Legal News Articles

Alcohol Taxes Across Provinces

craft-beer-nightAs the summer comes to an end, many are rushing to fit in their last few days of vacation. Many individuals choose to stay within Canada to avoid extra costs, especially with the dollar on the decline. Most individuals bring back alcohol as souvenirs from their trips but this can become a complicated matter when crossing borders. Regular travellers to the U.S are aware that there are alcohol taxes when crossing the border; however, did you know there were also alcohol taxes when crossing borders within Canada?

In 2012, Gerard Comeau had travelled to Quebec from New Brunswick to collect alcohol. The 59 year old man was shocked when he was arrested for transporting illegal importing alcohol into his home province. He had 12 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor on him. In the past, Comeau had made several trips over the course of three years to buy significantly cheaper beer in Quebec and had no problems but this time was different. Comeau was charged in accordance to the federal anti-smuggling laws put in place during the peak of Prohibition which forbids importing more than a single bottle of wine or 12 pints of beer from an outside province into New Brunswick. Many individuals were shocked to learn about this provision.

Numerous individuals are supporting Comeau’s cause via crowdfunding. The matter is to be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada. Furthermore, legal experts believe this outdated law needs to be revisited as it should no longer be applicable. Although section 121 of the Constitution allows for free movement of goods across provincial borders there is a conflict with a Supreme Court decision made in 1921 which interpreted section 121 in a manner that could prove to be an obstacle for Comeau. The law was argued to be interpreted in a narrow manner rather than in the spirit of the law.

What are your thoughts?

Should there be provincial limitations on alcohol importation from other provinces?

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Ashley Madison “Life is short. Have an affair”

AMBackground

Ashley Madison is a website that encourages married couples to have affairs. It has over 30 million registered users and has created global chaos after hackers released the names of its users.

How did this all start? The story is rather simple. Some users who now identify themselves as the “Impact team” wanted their information removed from the website. Ashley Madison required a fee to have the information removed. Despite paying the fee, users’ profiles remained intact.

Unfortunately for Ashley Madison, these individuals were hackers who then threatened to release all user profiles to the public. In spite of the hackers’ threats, Ashley Madison did not pay the hackers their desired amount of money to protect Ashley Madison users. The hackers eventually released the names of some users and then all the users which resulted in chaos. As you can imagine, this resulted in a complicated web of legal issues.

Controversy

There were over 36 million users profiles exposed online for the public to view which included: the users’ personal names, emails, homes addresses and message history. Josh Duggar (star of 19 kids and counting) was one of the individuals exposed for having an account on the Ashley Madison website.   There are hundreds of emails addresses and data releases that are connected to municipal, provincial, federal workers, RCMP and military personnel. Furthermore, some of the credit-card transactions have been linked to the House of Commons and department of national defense. Radio stations are having individuals call in and “check” if their spouses were found on the list and the answers are revealed live on the radio.

Not Fun and Games

The Toronto Police Department have issued a warning to the hackers informing them that this is not fun and games as two individuals have committed suicide since the release of their information. Users are arguing that their personal information is being illegally exposed and their right to privacy is also being infringed. However, Canadian Ashley Madison users have a knight in shining armour; his name is Eliot Shore, an Ottawa widower.

Knight in shining armour

Mr. Shore had lost his wife to breast cancer a few years back and was looking for companionship on Ashley Madison. Mr. Shore argues that he never met anyone on the website and never cheated on his wife. He is suing Ashley Madison, not the hackers. He believes Ashley Madison should have protected his information and not asked for personal information that they could not secure. This class action also involves individuals who had paid to have their information deleted from the database on multiple occasions while the website kept their information intact on the database.

How much is Ashley Madison being sued for? $750 million in general damages and $10 million in punitive damages. General damages include suffering which cannot be equated to a fiscal amount and rewarded due to a breach of a contract or violation of the plaintiff’s rights i.e. pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Punitive damages are used to deter parties from breaching future contracts for instance the blameworthiness of the defendant for the contract breach and the vulnerability of the plaintiff.

The class action is being handled by law firms Charney Lawyers and Sutts, Strosberg LLP. Divorce Attorneys are expecting Christmas to come early this year, as they are expecting countless divorce cases to come their way in early September.

Regardless of the moral stand on cheating, users have had their right to privacy infringed. They have also had their right to have their personal information secured online infringed

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Did you know that as economic equality increases between men and women, both sexes are equally as likely to cheat? Has it become socially acceptable to have an affair? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

United Nations Criticizes Bill C-51

Many Canadians were frustrated by the passing of Bill C-51 also known as the Anti-terrorism Act when it first became public; this concern has now made its way to the United Nations.

After the United Nations (UN) reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act, it too had some concerns regarding human right violations. The UN Human Rights Committee has urged the Canadian government to reform the anti-terrorism act which came into effect last month. The UN Human Rights committee has concerns regarding the violation of Canadian fundamental rights. Below are just a few of the concerns the UN voiced to the Canadian government.

