Bench Press: Vampire Slayer Victim of a “cruel and unforgiving illness.”

Scales of JusticeGlen Race murdered two Halifax men in 2007. He pled guilty to both charges and then made an application to be found not criminally responsible (NCR).

Mr. Justice Kevin Coady of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia reviewed the law and the legal requirements for a convicted person to be found not criminally responsible. He concluded that Mr. Race suffered from a mental disorder that made him incapable of knowing that his actions were wrong.  In his case, three psychiatrists, both for the Crown and the defence agreed that Mr. Race qualified for a finding of NCR. An agreed statement of facts from the three doctors stated that he suffered from schizophrenia and that he believed he was a vampire slayer and a godlike entity ordered by angels to cleanse the world of demons and sin.

Justice Coady wrote: “After considering all of the evidence, I am satisfied that Mr. Race qualifies for an NCR defence…He suffered from a mental disorder on both occasions, that being schizophrenia. I am also satisfied that Mr. Race, as a result of his mental disorder, did not realize that these actions were morally wrong. I am satisfied that he really believed they were necessary to achieve his psychotic mission.”

Justice Coady made two other interesting observations. First, he reached out to the families of the murdered men and said that in the context of a NCR finding: “It is important to realize that Mr. Race, his family, and friends are victims as well. They are victims of a cruel and unforgiving illness of schizophrenia. Given that there is no cure and that Mr. Race’s case is so severe, their victimization will continue for the rest of their lives. This in no way minimizes the pain and loss the Knott and Brewster families have, and will continue to, experience. These homicides are different than most killings in that the perpetrator and the victims are victims.”

Then, Justice Coady added: “It is important to note that an NCR finding is not an acquittal. Mr. Race will be held responsible for killing Paul Knott and Trevor Brewster. There will be consequences for those actions and those consequences will continue for the rest of his life.”

R. v. Race, 2014 NSSC 6 (CanLII)

Article originally published in LawNow magazine, March/April 2014 issue. For more articles on contemporary issues with a legal perspective, see the LawNow website at

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Free Legal Workshop: Your Rights at Work

Learn about your rights in the workplace.

Attend a free legal workshop by the Edmonton Community Legal Centre.

Topics to be covered:

Edmonton Community Legal Centre

  • Minimum Standards
  • Harassment
  • Human rights
  • If you’re let go
  • Where to get legal help
  • And more!

Location: Jasper Place Library (9010 156 Street, Edmonton)

Date: Monday, April 14 at 7 pm





Free Legal Workshops: Immigrating to Canada

Free legal workshops by the Edmonton Community Legal Centre.

Topics to be covered:

  • Edmonton Community Legal CentreForms of status in Canada
  • How to apply for each status
  • Permanent Residence & Canadian Super Visa
  • Getting legal help
  • And more!

Location: Stanley Milner (Downtown) Library
Date: Tuesday, April 8 at 7pm

Location: MAC Islamic Centre (6104 172 Street, Edmonton)
Date: Saturday April 12 at 2:30 PM



Elder abuse: Resources that can help

April 3rd, 2014 Comments off

This morning on the news, we heard the sad news of yet another older adult being financially and emotionally abused.

As the baby boomers age, fertility rates decrease and life expectancy increases, Canada is becoming an ‘older’ country. According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians aged 55 and older will rise from 27% in 2011 to 35% in 2031. In addition, a growing number of those over 55 are reporting that they are the victims of abuse. In 2007, Statistics Canada reported that the overall rate of police-reported violence against seniors increased by 20 per cent between 1998 and 2005.

Elder abuse can take various forms, including financial abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, medication abuse and neglect. It can be perpetrated by various people:  today’s story was about a stranger turned employee, but often, it is done by a family member.

So what can be done? Although elder abuse is never a victim’s fault (the fault lies with the abuser), there are steps that older adults can take to try to prevent or to help stop abuse. A key factor in keeping able to take these steps is understanding how the law can help. Everyone has the right to know about the law and how it affects them. To know about the law is not a luxury. It is only when people know about the law that they are able to use it protect themselves and others. While our legal system alone cannot completely stop elder abuse, it is a valuable component of any strategy to stop abuse.

At CPLEA, we have various resources that can help.

  • To become more empowered about end-of-life issues (and therefore take steps to minimize the likelihood of abuse, we have resources about Powers of Attorney, Personal Directives, Wills and formal arrangements for help with decision-making. Within these resources are also explanations about various financial tools, such as joint bank accounts and signing a guarantee: how they can be helpful, but how they can be used to abuse.
  • To learn more about the jobs that are given under Powers of Attorney, Personal Directives and Wills, and on how to do those jobs within the law and without crossing the lines into abusive behaviours, we have booklets on being an Attorney, being an Agent and being an Executor.
  • To learn more about identifying and addressing abuse, we have a booklet of Frequently Asked Questions about elder abuse, a portion of one of our websites (the Older Adult Knowledge Network), dedicated to information about elder abuse, including first-person stories and information about how things will proceed if an older adult does decide to report abuse to the police.

