Beyond Ferguson: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling


A scene from Ferguson, Missouri that could just as easily have been from the G20 Summit in Toronto.

On August 9 an unarmed young, black male was shot at least six times – twice in the head – by a white police officer. For hours, the body was left in the street, uncovered and uncared for. The days following the shooting were marked with an explosion of moral outrage and public anguish. Widespread suspension of dissent and democratic rights through criminal sanctions would ensue. The police’s paramilitary mindset and tactics combined with the slow, selective, and confusing release of information surrounding the events leading up to and after the shooting only served to enflame the situation. Continue reading

R v Spencer: On the Internet, User Anonymity Remains Supreme

The internet is our generation’s playground, our social hub. We go there to play and chat, learn and explore. We often assume that we’re safe there, that we can do what we want without consequence, that our activities are not being monitored. We rarely take time to consider the digital trail we leave behind. Even if internet companies collect our data for all sorts of reasons (or even generate their own through secret experiments), we assume that our data stops there and is identity-free. We believe that the internet is a bastion of privacy. Thankfully, the Supreme Court of Canada agrees.

On June 13, 2014, the Court released their decision in R v Spencer, upholding the general right to privacy on the internet. The case turned on whether a request by a police officer to an ISP for internet subscriber data constituted an unreasonable search, violating the defendant’s constitutional rights under section eight of the Charter. In the case, the police obtained the IP address of a computer that had been used to commit crimes. They then requested that the linked ISP provide them with the internet subscriber data in order to identify the owner. The police relied on the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) as grounds for having lawful authority for such requests and disclosure. Based on that information, they obtained a warrant to search the defendant’s home and seize his computer, on which incriminating evidence was found. Continue reading

What Roger Goodell can learn from Adam Silver: lessons in public relations



Both Roger Goodell and Adam Silver have recently had to deal with public relations disasters.  Former NBA owner Donald Sterling’s phone conversation with his then-“friend” V. Stiviano revealed him to be a racist.  A particular hot button issue bothering Sterling was Stiviano having taken a photo with former Laker Magic Johnson and posting the photo on Instagram.  Sterling was apparently outraged that she was “taking pictures with a minority” (never mind that Stiviano herself is a visible minority).  This phone conversation was especially troubling given that the NBA is largely composed of African-American players.  The NBA quickly acknowledged the existence of the phone conversation, and said that it would do a full investigation of the matter.  Shortly thereafter, Silver announced that Sterling would be ousted as an owner and that he would be fined $2.5 million.  The team Sterling owned, the L.A. Clippers, was eventually bought by former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for a purported $2 billion.  Sterling sued the NBA, but thus far has been unsuccessful in preventing the sale. Continue reading

Is Facebook Friendship an Invitation to Creep? A Confession Followed by Poorly Researched Musings.

After finding out about the passing of a high school friend’s partner and responding to an invitation to her memorial over Facebook, I spent the better part of an hour browsing through their pictures. This got me thinking about my less savoury Facebook activities. Then I did a little research and decided to confess to Osgoode that I can be one heck of a Facebook creep – not necessarily in that order.

Friends don’t let friends drink and Facebook creep

Friends don’t let friends drink and Facebook creep

I am guilty of Facebook creeping. I’d like to think I don’t do it as much as when I was a teenager but it still happens. I browse the travel pictures of a girl I might have said five to ten words to in high school. Continue reading

Back to the Factory, With a Vengeance: How an injury at work got me thinking about the law

After getting my admission to Osgoode Hall earlier this year, I began thinking a bit about what area of law to go into.

Then, strapped for cash, I took a job at an automobile assembly plant over the summer. The factory was sprawling, about the size of York’s Keele Campus, and inside was a winding assembly line, which was several kilometers in length. When the line ran smoothly, which it did on most days, the plant could churn out one car every forty-eight seconds, or roughly 450 cars over an eight-hour shift. These are what the management referred to as “good days,” and on good days, the supervisors could be seen smiling.

But sometimes the line would malfunction, halting production for several minutes at a time, and turning the supervisors’ smiles into frowns. These are what the workers called “good days,” and on the whole, you could tell for whom a day was good based on how well the assembly line ran. This is part of what Marx had in mind when he wrote about the contradiction between capital and labour.

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A tale of two referenda

Uncovering the parallels of the Scottish vote with our own, somewhat besmirched history of secession

SO MUCH BRITAIN!! I need some tea now.

SO MUCH BRITAIN!! I need some tea now.

Last week, Scottish leaders followed in Quebec’s footsteps and held that nation’s first popular vote on secession from the United Kingdom. Sovereignty referenda are all too familiar to Canadians. Twice, in 1980 and again in 1995, the Parti Quebécois sought secession from Canada; the latter vote coming alarmingly close to a dreaded ‘Yes’ victory. In their defeat, the PQ focused on other matters, including leader Pauline Marois’ Charter of Values. Even while in power,  the party carefully kept its raison d’être on the backburner.