The UN Human Rights committee spoke against how security certificates that allow government officials to detain and remove individuals may lead to unlawful deportations. Although the government would use legal means to deport an individual, the UN Human Rights Committee is concerned that the government may exploit this power in an unlawful manner.

Secondly, the committee suggested that legal safeguards should be put in place to avoid right abuses. The committee also encouraged the government to employ judicial involvement in matters pertaining to the authorization of surveillance measures. The UN Human Rights committee also encouraged effective and adequate oversight mechanisms for security and intelligence agencies. Finally the UN encouraged the government to also consider using judicial involvement when determining if someone should be placed on a no-fly list. Furthermore, the committee suggested that the government should inform individuals placed on the no-fly list to allow them a chance to challenge the decision.

Although the UN Human Rights Committee has made these suggestions and voiced their concerns, their decisions are not binding. The Canadian government can consider the suggestions and take action as they wish. The Canadian government has suggested that they are protecting the rights of individuals and will continue to do so when applying the Anti-terrorism Act.

Currently, in the domestic sphere, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression have launched an action against Bill C-51. This domestic case is supported by numerous Bill C-51 critics who believe the legislation is ineffective and unnecessary

Supporters of Bill C-51 argue that the government should do whatever is required to ensure Canadians are safe and protected from terrorist attacks. Furthermore, supporters argue that they have nothing to hide and believe they will not be impacted by the government’s stricter laws and new mechanisms to combat terrorism.

Points of discussion:

1. What are your thoughts on the UN intervention in domestic matters?

2. Do you have any concerns regarding Bill C-51?

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$5000 For A Parking Spot ?

What if you could make a few extra dollars renting your driveway to individuals for space to park their cars? Some people already are.

Toronto is known for its congested roads and lack of parking spaces. We have all driven around in Toronto looking for a close parking spot without having to pay a small fortune for a few hours. Some home owners decided to offer their driveway space for rent via a phone app called Rover parking app. The app allows individuals to rent a space and pay for it online; the rate reflects the general rate in Toronto, $2 per hour.

Sound familiar? It sounds a lot like Uber doesn’t it? Similar to Uber, this app is also facing bylaw conflicts. Rover parking app has been deemed illegal and could result in a $5000 fine. Klaus Lehmann, a bylaw official stated that renting out driveways can constitute a commercial lot which conflicts with the city bylaws.

Co-founder of Rover parking app, Tim Wootton has a different perspective. Wootton believes that his app is within the bylaws of the city as he does not believe that a driveway constitutes a commercial parking lot. Furthermore, he believes the bylaws are meant to deter individuals from parking on lawns rather than prohibiting homeowners from making some extra money.

Wooton goes on to argue that earlier in the year, drivers were permitted to pay for parking at Green P via phone transactions. During the time, Mayor John Tory had encouraged Torontonians to embrace innovation and developments. He went as far to state that it was time to embrace the future rather than fight it. Wooton believes this is exactly what he is doing.

With new apps developing every day, it is challenging for bylaw officials to ensure that all apps are following legal protocol. As new technology is produced, government officials are forced to continuously update municipal, provincial and federal laws through a lengthy legal process.

Conversely, many individuals create apps without considering legal implications of their innovative ideas. In particular, bylaws are generally overlooked as many individuals do not consider the implications bylaws may have on their product. For instance, setting up a simple facility can contradict with multiple zoning bylaws. Many individuals are unaware that legal professions, including paralegals can assist their clients in determining what bylaws apply to your particular case.

Points of Discussion:

1. What do you think of the Rover App?

2. Would you use the Rover App?

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What If I Want To Live Forever?

Keegan Macintosh, a UBC law graduate, would like the B.C Supreme Court to allow him to live forever.  He would like to overturn the provincial laws and have his body preserved post death. Why? He hopes to be resuscitated at a later time.

Keegan feels the court should have no problem with his desire to extend his life in the future. He is using the Charter to support his case. He believes the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act all infringe on his rights to possibly have a future after death.  Keegan is willing to use his personal resources to help achieve his goal and feels the government should have no say in how he chooses to have his body treated post death.

Keegan isn’t alone in his fight; he is a co-plaintiff in a matter with the Lifespan Society of B.C, a non-profit organization that advocates for cryonics, the conservancy of bodies after clinical death to stop the progressions of decomposition.  The thesis of cryonics is based on the idea that untreatable medical conditions will be curable in the future such as the natural body aging process.

B.C.’s Funeral Services Act prohibits the sale of body engagements meant for the preservation of a body based on the anticipation of future resuscitation.  The claim states that the B.C is the sole jurisdiction that does not allow for the sale of cryonic services.

The claim also states that the provincial laws infringe on an individual’s right to life. Furthermore, the suit also claims that the law denies individuals the right to liberty by contradicting their choice to dispose of their bodies as they wish.

