justice system

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

shIt seems everyone has a story where they have been victims of unwanted attention from coworkers, clients or employers.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, these comments stand out in particular:

“You always have the prettiest women working for you; where do you find them?” I was working in an accounting office when a man walked in and said this to my employer in front of me, he then looked at me as if I should have been flattered instead of disgusted.

A more recent example, a client had called for information that I did not have on hand so I asked if I could get his number to call him back and he replied with “If I give you my number, can I have yours?” I replied with a stern “no”. He was shocked and said “but you just responded with a no” – I’m not sure what he was expecting to be honest. Although some argue that this is merely “harmless humour”, others would strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment is common in most workplaces; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will now include sexual harassment under its code to help protect employees. The proposition of the act is currently being referred to as Bill 132 and will include factors such as: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, sexual solicitation and advances made by a person in a position of power.

shhThe objective is to help victims who are too afraid to take action against such behaviour in their workplace due to power dynamics with the harasser. The idea is that the harasser should know or should reasonably know that such advances would be unwelcomed. The bill will allow the Ministry of Labour to order third-party investigations into sexual harassment complaints. Who will pay for this investigation? The employer, especially in circumstances where the investigation process is faulty or inadequate.

The bill is expected to become effective as of Sept. 8, 2016.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act will set out:

  1. Investigators responsible to oversee the investigation if the accused harasser is the employer;
  2. the means of maintaining confidentiality; and
  3. make conclusions drawn from the investigation available to both the complainant and alleged harasser

Employers would be required to carry out:

1. appropriate investigations;
2. make available written results; and
3. complete annual reviews of the sexual harassment complaints (at minimum)

Have you been harassed at work? What is your story? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Tackling Sexual Assault

awarenessSexual assault impacts 1 in 3 women in Canada. Women under the age of 35 are 5 times more likely to be victims of sexual violence than their counterparts. Sexual violence  impacts many aspects of a victim’s life and the Liberal government wants to address this concern with their new legislation. The legislation was proposed in late October and aims to assist victims in various circumstances including: their homes, schools, work and the justice system.

Arguably, the biggest change will occur in the legal realm. Courts will be asked to remove any limitation periods for civil proceedings founded on sexual assault or misconduct. Thus limitation periods to bring civil action would be removed. Furthermore, survivors of sexual and domestic violence will also be permitted to make applications to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board without time constraints.

Every_Canadian_Needs_A_CopyIn respect to work, employers will be liable to improve their sexual harassment prevention programs and conduct “appropriate investigations” of complaints. If a complainant feels the employer has failed to conduct an appropriate investigation they can take legal action against the employer.

Currently, the Occupational Health and Safety Act vaguely addresses sexual harassment as:

“Engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct against a worker in a workplace because of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, where the course of comment or conduct is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome.”

The Liberal government aims to define sexual harassment in a manner that will outline consent and unacceptable behavior.

At this moment in time, most postsecondary institutions merely state that sexual violence will not be tolerated and will be handled in accordance to the Criminal Code of Canada. The proposed legislation  would require post-secondary institutions and private career colleges to create individual policies addressing sexual violence. The policies will be reviewed every three years with student input.

Finally, tenants will be permitted to exit a lease due to sexual or domestic violence in 28 days rather than the current 60 days limitation period. This will make it easier for victims to flee their abusers and escape financial abuse.

Activists are supporting the proposed legislation and suggesting it is long overdue while critics are concerned about the unaccounted for repercussions of such legislation.

Critics argue that allowing tenants to exit their rental leases in half the time due to sexual or domestic violence may discourage landlords from renting their spaces to women. Furthermore, some individuals are concerned that this will not tackle the pre-existing stigma against victims. Todd Minerson, executive director of the White Ribbon campaign, argued that the discussion around consent needs to continue as some men do not understand what consent entails. Hence, some feel that the proposed legislation is not enough.

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Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about the new proposed legislation?

2. What additions would you like to make to the new legislation?

Aboriginal Women Targeted By Police Officers

abVal d’Or is known for its longstanding history with aboriginal communities including the Algonquin and Cree tribes but not without conflict. Aboriginals have protested against how the police force treats their women for years and are now finally being heard.

