Quebec Court of Appeal expresses frustration over systemic delays in securing trial transcripts

The Quebec Court of Appeal, exasperated by provincial government inaction, delivered a rare but stinging rebuke over recurring systemic unmitigated delays in securing trial transcripts that disproportionately affect English-speaking appellants which “regrettably” puts into question the proper administration of criminal justice in Quebec.

Calling for a paradigm change in approach, the Quebec Court of Appeal issued clear and explicit guidance over the preparation and production of trial transcripts as litigants in criminal proceedings should “not be left without judicial remedies” when they face unreasonable appellate delays resulting from the “state’s inaction.”

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Quebec Bar unveils report on sexual harassment in the legal profession

Half of Quebec female lawyers have been subjected to sexual harassment, a third of Quebec lawyers were the subject of unwanted sexual conduct, and 4.2 per cent of women suffered “negative consequences” for refusing to engage in sexual activities. Approximately one per cent of lawyers who were the subject of sexual misconduct reached out to police.

So reveals a report unveiled by the Quebec Bar, three years after it was launched. Only 14 per cent of Quebec Bar members, or 3785 members out of 28,000 lawyers in the roll, responded to the survey.

Following the 76-page report, the Barreau du Québec intends to launch free training on harassment and sexual violence, and is considering making it compulsory. A committee will examine other options.

Here is the report (en français).

Constitutional challenge over legal aid fees rebuffed by court

A Montreal criminal lawyer behind a constitutional challenge of Quebec’s legal aid disbursements’ system and a motion to revamp the legal aid fee system lost his bid after Quebec Superior Court held that it was a political matter.

In a long-awaited decision by the Quebec legal community, with several high-profile criminal defense lawyer’s associations as well as the Quebec Bar joining in the effort, Superior Court Justice Manon Lavoie held that while the issue deserved attention it was an administrative issue that had nothing to do with the constitutional rights of the litigant who raised the matter.

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Bill paves the way for Quebec law students to provide legal advice and consultations

The heads of Quebec’s law schools welcomed a new bill that would allow law students working at university legal clinics to give legal advice and consultations under the supervision of lawyers and notaries, a development that would finally put them within reach of what law students in the rest of the country can provide.

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Legal aid agreement reached with Quebec government

After three years of negotiations, the Quebec government and the provincial bar association reached an agreement to raise legal fees and to establish an independent working group that will conduct an exhaustive review of the tariff structure.

The agreement, widely perceived to be a “step in the right direction” by the Quebec legal community, calls for a five per cent retroactive increase in legal aid fees for the period of October 2017 to May 2019, and a 14.7 per cent increase in fees from June 2019 to September 2022.

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Privacy commissioner launches consultation on artificial intelligence

The chief executive of Alphabet and Google made it plain. Artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to, wrote Sundar Pichai in a Financial Times opinion piece.

“The only question is how to approach it,” said Pichai succinctly.

That’s what the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) is grappling with as well.

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In the news

Four men who bilked an 87-year old former teacher suffering from dementia were ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal to pay her family nearly $380,000 in damages for financial exploitation and for preying on her vulnerable state.

“Evidence clearly demonstrates the defendants used their postion to the detriment of Ms. Even’s interests, who was an elderly person, handicapped and vulnerable,” held Judge Mario Gervais in Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Even) c. Lessard (Calfeutrage Multi-Scellant), 2020 QCTDP 3.

“The Court concludes that the defendants breached her right to the protection against exploitation, in violation of s. 48 of the (Quebec) Charter.”

But Judge Gervais also has choice words against the financial institution that Gemma Evens, since deceased, used. Judge Gervais said he is “perplexed” by the little action that a Laurentian Bank branch took when it noticed that $313,000 was taken out from her bank account over an 18-month period.

“This amount is stunning by its magnitude, given Ms. Even’s financial habits,” noted Judge Gervais. “It is distressing that the bank accepted Ms. Evan’s responses (when questioned about her withdrawals), without considering alerting competent authorities in spite of the presence of worrisome signs of financial exploitation.”

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Quebec justice department unveils ambitious plan

An ambitious strategic plan unveiled by the Quebec Ministry of Justice outlines measures the provincial government expects to implement over the course of the next three years to curb criminal and penal court delays, accelerate the deployment of technologies in the justice system, boost the use of alternative dispute resolution and improve access to justice.

The plan, while lauded by legal experts for laying out concrete actions to deal with endemic issues plaguing the provincial justice system, has also been criticized for taking on too much in a rather short period at a time when government financial resources are constrained.

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