Supporters have argued that if there was a religion behind the choice to be frozen after death, the law would’ve been more sympathetic and would support their choice.  Furthermore, it was argued that individuals who wish to be frozen post death are fighting for a chance to live again as they know there isn’t a guarantee and the government has no place to interfere with this desire.

Points of discussion:

1. Do you think the state has a place to interfere with how one would like their body to be treated post death?

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UberX

It is no surprise that UberX has been under scrutiny for some time now, but why? Isn’t UberX just another taxi service? Not according to the courts.

UberX services have been subjected to multiple rape accusations by customers. It has been under fire long enough to compel the government to take some action. According to the law, UberX services differ from regular taxi services as they do not reflect the legal criterion to be regulated under taxi regulations. UberX allows ordinary individuals to pick up passengers for a fare unlike taxi drivers who are regulated. Taxi drivers have voiced their concerns about this practice for considerable time but have not seen much progression on the issue.

An Ontario Superior Court judge argued that Toronto’s bylaws do not include ride-sharing; consequently, it’s been challenging for the government to regulate UberX services. However, UberX services do violate bylaws pertaining to limousines. According to Toronto bylaws, limousines include non-taxi automobiles that are hired “for the conveyance of passengers”. Bylaw officers have used this loop hole to target UberX services and try to regulate their services. Approximately 36 UberX drivers have been charged for illegally operating limousines. Thus far bylaw officers have filed 72 charges against UberX drivers in the last few days. The fines vary from $300 – $500.

The Challenge

City officials must abide by the law until it is changed. Although the government is moving towards creating bylaws to regulate UberX those changes have not yet been implemented. A new report for UberX regulations is due in September.

City enforcement staff has made multiple attempts to regulate UberX but have fallen short in the past. When city enforcement staff register user accounts and request UberX rides, the accounts are deactivated by UberX once it is determined that those accounts lead to charges under the municipal code. With technology rapidly expanding and becoming more complex, it is challenging for lawmakers to account for all of the possible legal implications that may arise from a single new form of technology. Government officials need to consider the importance of regulation while protecting privacy rights and additional freedoms that can be infringed on due to hasty action. Furthermore, lawmakers need to consider the how new laws will impact precedent cases and existing laws. Hence, a “simple” legal change can take considerable amount of time.

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Points of Discussion:
1. How do you feel about the changes proposed to UberX services?
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Family Law Can Be A Dangerous Business

It is no surprise that family law involves a great deal of passion and emotion for everyone involved but what happens when the passion turns violent? Maria Mitousis, an established lawyer became the victim of a bombing fueled by revenge. Mitousis works in a small law firm in Winnipeg and has an established legal career.

Ms. Mitousis was bombed by an ex- husband of a client. Mitousis was representing her client in two matters: one of divorce and the second in a lawsuit for an auto body shop that was owned jointly by her client and her client’s husband Guido Amsel. She had received mail which upon opening exploded. Mitousis has lost her right hand and her left hand is severely injured. She has suffered multiple injuries to her face, chest and thighs.

The accused, Guido Amsel, a 49-year-old man had gone through a long and bitter divorce with his wife who was represented by Ms. Mitousis. Ms. Mitousis argued that Mr. Amsel owed her client $40,000 from the auto body shop they had ran together while married.

Amsel planned a revenge rampage after the case was settled. Amsel is accused of filling digital voice recorders with explosive compounds and mailing them to places linked to the legal battles.  Amsel is accused of sending out multiple explosive devices linked to the legal proceedings.

One explosive was sent to Ms. Mitousis’ law firm. Another explosive was sent to his ex-wife’s workplace which was successfully detonated.  A third explosive was sent to a law firm that once represented Amsel in his legal battle until the lawyer withdrew his case due to a breakdown in the relationship; this bomb was also safely detonated.

Amsel has been charged with two accounts of attempted murder along with additional charges. He has not yet entered his plea in respect to the charges and currently does not have representation. Family lawyers across Canada are taking this incident very seriously and taking precautions to protect themselves.  Following the incident, multiple family lawyers have admitted to being victims of verbal abuse and even death threats but are shocked after hearing Ms. Mitousis’ story.  Many legal practitioners are re-examining former cases and clients to account for possible future threats. Furthermore, some family lawyers have admitted to being paranoid and changing their routes to work to avoid establishing patterns for their clients hostile ex’s.

Clients often view opposing council as part of the issue which can result in hostility. Although lawyers can argue a case, the judge makes the final decision in accordance to the law and precedents. An individual’s misplaced anger can often be displaced on to the opposing party’s council as an extension of the client they represent.  When individuals choose to utter threats and take legal matters into their own hands, the result is usually detrimental to their own case.  It’s important to recognize that opposing council is only fulfilling their job- to represent their client to the best of their abilities; it’s not a personal vendetta against someone.

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Points of Discussion:

1. Were you aware of the hostility lawyers face? Are you surprised?

2. What are your thoughts?

I would love to hear from legal professionals!

1.  Have you been a victim of client hostility?