And we are developing more resources. We are currently working workshop materials to address how the law can be used to help prevent and stop abuse. Check back with us next spring.

Although elder abuse is not a pleasant topic, if we want to maximize the chances of our aging well it is certainly one worth learning about.


Bench Press: “Ski Buddy” Liability

April 3rd, 2014 Comments off

Scales of Justice

Mark Kennedy of Colorado died on a heli-skiing expedition when he fell into a tree well.

His widow claimed that he had been paired with a “ski-buddy” who was contractually obliged to stay close to him, keep him in sight and assist or alert guides and other skiers if he saw that his buddy needed help. She also alleged that the buddy, Adrian Coe, owed a duty of care in tort law to Mark Kennedy. She sued Mr. Coe for loss of future earnings over her husband’s death.

Madame Justice Fisher of the British Columbia Supreme Court dismissed the action. She found that just because the two men had been paired to ski together there was no basis to find that there was a contract between them. Similarly, she ruled that Mr. Coe did not owe a duty of care to Mr. Kennedy, and that even if there were, Mr. Coe would have met the standard.

She summarized: “It is indeed very sad that Mr. Kennedy met a tragic and untimely death, but he did so while participating in a high-risk sport and responsibility for his death cannot be placed on Mr. Coe.

Kennedy v. Coe, 2014 BCSC 120 (CanLII)

Article originally published in LawNow magazine, March/April 2014 issue. For more articles on contemporary issues with a legal perspective, see the LawNow website at


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Bench Press: Alberta Statutes in English Only

March 28th, 2014 Comments off

Scales of JusticeGilles Caron, of Edmonton, was issued a traffic ticket in 2003.

Mr. Caron, whose first language is French, fought the ticket, arguing that the ticket, Alberta statutes and his court hearing should all be available in French. A provincial court judge dismissed the ticket charge, finding that the statute was inoperative because the province of Alberta was constitutionally required to publish its legislation in both French and English.

However, the Alberta Court of Appeal recently ruled against Mr. Caron, stating “Must the statutes of the province of Alberta be printed and published in English and French? No.” The Court of Appeal undertook an extensive review of western Canadian history and concluded: “…the fact that there is no constitutional document entrenching language rights in Alberta, whereas other constitutional documents (B.N.A Act, 1867 a, 133; Manitoba Act, 1870, s. 23; Charter of Rights, s. 16) clearly do so for other jurisdictions, is an insurmountable obstacle for the appellants.”

Mr. Caron intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

R. v. Caron, 2014 ABCA 71

Article originally published in LawNow magazine, March/April 2014 issue. For more articles on contemporary issues with a legal perspective, see the LawNow website at

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Free Family Law Presentations

March 27th, 2014 Comments off

Edmonton Community Legal Centre is providing FREE Family Law Presentations* Thursday evenings in March, April and May.

Led by experienced family law lawyers, topics covered include:

Child Custody:
March 6, April 3, May 1

Edmonton Community Legal Centre

Child and Spousal Support:
March 13, April 10, May 8

Property Division:
March 20, April 17, May 15

Representing Yourself in Court:
March 27, April 24

6:30 pm — 8:30 pm
Room 5, 6th Floor, Stanley Milner (Downtown) Library

*Follow-up meeting possible for people with low income


Truth and Reconciliation: Alberta National Event

March 25th, 2014 Comments off

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada

The seventh and final Truth and Reconciliation National Event takes place in Edmonton, March 27-30, 2014.

In the words of the TRC Commissioners “TRC events provide an important opportunity for those affected by the legacy of the Indian Residential Schools to share their experiences with the Commission and the public. They also serve to educate Canadians about the country’s 130-year history of residential schools, and their legacy for Aboriginal communities and Canadian society as a whole.”

All TRC events will be held at the Shaw Conference Centre, 9797 Jasper Avenue, Edmonton. The Alberta National Event will also be livestreamed at

No registration is needed to attend. Those wishing to provide a statement to the Commission may register onsite during the event.

The full program for the event is available on the website for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Alberta National Event.


March/April 2014 Issue of LawNow: Language and the Law

March 24th, 2014 Comments off

LawNow Mar/Apr2014: Language and the Law

Featured Articles: Language and the Law

The choices we make in language – words, even punctuation – can shape legal results.

Comma Law

Peter Bowal and John Layton
Sometimes, for want of a comma, the lawsuit is lost!
You Can’t Do or Say That: Constraining Individual Conduct in a Public and Commercial World
Hilary Findlay

Morality clauses in contracts use language to describe unacceptable conduct and both parties to the deal have important interests in what the words say.
The Intersection of Law, Language and Culture
Carole Aippersbach

In Canada, the question of ‘language rights’ is a very important part of our legal landscape.
Quebec’s Need for Cultural and Linguistic Protection, the Notwithstanding Clause and the Demise of Meech Lake
Rob Normey

Quebec’s language laws operate in tandem with laws designed to protect Quebec’s culture.

