Canada Post spent over $21 million in legal fees fighting pay equity case

Gisèle Morneau, one of the original complainants in the pay equity case, said she’s disappointed Canada Post spent so much money “to fight equal rights.”

Canada Post spent over $21 million in legal fees fighting against correcting a wage gap between male and female employees in a pay equity case that dated back to the early 1980s, the Star has learned.

The amount has finally been revealed after the Crown corporation tried to keep it secret for six years, following an Access to Information request.

Gisèle Morneau, one of the complainants in the original pay equity case, chuckled when told about the dollar figure

“I am not surprised. But I am disappointed that this money was spent to fight equal rights,” she said, speaking in French over the phone from her Quebec City home.

“The amount is so high that I am overwhelmed.”

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a marked pay gap between the salaries of mostly male letter-carriers and mail-sorters, and mostly female clerical workers like Morneau.

Her union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, first filed a human rights complaint on behalf of 2,300 clerical workers in 1983, but Canada Post resisted and took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In 2011, the court ruled that it had to make up half of the all the lost wages to its eligible employees.

Canada Post began sending out cheques, with interest, in August 2013. But Morneau said by that time it was too late for some of her colleagues. Several had died. All of them missed out on the opportunity to get the pay bump they wanted back at the start of their careers.

“It would have been much better for us to have this money when we were younger,” said Morneau, and probably cheaper for Canada Post. SOURCE

Bills insulating Ford government from lawsuits show it’s ‘closed for business,’ experts charge

Immunity clauses undermine ‘our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment,’ expert says


Doug Ford told supporters on the night of his election win that Ontario is now ‘open for business,’ but some experts say recent moves by his government show the opposite. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

It’s not every day that the first two bills a government introduces have clauses that protect it from being sued, but in the past two weeks of the summer session at Queen’s Park, the Progressive Conservative government has done just that.

Bill 2, the Urgent Priorities Act, enacted back to work legislation for striking York University workers, introduced more transparency for compensation of Hydro One executives and the CEO, and cancelled the controversial White Pines wind turbine project in Prince Edward County. The bill passed on Wednesday it contained a clause that protects the government from civil liability.

Similarly, Bill 4 — tabled on Wednesday — cancelled cap and trade in Ontario and included a clause that says the government can’t be sued.

Despite Doug Ford’s election night pledge that Ontario is now open for business, some experts say the government’s move to protect itself from civil lawsuits by outside companies is a sign of exactly the opposite.

Open or closed?

“It’s unusual,” Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said of the use of the immunity clause.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says two pieces of legislation meant to immunize the government from civil lawsuits send a message to companies that the province is closed for business.(Facebook) “It happens, but it’s not something that you want you want to do, certainly regularly. You’d only want to do it in extraordinary circumstance.

Wiseman said inserting an immunity clause into two major bills casts doubt on Ford’s assertion that the province is now putting out the welcome mat.

“It’s actually saying quite the opposite: Ontario is closed for business. If we don’t like your business we’ll do whatever we want to it and immunize ourselves from legal recourse by yourself.”

The White Pines wind turbine project — that was killed under Bill 2 — had been under development for nearly a decade.

Earlier this month, the president of WPD Canada, a subsidiary of the German company behind the project, said cancelling the project could cost more than $100 million. The compensation to the company will be limited to the direct cost it has incurred to this point. And the new bill prevents the company from suing.

“Spending 10 years and  $100 million to build this wind farm, only to have an election take place, a new government come in and be told they have to dismantle the project and leave the country: that sends a bad message” said Ross Laver, the senior vice president of policy and communications with the Business Council of Canada.


Cancelling the controversial White Pines Wind Project was one of Doug Ford’s key campaign promises. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

….”New governments are completely free to determine their own course. But this kind of sudden change in direction as a result of an election does have an unfortunate by-product,” said Ross.

“It undermines our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment.”

Whether the immunity clauses stand up in court, especially if they’re tested by international companies, remains to be seen. MORE

The power of community: How a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens felled a coal facility

Image result for ecojustice: The power of community: How a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens felled a coal facility
Photo by by Jim Maurer, via Flickr

There is a famous quotation often attributed to Margaret Mead that goes, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The grassroots group Communities and Coal is proof of this.