Countless aboriginal women have stated that Sûreté du Québec officers have assaulted or punished women for being intoxicated by driving them out of town and abandoning them in the cold.  Police brutality towards aboriginal women was no surprise to many Quebecers but the presence of sexual abuse was shocking.

Many aboriginal women have stated that police officers would occasionally request the women to perform oral sex. Refusing to follow through would often result in agonizing repercussions. According to the women, the authorities were well aware of these complaints before they went public but chose to ignore them. Will this time be different?

Quebec’s public security minister stated that eight Sûreté du Québec officers were suspended due to 14 complaints of abuse of power and assault in a news conference. The officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty based on substantial evidence to support the claims made by the aboriginal women. Since the initial story was released additional aboriginal women have shared their own parallel accounts of sexual violence inflicted by the police force.

Retired judge Lawrence Poitras supports the concern expressed by aboriginal women when he stated “officers accused of abuse often retaliate with criminal charges against the accusers in order to cover their tracks.” – CBC article http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/val-dor-cameras-1.3290119

The Montreal police force is now responsible for overseeing the investigation. The aim is to prevent the SQ from overseeing the investigation and protecting its officers. Furthermore, Pierre Veilleux, the president of the Quebec provincial police union (APPQ), shared with CBC that the force is aiming to place cameras in cruisers beginning December to assess the severity of the situation.

Politicians are raising concerns about how prevalent this abuse of power might be in other parts of Quebec with aboriginal communities. Many politicians have also suggested the need for a provincial investigation to ensure that the protection of vulnerable members of the community.  Advocates have stated that a victim’s background including drug addictions and prostitution do not justify the abuse of power displayed by the officers.

Abuse of power results in a lack of trust in authorities and often results in rebellion; for example, many individuals are protesting against the abuse of power in the streets of Quebec. Furthermore, some aboriginals chose not to attend work as a form of protest.

If these allegations are proven true then one must question where aboriginals are to turn to seek justice if the authority that is supposed to provide them protection is exploiting them? Consequently, many officers are perturbed by the abuse of power and even angered by the lack of respect these officers displayed for their positions of power.

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Justice For Amanda Todd

bleech

This picture was created by one of her peers. Amanda was tagged in numerous photos similar to this one by her peers after leaving her school. In her video she elaborates on the difficulties she had moving on due to her peers tagging her in similar pictures such as this.

Amanda Todd was 15 when she took her life as a result of online bullying. She was blackmailed into exposing her breasts on webcam to an online predator and was stalked and bullied by him. She changed schools but he found her again and made a Facebook page with her friends showing her breasts as the profile picture. As a result, she was continuously bullied by peers. She committed suicide in October of 2012.  The Canadian justice system is trying to persecute the man allegedly behind this heinous crime, Aydin Coban, but is facing considerable difficulty due to international law regulations.

Aydin Coban resides in the Netherlands and was under suspicion for distributing child porn in Amanda’s case but was not formally charged with her death. Upon further investigation it was determined that Coban had been arrested in January of 2014 for harassing victims online and charges including indecent assault and production and dissemination of child pornography.  A few months later, the RCMP declared that he was also charged with five accounts including extortion, internet luring, criminal harassment and the possession and distribution of child pornography in B.C in relation to Amanda Todd’s case. Coban has been suspected of blackmailing youth from all over the world to perform sexual acts over webcam. He is also facing sextortion and distribution of child pornography in a case of another Canadian youth.

Coban’s trial is currently in pretrial-motion hearings stage; the parties argue before a judge what evidence should be admissible, who can or cannot testify and if the case should be dismissed completely. It has been stated that Coban will not be charged in relation to non- Dutch victims (including Amanda). Christian van Dijk, Coban’s lawyer, has disclosed that Coban is on trial for 39 alleged victims. De Bruin, the Canadian lawyer for Todd has stated that Coban could be handed-over to Canadian authorities if the authorities choose to take that path. Conversely, Van Dijk has explained that extradition is not an option so long as the case continues in the Netherlands.

With the expansion and complexity of technology it has become difficult to determine the jurisdiction and legal implications of international crimes. Cybercrime and exploitation have become easier through the internet and various social media facets. Alternatively, these tools also serve to create social awareness and can be used as tool for victims to have a voice. For instance, Amanda Todd made a YouTube video explaining how she was exploited and bullied.

