The voters in British Columbia did their work, now legislators must do theirs

This op-ed was originally published in the Vancouver Sun on June 19, 2017

BC’s stunningly close election result has pulled an arcane debate about parliamentary precedent into the public eye, and the whole country is watching for what will happen next. British Columbians are anxious about whether an NDP government will even have a chance to prove it can work, or whether a deadlock will create uncertainty, or worse, another election. For all the hand-wringing and hair-splitting, the answer is simpler than many pundit think – yes, the NDP government can govern, and parliamentary rules and conventions enable a way forward.

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Towards a Community of Administrative Justice

I have spilled a fair bit of ink in my academic career arguing that administrative justice is and should be designed to be a “system” of justice, on a continuum with courts and other formal and informal mechanisms to resolve disputes in accessible and effective ways, and hold public decision-makers accountable. This past week, however, I’ve also been reflecting on whether there also can be said to be an administrative justice community, and if so, what its composition and key shared values and features might be.
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Remarkable Alumni and the Rites of Spring!

Each May, I have the opportunity to gather with some extraordinary legal leaders and their friends and supporters for the Osgoode Hall Law School Dean’s Gold Key Alumni Awards. On May 17, 2017, at this year’s Alumni Award ceremonies, I was reminded again how fortunate I am to get to know – and celebrate – these remarkable individuals. And while Osgoode is distinct in Canada for having the largest law alumni community in the country (many of whom still are graduates of Osgoode prior to its affiliation with York University in 1965), what unites all graduates of Canadian Law Schools is far more significant than the distinctions between schools, as is particularly apparent at the growing number of pan-Canadian law alumni events that have been organized abroad, in New York, Hong Kong, London and elsewhere. So, how strong are the alumni ties that bind, and should we care?
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Universal Design and the Final Exam in State and Citizen

As part of Osgoode’s recently launched Strategic Plan “Access Osgoode 2017-2020”, the Law School commits to pursuing Universal Design in all of our activities (including how community members access the building, how scholars access our research, and how students access our curriculum, among other aspects of the academic and learning experience at Osgoode). Accessibility can and does mean many different things, but this Spring, I decided to explore what it might mean for the setting of a First Year final exam in Law School.
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Expanding Learning & Leading at Osgoode

In the summer of 2016, Osgoode launched the Learning & Leading Series (LLS), with two Certificates tied to areas of professional development for law students: Business Fundamentals and French Legal Terminology. This summer, we are adding two new Certificates – one in Tech Transformation and the other in Developing Relationships with Clients & Communities. These Certificates, which are primarily offered outside times that academic courses run, may be taken at no additional charge to JD students and at a subsidized rate for graduate students. Each LLS Certificate is limited to 40 students or less, and feature hands-on learning in fields of growing importance both for legal practice and for leadership in society more generally. They also blend enterprise and social justice perspectives.
Could the mix of experiential learning in substantive legal education with professional development programs of various stripes enhance students’ capacity to put their education to work represent the future of law schools?

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Some Reflections on What Makes the Senate Independent

One of the many stirring responses to the U.S. travel ban came from a familiar, strong voice. Newly appointed Canadian Senator Ratna Omidvar published an op-ed in the Globe and Mail calling on Canada to lead a global response to the refugee crisis, including immediately opening the door for all those caught in the US ban to be welcomed in Canada. This position stands in stark contrast to Liberal Government policy and it is not clear if Ratna Omidvar is writing as the long-standing activist for the protection of refugees she has been (and she remains a visiting professor at Ryerson’s Global Diversity Exchange), or as the Senator for Ontario that she has now become.

This kind of independent voice in the Senate is heartening – and clearly can be linked to Prime Minister’s Trudeau’s efforts to stimulate independence among Senators – both by dissolving the Liberal Senate caucus (making all formerly Liberal Senators independent) and by instituting a new merit-based appointment process. So, what will a “modern and independent” Senate look like – and how will it differ from the partisan model it is replacing? In this post, I offer some reflections drawn from comparisons with independence as it is understood in other parts of our political and legal system, and drawn from the Senate’s own history.

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Damaging the Charter: Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator

This post was originally published by on January 20, 2017.

In a fascinating, divided, and ultimately underwhelming start to 2017, the Supreme Court in Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator, 2017 SCC 1, grapples with the availability of Charter damages in the face of a statutory bar to civil litigation against a public regulator. Continue reading “Damaging the Charter: Ernst v. Alberta Energy Regulator”

What’s in a Plan?

On January 9, 2017, Osgoode Hall Law School’s Faculty Council unanimously approved in principle the Law School’s next Strategic Plan – “Access Osgoode, 2017-2020.” This new Strategic Plan aims at progressive, future-oriented goals and aspirations, as well as a commitment to Osgoode’s rich history and tradition. The “Access Osgoode” Plan commits the Law School to advancing five specific themes and goals:

1) Accessibility;
2) Community Engagement;
3) Experiential Education;
4) Reconciliation with Indigenous communities; and
5) Research Intensification.

Planning can be a long and winding road – at Osgoode, we began the process for the “Access Osgoode” Strategic Plan over 18 months ago, by assessing the outcomes of Osgoode’s previous Plan, “Experience Osgoode” and included a range of retreats, town halls, roundtables, research and multiple drafts. Students, staff and faculty collaborated on the development of Osgoode’s Plan, which in turn builds on other University Plans (including York’s University’s Academic Plan and other strategic initiatives). So, now what? Where does a Plan take us? How can this amount to more than words on a page? That is the question to which I devote some reflections in this post.
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Marie Henein, Universities and the Sounds of Silence

I was sitting with Marie Henein at a dinner this weekend, discussing the debates her speaking tour at several Canadian Universities have sparked. While Michael Goldbloom, the Principal of Bishops University, notably wrote in defence of that University’s invitation to Marie Henein to speak, I was reminded that too many leaders in the legal and academic community have simply remained on the sidelines.
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Designing Administrative Justice

With so much roiling around us, I am reluctant to confess that the design of administrative tribunals has been top of mind this month, but there it is. I have been revising a paper on the topic, forthcoming in the Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice. I presented on the topic as part of CLEBC’s Annual Administrative Law Conference a couple of weeks ago, and recently have participated in training and education retreats for two different tribunal reform initiatives. Why are so many people in the administrative justice community turning to design to cure what ails administrative law decision-making? Below, I explore the possibilities and limits of design thinking to reinvent administrative tribunals, discretionary decision-making schemes, and even public inquiries. The discussion below builds on earlier forays in posts from last year exploring the intersection between law and design on “Justice By Design”  and “Legal Education by Design”

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