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Pro Bono is a monthly column written by lawyers and legal experts at Iler Campbell LLP that explores the murky legal waters activists regularly confront in doing their work.
Columnists

Taking the fight for housing rights to court

Earlier this year, we considered the Ontario Superior Court's decision on the landmark Charter application regarding housing rights in Tanudjaja et al. v. the Attorney General (Canada) ("Tanudjaja").

Columnists

Anti-terror bill C‑44: Pushing the limits of Canadian rights

On October 29, 2014 the government introduced Bill C‑44, an Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other (related) Acts, cited in short form as the Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act. Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney stated that the amendments put forward under Bill C‑44 are required to keep Canadians safe from terrorism and to protect and uphold the privacy of confidential informants.

Columnists

Canadian lawyers and Chevron's court battle over environmental damage in Ecuador

A storm of controversy erupted amongst Canadian lawyers when the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) decided to intervene in Chevron's appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The appeal is part of Chevron's battle against Ecuadorian Indigenous peoples who seek to enforce a massive court judgment against the company for environmental damage in Ecuador. Amid increasing pressure, the CBA ultimately decided not to intervene. However, the event speaks to an apparent divide within the legal profession: around the relationship and importance of corporate law principles (such as the corporate veil), corporate accountability, and access to and the administration of justice.

Columnists

Expiring operating agreements: An opportunity for housing innovation

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's (CMHC) operating agreements with non‑profit housing co‑operatives and rental housing providers have begun to expire across Canada at a rapid rate. These agreements with their related mortgages, entered into under various federal programs between 1970 and 1994, supply housing providers with between 25 and 40 years of annual subsidy money to provide reduced monthly charges to a specified percentage of tenants and members who qualify for support. With the conclusion of these agreements and their related mortgages, housing providers will cease making mortgage payments, but at the same time, they will no longer receive housing subsidy payments -- payments that subsidize some 200,000 households in Canada comprising half a million people.

Columnists

Protecting public debate through anti-SLAPP legislation

Last week, Greenpeace Canada filed a defence in a claim by Resolute Forest Products Inc. This was the result of a failed motion by Greenpeace to have Resolute's claim for intentional interference with economic relations dismissed by the Divisional Court of Ontario, together with an order requiring Greenpeace to pay $20,000 in costs.

Columnists

Charities and the limits of political action under the Harper government

Environmental Defence. PEN Canada. Amnesty International Canada. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Canada Without Poverty. The David Suzuki Foundation.

What do these organizations have in common -- aside from all doing great work?

All are registered charities.

All have been publicly critical of Stephen Harper's government.

And all are undergoing audits of their political activities by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

What's this about? Here's what you need to know.

When organizations seek charitable registration from government in order to entice donors who would like tax receipts, they necessarily accept oversight by a government agency that, in an atmosphere as poisonous as Canada's these days, can overreach.

Columnists

Harper takes a swing at the Supreme Court after losing yet another case

In the past few years, the Harper government has aggressively pursued its own agenda without due regard for the Canadian Constitution, the rights of the provinces and the rights of the most vulnerable Canadians. It has pushed for Senate reform, tougher criminal laws, and even subtly attempted to shift the balance of the Supreme Court of Canada by appointing judges with a conservative bent.

Stephen Harper may have hoped that his five appointments to the Supreme Court would influence the outcome of the cases before it, but a recent string of well‑deserved thrashings in court have demonstrated that the Supreme Court is truly an independent, non‑partisan body, able to act as a check on the government's (inappropriate) actions.

Columnists

Straight to the heart of Trinity Western's anti-gay law school rules

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) released its report on Trinity Western University's (TWU) proposed law school program in December 2013. The FLSC gave TWU's law school preliminary approval despite serious concerns expressed by different sectors of the legal profession, including the Council of Canadian Law Deans, that the school's Community Covenant Agreement, which requires TWU students and staff to agree not to engage in same‑sex sexual intimacy, discriminates against LGBTQ students.

FLSC's approval has, unsurprisingly, led to strong and divergent opinions on the appropriate balancing of rights.  

Columnists

Federal Court finds Canadian government failed to protect species at risk

Recently, a number of environmental groups represented by Ecojustice brought a series of judicial reviews alleging that the federal government has unlawfully failed to protect four species due to delays: the Pacific Humpback Whale, Nechako White Sturgeon, Marbled Murrelet and Southern Mountain Caribou.

Without a recovery strategy, the species are not fully protected under the federal Species At Risk Act, which depends on the recovery strategy for some protections to kick in. All four species' habitat lies along the controversial proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and shipping route in northern B.C. 

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