When the Fraser Surrey Docks project threatened the health and safety of communities in B.C.’s Lower Mainland — and the climate —Communities and Coal stood up to the proposed coal transfer facility.

Members of the organization coordinated town hallsattended protests, and encouraged thousands of people to share their concerns about the project during a public comment period. With Ecojustice’s help, Communities and Coal and local residents Paula Williams and Christine Dujmovich also took their fight to court.

Against many odds, Communities and Coal brought people from across the Lower Mainland together and generated an impressive, sustained community opposition to this project, both on the ground and in the courts.

The project’s downfall is a testament to what can be achieved when community members come together to protect the places where they live, work, and play.

In February 2019, after a gritty, years-long fight, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority decided to pull the permit for the Fraser-Surrey Docks coal project.

Only a couple months later, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled Ecojustice’s ongoing legal case moot. Here’s a look at what these outcomes mean, both in a legal sense and for the community: MORE

Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent

The federal government’s skewed view of Indigenous consent, and its apparent conflict of interest on the pipeline, could pose a legal problem.

Image result for policy options: Trudeau’s paradoxical definition of Indigenous consent
Photo: Indigenous drummers perform a drum circle prior to a demonstration against the approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline, in Victoria on June 22, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

he latest cabinet approval of the Trans Mountain pipeline came less than a day after the federal government declared a climate emergency. While the irony was a dream for satirists, it wasn’t the biggest contradiction of the day. Instead, it was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre definition of free, prior, and informed consent (FPIC) with regard to projects that will impact Indigenous land and rights: “[FPIC] is what we engaged in doing with Indigenous communities over the past number of months. It is engaging, looking with them, listening to the issues they have and responding meaningfully to the concerns they have wherever possible.”

By Trudeau’s definition, consent is: listening to issues, responding to concerns wherever possible, and then forging ahead. As Indigenous lawyer and scholar Pam Palmater pointed out, imagine if that definition of consent was applied in the context of sexual relations?

The prime minister’s comments largely went unnoticed in the mainstream media, but his government’s skewed understanding of FPIC and half-hearted attempts at consultations with Indigenous communities remain the core reason it will be unable to move the project forward. Moreover, Ottawa’s purchase of the pipeline created an inherent conflict of interest as it purported to sit down for meaningful consultations.

“Listening to the issues”

So, what exactly was the government “engaged in doing” with Indigenous communities since last August, when the Federal Court of Appeal found that “Canada did not fulfil its duty to consult” on the pipeline and quashed the National Energy Board’s approval of it?

Many of the First Nations that had appealed to the court expressed their dissatisfaction with the renewed Stage III consultation process that the court had mandated.

The Squamish First Nation said it had been assured there were no time limits for the consultations, only to discover that cabinet did have an end date in mind. Khelsilem, a Squamish Nation spokesperson, told a news conference that they had been sent documents for feedback after May 22, the federal government’s self-imposed deadline for comments.

“What we experienced was a shallow attempt at consultation that resulted in a failure to address our concerns,” said Khelsilem. “The failure to meaningfully engage with rights holders means this government is either not serious about building this pipeline or not serious about respecting Indigenous rights.”

Chief Lee Spahan of Coldwater Indian Band said, “The meaningful dialogue that was supposed to happen never happened.” A study of the community’s aquifer had not yet occurred, and an existing pipeline spill has yet to be remediated.

Chief Leah George-Wilson of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said that consultation once again fell well below the mark set by the Supreme Court of Canada in a number of key decisions, including Tsilhqot’in. This constitutional obligation of the Crown’s was re-emphasized in the Federal Court of Appeal ruling. George-Wilson also noted that the federal government was in a conflict of interest – that its multiple hats as proponent, decision-maker, enforcer of laws and fiduciary to First Nations and all Canadians made it impossible to make an open-minded, unbiased decision.

The Right to a Stable Climate Is the Constitutional Question of the Twenty-first Century

A rally following a hearing in Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana v. the United States, which is better known as the climate kids’ lawsuit, in Portland, Oregon. Photograph by Robin Loznak / ZUMA

On June 4th, in a packed courtroom in Portland, Oregon, Judge Andrew Hurwitz, of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, posed an unusual hypothetical question. “Assume that we have rogue raiders come across the Canadian border of the Northwest. They are kidnapping children of a certain age and murdering them,” he said. “The White House refuses to do anything and Congress doesn’t act. Can those people”—the terrorized families and communities—“go to court to compel action?” He was asking Jeff Clark, the lawyer representing the federal government, the defendant in the case. Clark replied, “My answer is no.”

