Organ Donation – make those wishes clear!

For those of you who have read our booklet about Personal Directives, or attended one of our seminars about this issue, you already know that in order to donate your organs you have to plan for it and you have to give written permission.

In other words, your Agent (that’s the person you’ve nominated to make your personal decisions for you once you no longer can) cannot consent to organ donation unless you have given him/her written instructions to do so.

Until yesterday, there were two ways to do that in Alberta: sign the back of your healthcare card and/or put the instructions in your Personal Directive.

This week, the Government of Alberta announced a new way – an online organ donation registry.

The Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry is already up and running. To register you have to provide your health care number and your birth date. You will then be asked if you wish to donate all of your organs and tissues, or only certain ones.

But, it does not end there.

Once you have completed these first few steps, you will be asked to print off a legal consent form, which you must then sign, have witnessed, and mail in. This second part of the process is essentially meant to meet the criteria of needing written permission. Presumably, it is intended as a form of security to ensure that no one other than you made the choice for you (and possibly without your knowledge).

The question then arises, what happens if you don’t send in the legal consent?  Presumably, when the time comes, your Agent will argue that filling in the online form should be enough. However, if there is another loved one who happens to oppose organ donation, s/he may try to argue that there has not been valid consent..

For example,  a person who opposes the decision to donate could say that it was not you that filled in the online form, or that you no longer had capacity when you filled it in. What would happen next?  Hard to say. Generally, the law likes evidence…and if you have people willing to fight the issue, the question of evidence will be of great importance. (Remember – at this point you will no longer be able to clarify).

So what can be done to maximize the chances of your wishes being carried out? A few ideas include:

  • sign the back of your Alberta health care card (even though your wishes might be recorded elsewhere);
  • register online and remember to mail in the consent form (and consider keeping a copy for your files); and
  • write a Personal Directive (PD) and include your wishes in it as well.  Including your wishes for organ donation in your PD  has a few additional bonuses:
  • In a PD you can add additional thoughts you have on the matter. For example, whether you want to donate your organs after brain death, or only after cardiac death.
  • In a PD you can explain more about exactly what you want and why you want it. While you are writing the PD, you can have a family meeting and discuss these thoughts and wishes your with loved ones. All of this, will make it easier for your Agent when the time comes to actually consent to the harvesting of your organs.Remember, at the moment of the decision, your Agent probably won’t have either your health care card or the online form in his/her hand, and s/he may need proof to show to anyone opposing the decision.  Having and hearing the additional information may also help family members to better understand your decisions (and perhaps make it less likely they’ll be opposed?)

So make those wishes clear. Your loved ones will be glad you did!


Law Day Alberta

Law Day Alberta 2014

Learn more about the Canadian justice system.

Click on your city to discover the Law Day activities in your community.


Do you need legal advice and can’t make it out to your local courthouse on Law Day?  Call our toll-free number and speak to one of our lawyers for a free 15-20 minute consultation.  If we cannot answer all of your questions, we will refer you to other resources which might help you.

Call our toll-free number, 1-888-644-8950, on Saturday, April 26 between 10am and 3pm to ask a lawyer your legal questions for FREE!!!

Dial-a-Lawyer is an initiative of CBA Alberta’s Access to Justice Committee and the following partners:


The Neighbour Series Part 4: Shooting at Magpies

The television series Friends was an iconic show that, oddly enough, touched on some interesting law-related issues.  In seasons 5 there was an episode where Phoebe and her police-officer boyfriend were rudely awakened by a squawking bird.  Phoebe’s boyfriend nonchalantly pulled out his gun and shot the bird, much to her dismay. magpie

We know many people that have considered treating pesky magpies in this manner: especially in the spring, when they so loudly protect their nests, and feed their young with the babies of other birds. But what would happen if one were to do this in Alberta?  Would it be a violation of any bylaws? Or criminal laws even?

What birds are protected?

The starting point for figuring out if you can shoot a bird is to look to see if there are any laws protecting birds.

In Alberta, the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Migratory Birds Hunting Regulations combine to protect the majority of birds.  The Alberta Guide to Hunting Regulations further explains which birds a hunter needs a license to shoot.  A non-exhaustive list of exceptions to this licence rule includes birds like magpies, pigeons, and crows.

But even if you shoot one of these exempt birds you have to be mindful because you might be caught violating one of many firearm laws.

What levels of government govern firearm laws?

The federal government, provincial governments and individual municipalities all have laws governing firearm use.  The federal government regulates firearms through the Firearms Act and Part III of the Criminal Code of Canada. These laws work together to ensure that firearms are properly registered and used safely.

The provinces have the power to make laws governing hunting, and they have often used this power to govern firearm use.  In Alberta, firearm use in the province is regulated by the Alberta Wildlife Act.  This Act covers multiple issues including the prohibited use by minors unless under the supervision by a guardian or someone similar (section 31(1)).

At the municipal level many cities have crafted bylaws controlling firearms within their limits.  For example, section 9 of Edmonton’s Public Places Bylaw outlaws the possession and firing of any weapon capable of shooting a projectile in public places, and in Strathcona County there is a bylaw that prohibits the use of firearms within the urban area.

So can I shoot that annoying magpie?

Whether or not you can shoot that annoying bird will largely depend on where you live.

Under certain circumstances you can discharge a properly registered firearm on your property if you live on a farm where there aren’t any bylaw or safety issues.

This becomes less likely if you live in a densely populated area. For example, section 86(1) of the Criminal Code prohibits careless use of a firearm and section 52(1) of the Alberta Wildlife Act prohibits discharging a firearm within 200 yards of an occupied building under most circumstances.  Finally, your city or town might also have bylaws that regulate the use of firearms. Some even apply when on private land like in Strathcona County.

Other solutions

Just because you can’t simply shoot that annoying bird carte blanche, that doesn’t mean that there are not some viable solutions. Across the province, there are many cities that employ animal control officers to assist in dealing with pests like birds.  For example, in Edmonton there is the Animal Care and Control Centre. They can help you legally trap pest animals such as skunks, porcupines, squirrels, ground squirrels, magpies, and crows on your own property.

Crows and magpies can be particularly annoying.  Alberta Fish and Wildlife explains that they will eat anything and it is important to keep garbage secure or they may venture on your property.  You can also trim your trees until the cover they provide is too thin to provide protection for larger birds or use frightening devices like scarecrows or hawk kites.

So you may want to think twice before shooting that annoying bird because you may end up doing more than just ruffling a few feathers.

This is a guest post by Cameron Mitchell, a third year law student who is volunteering with the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta.


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

April 7th, 2014 Comments off

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