Countless youths are targeted and blackmailed by unknown faces online and then isolated by their peers when their story is brought to the public eye. Unfortunately, there are still individuals who suggest “don’t show your boobs online “is the solution but the topic is far more complex than nudity, legally and morally. Sometimes victims are unaware that photos are being taken of them or being shared. Predators often have information about the victim’s family, their residence, their school and more to manipulate their victims such was Amanda’s story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E .

What are your thoughts?

Do you believe Coban should have a Canadian trial?

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Inmates Will Be Voting In The Election, Will You?

prisonWith Election Day less than two weeks away, many are debating on casting a ballot. On the other hand, there are inmates who are serving life sentences and are anxious to vote. Although inmates may not be able to reap all the benefits community members do from voting, many still choose to cast a ballot. Why?

Background

Before Rick Sauve, a member of the Satan’s Choice motorcycle gang, inmates were not always entitled to vote. Sauve was serving a life sentence for murder when he decided to contest the court for his right to vote in elections.

The challenge commenced in 1992 and resulted in all inmates having the right to vote in federal elections in 2004. Initially, the Supreme Court of Canada amended the Elections Act to only allow provincial inmates serving less than two year sentences to vote but then eventually extended the right to all inmates. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that prohibiting inmates from voting would result in disenfranchisement. One may question why an inmate serving a life sentence (25 years in prison) would fight for such a right when they cannot enjoy all the benefits of it.

Why Voting Matters

Despite popular misconceptions, the goal of the justice system is to create law – abiding, functional and contributing members of society. Consequently, depriving inmates of their right to vote prevents them from learning about what’s happening in their community and having a say in what the government is offering them. Voting also aids inmates in having a voice in their current environment including voting for health care legislation that will benefit them. Voting also provides inmates with the opportunity to vote for political candidates that may help benefit their loved ones outside prison walls.

Voting Trends

voteAccording to Elections Canada, voting among prisoners has increased from 9,000 voters in 2004 to 17,100 voters in 2011. It will be interesting to see what kind of results this election will bring. It has been argued that many inmates develop a social conscience in prison. Sauve explains this when he states:

“Surprisingly, there’s a number that lean towards the Green party, because they’re concerned about the environment. A lot of people develop a social conscience when they’re in prison.”

Sauve is currently on parole and a mentor to his fellow life serving inmates. Sauve encourages inmates to vote despite their hardships including language barriers and trouble spelling names.

Inmates voting ballots are different from regular ballots due to the diversity of communities inmates originate from. Rather than marking a box next to a name, inmates are required to print the name of the candidates they are voting for, which can result in difficulty for some.

As Canadians, we are fortunate enough to live in a country that considers voting a right. Various groups throughout history have fought to have the right to vote. If we don’t like our current government, we have a right to cast a vote and try to change it; a right not given to everyone in the world. Will you be voting in this election?

Did you like this piece? Did you learn something new? If so, please press “like” and subscribe!

Points of Discussion:

1. What did you find most surprising about this piece?

100 POSTS!

The Social Paralegal (TSP) has covered numerous legal topics and developments ranging from bylaws to international entities commenting on Canadian laws. This post will provide a brief recap of some of the most interesting pieces with key words for searches (underlined) and links to some of the pieces.

Paralegal Profession

One of my favourite pieces “I’m a Paralegal but I’m Not Rachel Zane” outlines what the paralegal profession entails. Many individuals were shocked to learn the difference between Canadian and American paralegals. Have you read the piece yet? If not here’s a link: http://tinyurl.com/pw4wsnu. In addition to this piece there were multiple pieces regarding the paralegal scope of practice and debunking legal myths. TSP also focused on consumer rights, landlord tenant issues and summary conviction matters.

Collaborations

Another much-loved piece was my collaboration with Child, Youth Worker student Ms. Poonia. Ms. Poonia helped me examine the issue of youth delinquency and where the problem lies. This piece provoked significant discussion and enlightenment among readers: http://tinyurl.com/p25ebog. A second collaboration I enjoyed working on was with a police officer who helped identify issues faced by victims of domestic violence and what they should expect when pursuing a legal action.