Judge Hurwitz, along with Judges Mary Murguia and Josephine Staton, was presiding over oral arguments in Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana v. the United States, better known as the climate kids’ lawsuit. In August of 2015, the twenty-one plaintiffs, who then ranged in age from eight to nineteen years old, sued the Obama Administration and various federal agencies, alleging that the government’s policies on fossil fuels advanced catastrophic climate change and therefore violated the right, guaranteed to them under the Fifth Amendment, that no one shall be “deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” In other words, as Judge Hurwitz’s hypothetical suggested, their suit is an attempt to compel action from a government that is ignoring (and furthering) a life-threatening danger that they face. Since then, the case has ricocheted through the courts, gaining strength as urgency around climate change has increased and the Trump Administration has continued to deny that a problem exists. (“The climate goes both ways,” President Trump said in London, last week. “I believe that there’s a change in weather and I think it changes both ways.”) Instead, the Administration has aggressively promoted and expanded the use of fossil fuels, recently announcing that natural gas would be rebranded as “freedom gas.”

Hurwitz asked his question at the start of the hearing, establishing the stakes and reflecting the gravity with which the judges were weighing the plaintiffs’ claims. It pointed to an issue at the heart of the case, and at the heart of most climate litigation—the separation of powers. “The central issue the Ninth Circuit is grappling with is what is the role of the courts vis a vis Congress and the executive branch,” Michael Gerrard, a professor at Columbia Law School and the faculty director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, wrote me in an e-mail. “If a building is on fire and all the firefighters are off at a convention, can the neighbors break into the firehouse and run the firetrucks themselves? Or do they have to wait for permission, while the building burns down? Likewise, if the planet is on fire and Congress and the Administration are checked out, can the courts act on their own?”

Since most major environmental statutes date to the nineteen-seventies, and Congress has not been able to pass a single major environmental law since 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency, other federal agencies, and the courts have been forced to address current problems with laws that are decades old. (The main problem now is that the Senate will not act. In early May, as the House prepared to vote on a new bill, the Climate Action Now Act, which would force the Trump Administration to remain in the Paris climate agreement, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said that it would “go nowhere.”) Once Trump was elected, and federal agencies no longer had a mandate to address climate change, the courts became the only branch of government where action might be possible. But, in the absence of adequate climate-policy laws, the courts must find their right to act in the Constitution. Two days after Trump’s election, a federal judge for the District of Oregon, Ann Aiken, found that right and issued a major decision, denying the government’s motion to dismiss the Juliana case. “Where a complaint alleges governmental action is affirmatively and substantially damaging the climate system in a way that will cause human deaths, shorten human lifespans, result in widespread damage to property, threaten human food sources, and dramatically alter the planet’s ecosystem, it states a claim for a due process violation,” Aiken wrote. “I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” A trial date was set for early last year, then postponed until last fall. The government, meanwhile, turned to the Supreme Court, asking the Justices to prevent the trial from going forward. In November, they declined to do so, determining that the government needed to bring its objections before the Ninth Circuit first. The Ninth Circuit now must decide whether the case can, finally, proceed to trial.  MORE

 

TAKE ACTION! PM Trudeau: Don’t let Imperial Metals off the hook for the Mt. Polley mining disaster

Image result for Sumofus PM Trudeau: Don't let Imperial Metals off the hook for the Mt. Polley mining disaster

Just today, Canada’s Auditor General released an alarming report urging Trudeau’s government to do a better job to sanction mining companies when they fail to protect Canadian waters and fish. 

And there is one mining company in particular that Trudeau needs to act on — Imperial Metals.

Almost five years ago, Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine spilled 25 million cubic metres of toxic waste into pristine Quesnel Lake, one of the deepest lakes in the world. The lake is home to multiple fish species, and supplies drinking water to local communities. Until now, the federal government has let Imperial Metals off the hook for the largest mining waste spill in Canadian history — but we’re going to change this. 

The clock is ticking: the government has until August 4th, 2019, to charge Imperial Metals. That’s why we need to turn up the heat now and force Trudeau’s hand.