The Multicultural Family Law Facilitator’s Project

Nayanika Kumar
This project addresses one Canadian city’s response to a crisis in (mis)interpretation in Canadian courts.


Special Report: Disabilities and the Law

A Progress Report of Disability Rights since the Charter 
Marjun Parcasio
Much progress has been made on the legal rights of the disabled since the Charter became law in 1982, but much could still be done.

Meaningful Access: Students with Learning Disabilities Strive to be Included
Melissa Luhtanen
One British Columbia family fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to clarify the law on learning disabilities.

Tax Assistance for Persons with Disabilites
Joseph R. Devaney
Canada’s Income Tax Act has a number of provisions for tax benefits for disabled Canadians and their caregivers.

Persons with Disabilities and the Law – Resources for Research
Alberta Law Libraries
Librarians at Alberta Law Libraries can help with research into many aspects of disability law.  Just ask them!


Mothering with Disabilities
Shahnaz Rahman 


Human Rights Law
Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining: Are the Justifiable Limits?
Linda McKay-Panos

Not-for-Profit Law
Organization Launched to Foster Canadian Charity Law
Peter Broder

Employment Law
Insubordination and Dismissal
Peter Bowal and Laine Robson

Landlord and Tenant Law
Coming  in April …
Rochelle Johannson

Family Law
A Brief Primer on Child Support: Part One
John-Paul Boyd

Criminal Law
Criminal Defence Law in the North: Part Two
Charles Davison

Online Law
Protecting Yourself from Consumer Fraud and Scams
Margo Till-Rogers

A Famous Case Revisited
Whatever Happened to … The Law of Sniffer Dog Searches: Part 2
Peter Bowal and Evan Knight


What on earth does the Budget have to do with the Constitution?

March 21st, 2014 Comments off

Supreme Court of CanadaIn the federal omnibus budget released last fall Marc Nadon was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Today, we learned from the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) that, due to the Canadian Constitution, that appointment will not stand. What could the one have to do with the other I hear you ask? Let’s explore!

The Constitution of Canada (which is actually not one document, but several, but we will just use it as a group noun)* is often referred to as the “highest law” in the land.  As such, it has quite a few roles. The one that matters for today is the role it plays a form of “umbrella” legislation that governs all governmental actors and actions in Canada. What does that mean? Well, in a nutshell, everything that any government in Canada does (be it federal, provincial or municipal government), must not contradict what the Constitution says. One of the actions a government can take is passing laws, such as a budget. As a result, everything in that budget has to be in line with everything in the Constitution.

According to the SCC the appointment of Marc Nadon, which was in that budget, contradicted the Constitution. How?

Let’s start with looking at the make-up of the 9-judge court. Due to the nature of the creation of the country, SCC position have always been divided in such a way as to address the concern for representation from all regions and legal systems:  3 from Québec, 3 from Ontario, 2 from the West, 1 from the East.  The empty position, in this case, was one of the seats from Québec. As a result, the appointment process had to follow the rules from appointments from Québec.

The Supreme Court Act (SCA, which is a federal law) tells us what that appointment process is. Specifically,  sections 5 and 6  state that Québec appointees must either come from the Québec Superior Court, the Québec Court of Appeal, or must be a current member of the Québec bar (and must have been so for at least 10 years).

Here’s where the problems start. At the time of his appointment, Marc Nadon was no longer a member the Québec bar: he used to be, but he’s not anymore. Similarly, he was not a judge from the Québec Superior Court, or the Québec Court of Appeal (he was on the Federal Court of Appeal – which is completely different).

To try to address Naton’s apparent ineligibility, the budget included an amendment to the SCA that would allow “former” members of the Québec bar to be appointed .

So why did that not suffice? And what does that have to do with the Constitution?

Well, by putting all of this in the budget, the federal government was acting on its own. In other words,  it was acting “unilaterally”. Often, when passing laws, this is not a problem. However, it was here, as the essential make-up of the SCC is protected by the Constitution Act 1982 (CA 1982). Specifically, section 41(d) of CA 1982 requires that any changes to the composition of the SCC must receive unanimous consent from both the Parliament of Canada and the legislatures of all of the provinces. In this case, the parliament was on board, but none of the provinces had given their official approval.

Oh that Constitution… it’s everywhere!

As an aside, the story may not yet be complete. At paragraph 71 of its decision, the SCC said:

“We note in passing that the reference questions do not ask whether a judge of the Federal Court or Federal Court of Appeal who was a former advocate of at least 10 years standing at the Québec bar could rejoin the Québec bar for a day in order to be eligible for appointment to this Court under Sec. 6. We therefore do not decide this issue.”

Anyone want to take bets on happens next?

* For example: the Constitution Act 1867, the Constitution Act 1982, and a few others.