Last April, the Quebec Liberals seized a majority government, and the sovereignty question seemed to be buried for a long while. But for resilient Péquistes, hope was emerging from abroad as some flew to Edinburgh to revel in the excitement that was building among independence-minded Scots. It seemed as if Scotland and Quebec had a similar, if not common, foe: an Anglo-Saxon majority that was seen as historically oppressive, governing them from afar.

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What does access to justice mean to everyday Canadians?

HannahWhat does the public think about the justice system? What does justice mean to everyday Canadians? We interviewed 99 Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area and have captured their responses in our colourful new infographic “What is Access to Justice?”You can see the infographic at:

The infographic is based on the “What is Access to Justice” project conducted by CFCJ Chair Trevor Farrow. As part of the project, CFCJ members interviewed people in Toronto on justice-related questions and issues. By conducting these interviews, the project has framed the access to justice debate in client-centered, problem-based and democratic terms. Some of the questions asked were, “How do you define justice?”, “Have you ever faced access to justice barriers?”and “Do you think that everyone is equally vulnerable to access to justice barriers?” The responses gathered were as insightful as they were varied. Overall, people thought justice was a fundamental issue to Canadians, and people should have a right to justice. But perhaps the most interesting recurring theme was that justice means more to people than a fair trial and equitable access to courts. Justice, at its root, is all about the good life. Respondents described justice as accessing equality, understanding, education and happiness, as well as basic needs such as food, housing, and security.

So what does that tell us? Well, for starters, justice system workers need to listen to the voice of everyday Canadians when making policy decisions concerning justice reform. But this responsibility goes both ways —citizens may also have a duty to engage meaningfully in access to justice discussion and debate. And as this project shows, many people are more than willing to think critically about the justice system and how it could be improved —all you have to do is ask.

In addition to an infographic and video series, an in-depth discussion of findings from this project will be presented in Trevor Farrow’s forthcoming paper for the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

Anishinaabe Law Camp

Students create new friendships with each other at the Anishinaabe Law Camp

Students create new friendships with each other at the Anishinaabe Law Camp.

Pii dash Shkakimi-kwe giigidid aabdeg gbizindawaamin: When the Earth speaks, we will listen. This was a guiding theme posited by elders of the Chippewas of Nawash for Osgoode’s inaugural Anishinaabe Law Camp: Anishinaabe Naakinigewin Gabeshawin.

On the weekend of September 11 to 14, approximately 40 law students and Osgoode faculty members travelled to Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) to attend the camp, organized by Professor Andrée Boisselle in collaboration with John Borrows and his daughter Lindsay, their family and community, the Chippewas of Nawash. For those unaware, John Borrows is a world-renowned scholar in Indigenous Legal Traditions and Aboriginal Rights, and currently Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria Law School. He is also a former Osgoode professor and founding director of the Aboriginal Intensive.

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Tales of the New “WestlawNext Canada”: What’s the Dealio?

ChristianAs of September 1, students have been officially able to access the new WestlawNext Platform through This website can operate as a homepage for law students, as it includes a lot of helpful and interesting information. For example, under “Insight” students can find legal news and all kinds of helpful research tips. Clicking the box labelled “To Sign on to WestlawNext Canada” will take you to the sign-on page. If you are a 2L or 3L, simply continue to use your old password. If you are a 1L, you will be receiving your password in class.

Once signed in to WestlawNext, students will immediately notice the new and improved all-in-one search bar. You can search using everyday plain language, case citations, Boolean terms, and connectors. The search will give you all applicable results broken into categories that you can discard or keep to narrow down. The eyeglasses are a handy new visual aid that appears over a result once you have read it. This helps you keep track of where you are.

One of the most highly anticipated new features is “Folders.” Students can now organize and store their research in their own custom labelled folders. This research will never be discarded, meaning students don’t have to download cases to organize and store them. Students can also share specific folders with other students. Folders may become quite useful in the law firm to keep research separate based on projects or lawyers.

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Start-Up Summer: Legal Information Network of Canada

How I turned an idea, a passion, and four months of free time into a business. 

This summer, I decided to dedicate my time to building a legal information website. I made this decision without any particular affinity for web development, or any real business or legal experience to guide me. The decision had something to do with the weak job market, my lack of confidence in my professional abilities, and my fondness for working in sweatpants at 2am, but those weren’t decisive factors either.

The Obiter’s Managing Editor shares how easy it is to turn a passionate idea into a successful business.  Image from Photo credit: Sarah Stein

The Obiter’s Managing Editor shares how easy it is to turn a passionate idea into a successful business.
Image from Photo credit: Sarah Stein

In fact, there really wasn’t any single motivation or goal driving me; just a collection of ideas, plans, and doubts that ended up working out okay. Fortunately, as I look back on how far things have come, and start planning for the future, I am coming to realize that the slow grind of determination may, in fact, be worth more than the lofty pursuit of perfection. And so here I am, writing about the many failures and missteps, out of which the Legal Information Network of Canada ( was born, in the hopes of showing that sometimes you don’t need to follow the script to get a pretty good story.

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