Tell Trudeau’s government not to let Imperial Metals off the hook. Enforce the Fisheries Act now!

Jody Wilson-Raybould’s Directive On Civil Litigation Heralded As Historic Shift For Indigenous Rights

Michael Wernick called it a “profound change in Canada’s legal landscape.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on June 20, 2018. Jody Wilson-Raybould appears at the Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee on June 20, 2018. PATRICK DOYLE/CP

OTTAWA — Jody Wilson-Raybould’s text messages with Gerald Butts focused on the release of a historic directive on civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples, not just SNC-Lavalin, according to evidence submitted to the Commons justice committee.

The former principal secretary tabled texts between him and the former attorney general as evidence to the committee as part of its study of the SNC-Lavalin affair and allegations of political interference. Butts told the committee earlier that the directive was “the biggest contentious issue” between him and Wilson-Raybould around mid-December 2018.

Wilson-Raybould texted Butts on Nov. 28 to give him a heads-up that she intended to release a directive for civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples “at a big gathering in BC” the next day — formalizing a major government-wide policy shift to ditch adversarial litigation in favour of reconciliation.

“Even all the DOJ lawyers ([including] conservative ones) are good with it,” she wrote, adding that release of the directive “ticks off yet another mandate letter commitment.” MORE

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The Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples

 

Tobacco battle: Quebecers want to revoke protection for companies

Smoking

TORONTO — Lawyers representing Quebec smokers and provincial governments are pushing back against an Ontario court ruling that suspended legal proceedings against three major tobacco companies.

The companies — JTI-Macdonald Corp., Rothmans, Benson & Hedges and Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd. — were granted protection from their creditors last month after they lost an appeal in Quebec.

That province’s highest court upheld a landmark judgment ordering the companies to pay billions of dollars in damages to Quebec smokers.

The Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health led two class actions against the companies and won in 2015, with the court ordering the companies to pay more than $15 billion to smokers who either fell ill or were addicted

Lawyers for the council say they will ask the Ontario court Thursday to revoke creditor protection for the companies if they intend to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. MORE

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Legal battle continues between smokers, tobacco companies and provinces

B.C. legal group plans to go back to court after 6 arrested at homeless camp

Image result for maple ridge homeless camp rcmp
Police stand outside the Maple Ridge homeless camp known as Anita’s Place on Sunday, where the city was enforcing a court injunction.

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Pivot Legal Society says it has filed leave to appeal the B.C. Supreme Court injunction used by RCMP to enter a homeless camp in Maple Ridge, B.C., and arrest six people.

Ridge Meadows RCMP said in a release officers made the arrests as Maple Ridge fire department officials and bylaw officers entered the Anita Place encampment on Sunday to enforce the injunction granted earlier this month.

Officials say they were concerned about propane heaters and stoves posing a fire hazard when used in or near tightly spaced tents.

Pivot said in a news release Monday that some of its members witnessed the enforcement and both city officials and RCMP contravened the injunction order.  MORE

What’s at stake for RCMP, prosecutors in the SNC-Lavalin case

Zero convictions despite 7 years and millions spent on SNC investigation, prosecution

Since 2012, the RCMP have charged eight people tied to allegations SNC-Lavalin engaged in bribery of foreign officials. Seven of those accused have had their cases tossed out of court due to delays or problems with evidence. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The political storm over SNC-Lavalin has sparked important debate over alleged political interference in Canada’s justice system and what to do about a huge Canadian company that could fail if convicted of foreign bribery.

On Tuesday, Canadians will hear directly from Jody Wilson-Raybould on whether she was inappropriately pressured as attorney general to intervene in the SNC-Lavalin prosecution.

But beyond the political scandal, consider the failures of the RCMP and federal prosecutors in the case. Since 2012, the RCMP have charged eight people tied to allegations SNC engaged in bribery of foreign officials. Seven of those accused have had their cases tossed out of court due to delays or problems with evidence. RCMP and the Public Prosecution Service of Canada have yet to convict anyone from the company.

Many are asking whether they are really up to the job.

“Canada has a very poor record of enforcement,” says James Cohen, head of the watchdog group Transparency International Canada. “Canadian companies who engage in corruption have sadly been playing the odds that they will not get caught.” MORE