January 12, 2015

The Supreme Court of Canada will be releasing two decisions on Friday which concern collective bargaining and freedom of association:

Professor David Doorey on his excellent blog, The Law of Work, wrote up a summary of one of the cases when the Court of Appeal decision was rendered here:

The Government of Alberta has decided that universities, Alberta Health Services, and school boards will be exempt from the requirements of a broadened Sunshine List:

The provincial government has abandoned its plan to broaden its highly touted salary and severance disclosure list to require post-secondary institutions, school boards and Alberta’s health super board to report compensation of employees earning more than $100,000.

“After reviewing the policy, the government determined that its scope and application for Government of Alberta employees, and not for employees of arm’s-length bodies, was appropriate,” said Mike Storeshaw, director of communications for the premier’s office.

“It ensures transparency while respecting employee privacy, and also respects the arm’s-length relationship with government that some organizations require in order to carry out their roles and mandates,” Storeshaw said.

It was just over a year ago when the province, under former premier Alison Redford, unveiled its sunshine list, indicating in a news release that “agencies, boards and commissions will be expected to adopt a similar policy for their organizations,” and quoting the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s lauding of the policy as the “gold-standard example for other jurisdictions to follow.”

News came down last week that the Alberta Courts (the Provincial Courts, the Court of Queen’s Bench, and the Court of Appeal) will no longer be posting judgments to the Court websites. Decisions will continue to be made available through CanLII, however. I guess we will have to change our bookmarks although I do note the RSS feeds from the albertacourts.ab.ca website seem to still be functioning:

The prairie provinces are, according to this headline,  pondering an overhaul to the delivery of legal services:

Putting your affairs in order might one day be as simple as another stop at Costco or the Alberta Motor Association, the dean of the University of Alberta’s law school says.

With seismic shifts already shaking the American and Commonwealth legal profession, Alberta has joined the Canadian conversation about changes in technology and service delivery that could improve access to legal services, break the virtual monopoly held by lawyers and radically change how and where legal advice is given.

“You can go into an AMA location and get your insurance dealt with, get your tickets to Disneyland,” said Paul Paton, dean of the U of A law school. “Why not be able to access somebody who can do a draft will for you?”

An RCMP member has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the RCMP including two named officers and two psychologists. The member has been on medical leave since 2005 and is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the claim. A copy of the claim was posted by the CBC in the link below. Among some of the allegations in the claim:

Whitelaw says she joined the RCMP in Manitoba in 1986 and was posted to Grand Rapids, Man., for field training. She says her supervisor, Laurence McKenzie, told her she could live in a filthy, abandoned nursing station.

She says McKenzie told her she could clean it up and “put curtains on the windows since she was a woman and could turn it into a real home.”

Whitelaw claims McKenzie later pulled her sweatpants down when she was helping a colleague move. She says he and another officer, Dave Bettesworth, allegedly turned up at her trailer drunk one night after learning she was a lesbian.

“Bettesworth told the plaintiff that ‘if she made it with a Mountie she would not be a lesbian anymore,'” the notice of civil claim reads.

“They acted with the intent of sexual gratification which traumatized and sexually humiliated the plaintiff and demeaned her value as an RCMP officer and as a human being.”

Whitelaw claims she complained to senior RCMP management in Manitoba but they failed to act. She resigned in 1987 and claims she later learned McKenzie retired from the force because of allegations of improper sexual conduct with another female civilian member.

Another wrongful dismissal case, another judge throwing dirt on the rule of thumb grave:

In a recent case from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (note that the decision was posted to the court’s website), Master Schlosser reviews the law related to releases. Master Schlosser then summarizes said law as follows:

[26] If I were called upon to come up with a test about releases, based on the authorities set out above I would suggest:
1. If the terms of a release do not exclude it, extrinsic evidence is virtually always receivable to determine the meaning and scope of the release. While very broad forms, (such as the language used in Gwininitxw) may exclude some avenues of inquiry, the door still remains open to ascertain whether the subject-matter of the claim was intended to fall within the release.
2. A good rule of thumb might be, (to borrow from another area) that if the requirements of section 3 of the Limitations Act
are not present, the claim in question is not released.
3. In cases where there is a reference to an action, the preferred approach would be to ask whether the claim now sought to be advanced would be res judicata, or subject to the doctrine of merger (eg Sherwood Steel Ltd. v. Odyssey Construction Inc., 2014 ABCA 320), as if the matter had been taken to judgment.

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