial Regulations]

Rogue Juror? R v Pannu and Protecting Jury Deliberation

The film 12 Angry Men is a classic representation of the diverse personalities that come together on a jury and the challenges of reaching a consensus. In it, we see how group dynamics constantly evolve as the jury struggles to meet their obligation of delivering a sound verdict.

Last week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario (“ONCA”) in R v Pannu, 2015 ONCA 677 dealt with this very issue. The justices ruled on a case that concerned a jury member bringing extraneous information into the jury deliberation room. The main point of contention was the potential influence that this unauthorized information would have on other jury members and thus the integrity of the verdict itself. Though there is a presumption that jurors understand and will follow the instructions they are given, this presumption is nonetheless rebuttable.

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[filed: Constitutional Law Criminal Code Criminal Law Criminal Procedure]