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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

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. 

Columnists

Rana Plaza victims still awaiting compensation after garment factory disaster

Following the failed compensation talks in Geneva in September 2013, an agreement has now been reached and a process established to compensate the victims of the Rana Plaza factory disaster in Bangladesh. Very few of the 28 retailers involved, however, have signed the accord or agreed to provide compensation to victims and their families.

Columnists

Whose freedom of expression is the Harper government protecting?

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Last week, in Prime Minister Stephen Harper's address to the Israeli Knesset, he equated criticisms of the Israeli state and its policies with anti-Semitism. He stated that "most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state," continuing on to say that "it is nothing short of sickening."

Columnists

Changes to Canadian Experience Class immigration program introduce new eligibility provisions

On November 8, 2013 Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced changes to the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program. The new CEC eligibility provisions apply to any application received at the Sydney, Nova Scotia Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office on or after November 9, 2013.

A cap has been imposed limiting the number of applicants to be accepted. Between November 9, 2013 to October 31, 2014, CIC will accept a maximum of 12,000 new applications under the Canadian Experience Class immigration category.

Columnists

Moving away from the transport of dangerous goods toward safer, low-carbon solutions

The Lac‑Mégantic derailment in Quebec last July involved the transportation of 72 tank cars of crude oil. This derailment caused the confirmed deaths of 42 people, with five more missing and presumed dead. Approximately half the downtown core was destroyed. It is one of the most significant train disasters in Canadian history.

Columnists

Do governments have to pay out on their contracts?

In light of debates about the real cost of government contracts, including the $14-billion fighter jets and the $1-billion Ontario gas plant cancellation, it is worth noting what the principles are that govern government contracts.

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