Legal Developments

Some controversial pieces include the Bill C-24 Citizenship post, Bill C-51 Anti-terrorist Bill and the “Bare With Us” piece regarding women’s rights. There were also pieces addressing: the new Sex-Ed curriculum, Instagram pictures, Facebook legal complexities and the impact of social media in the legal realm. TSP analyzed the legalities of new phone apps and methods to protect yourself from having your personal information misconstrued via social media. These pieces continue to provoke discussion among readers on Facebook and WordPress.

Personal Favourites

A piece that is very close to my heart is my post “Mental Health: It’s Not What You Think”. Many individuals are impacted by mental health issues and unfairly live with stigmatization. Mental health is far more complex than one may think and this post explains just that from a legal perspective. Make sure you give it a read! http://tinyurl.com/o5sevq6 .

Everyone is familiar with the term “FHRITP” but I put a twist on the term and explored the legalities of misbehaviour in the public eye while working for a well- known firm http://tinyurl.com/kvxny6t .

Finally, although American dramas are exhilarating to watch they often do not reflect the Canadian justice system. The objective of this piece was to counter popular misconceptions of what the Canadian judicial system entails http://tinyurl.com/l4cxfce.

I’d love to hear from you! What were some of your favourite TSP posts? What do you like about TSP? What would you like to see more of on TSP? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Thank you readers for your consistent support via comments, likes and shares! Your efforts have helped TSP reach 400+ likes on Facebook, 50+ WordPress subscribers, almost 100 followers on Twitter and 250+ followers on Instagram!!

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Too Drunk To Be Guilty Of A Hit And Run

The justice system is a complex balance between protecting the rights of citizens and accurate punishment violating those rights; maintaining this balance can be challenging and confusing such is the case of Trevor Clarke.

Trevor Clarke, a volunteer firefighter was convicted last Monday of impaired driving causing bodily harm in a collision in the fall of 2012. The collision had left a cyclist in critical condition and stranded on the side of the road.  Clarke’s blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit during the accident.  He had hit a cyclist with the left side mirror of his car which fell off due to the impact.

The 45 year old nurse who was hit was left with head injuries and cannot recall the accident.  The nurse suffered from traumatic brain injuries and continues to struggle physically and emotionally.  However, Clarke will not receive punishment to the full extent of the law. Why?

Justice David Paciocco ruled that Clarke was too drunk to know that he had hit anyone.  Legally speaking, a criminal act requires two components actus reus and mens rea.  Actus reus is the guilty act and mens rea is the guilty mind (intention to commit the act). Since Clarke had drank beyond the legal limit for driving he was convicted for impaired driving causing bodily harm.  However, Clarke could not form intent to hit a person driving on the road due to his level of intoxication. Furthermore, Clarke was not aware that he had hit someone as a result of his excessive intoxication level and hence could not be found guilty of the failing to stop offence.

Charter Violations

Clarke was also found not guilty of driving with a blood-alcohol level over .08% causing bodily harm. Although it was evident that Clarke had exceeded the blood-alcohol level for driving he could not be convicted as the officers had violated his Charter rights; Clarke was not fully informed about his drunk-driving arrest.

Furthermore, Clarke’s rights to council were violated again as the officers did not inform Clarke of his right to a lawyer when detained. The police had begun questioning Clarke before he had access to a lawyer which made the conversation inadmissible.  The officers also failed to take notes during the conversation and could not completely recall the conversation in court.

A constable also failed to inform Clarke’s lawyer that Clarke was a suspect in a hit and run case with serious injuries involved. These serious Charter violations resulted in a more lenient decision for Clarke.

The Challenge

In cases such as these, the breaches are too serious to ignore. Clarke was denied some of his fundamental rights; failing to acknowledge the breach of fundamental rights would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.  If this case were to proceed without acknowledging the violation of rights, it would enforce the idea of tyranny.  Law enforcers could then violate the rights of the public to establish a case without honoring their rights. This would result re-examination of countless precedents and challenging our fundamental rights as Canadians. Thus, the legal system is far more complex than just the courts, it involves the proper execution of procedures on all levels to achieve justice.

Points of Discussion

  1. Has this post helped you to better understand the criminal justice system? If so, how?
  2. How do you feel about the decision after reading this article?

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