Frozen

Eventually the 196 bus will arrive…

It is somehow appropriate that on the first weekend of 2014, the top-grossing movie at the North American box office was titled Frozenwhich pretty much sums up the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014 in North America in general and Toronto in particular. For those of you who went home to points outside of Toronto after exams, you were probably fortunate enough to miss the simultaneous beauty and beast of the ice storm (and have power), but alas, were likely unlucky to feel the full brunt of the so-called “polar vortex” (and its -40 wind chill) that is just starting to lift as I write this.

Although it is predicted to be 7 degrees and raining by Saturday, we will undoubtedly have more cold weather before spring arrives, so remember that the library can be a heated oasis for your comfortable studying pleasure until 10 pm during the week (except for Fridays, when we close at 5 pm) and 6 pm on the weekend. While it is hardly necessary to remind you that food is not allowed (no, not even pineapple), life-sustaining hot beverages are allowed – as long as they’re in covered containers. And no, book flasks don’t count.

 

SCC strikes down prostitution laws

This morning, the Supreme Court of Canada released a landmark ruling that struck down a series of laws surrounding prostitution. The long-term implications remain to be seen, as the unanimous judgement has been suspended for a year in order to give parliament time to respond and (presumably) enact new legislation.

Incidentally, there is a strong Osgoode connection in the case, as our own Professor Alan Young was part of the team for Bedford, et al.

The decision – Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford, 2013 SCC 72 – can be viewed on the Supreme Court’s web site here.

New AODA regulations coming into effect January 1st

For those of your who are interested in disability law and critical disability studies, it is worth pointing out that the latest round of Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) regulations will be coming into effect on January 1, 2014 (amazingly, less than two weeks away).

AODA regulations are being gradually rolled out on an annual basis until January 1, 2025, having started on January 1, 2012. The standards can be found in the Integrated Accessibility Standards (O. Reg. 191/11), which exhaustively lay out the standards, along with the deadlines for compliance. It also lays out the penalties for non-compliance, which can be as much as $100,000 a day (!!).

The relevant standards that come into effect this coming January 1st deal with the establishment of detailed accessibility standards for large private sector organizations and small designated public sector organizations, establishment of accessibility plans for large private sector organizations and small public sector organizations, and far beyond (and far too much for me to list here) including but not limited to provision of accessible formats, opening of feedback channels, and the creation of accessible websites (although on this point it should be noted that this is a graduated process, with increased levels of accessibility to follow). On the point of AODA-compliant web sites, York has set up a site to deal with ensuring York’s compliance with these standards.

Journal of Open Access to Law

An exciting new initiative in open access to law debuted today with the publication of the first issue of the Journal of Open Access to LawA peer-reviewed academic journal, the journal is pretty much as advertised in the title, as its ambit “is to promote international research on the topic of open access to law” by providing a forum for academics as well as open-access legal publishers to discuss the issues and challenges that surround what is likely to be a significant change in the dissemination of legal information in the years to come. True to the ideology inherent in the journal’s mandate, it is available on an open-access basis.

For those on the lookout for Canadian content, the first issue includes an extensive article on Canadian case law citation analysis. While it is perhaps a bit dry, it is interesting to see the durability of Canadian Supreme Court decisions vs. other jurisdictions.

 

Exams already?!

Don’t do this!

It’s that time of year when the nights get longer, the air gets colder, snow falls, and the holiday spirit descends upon Toronto… and law students can’t enjoy any of it due to the end-of-term frenzy of caffeine, summaries, studying, and writing papers and, finally, exams.

Last year I wrote a post trying to mitigate the at-times soul-searing weight of expectation that accompanies the exam rush, but I also know full well that no matter what you say or hear, it will feel like there are not enough hours in the day or coffee to possibly sustain yourself (speaking of which, since you’re drinking so much of it, you might as well learn a thing or two about it). However, the inexorable march of time will eventually get you through, whether you like it or not.

As part of the semi-annual exam time festivities here at the Osgoode Library, we’ve moved to restricted access to the library from yesterday (November 25) to the end of exams on December 20th, when the library will close at 5 p.m. We are also extending our hours until 11 p.m. every night. As a result, our hours are now 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. from Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

A note on restricted access – while access is restricted, it is not prohibited. In other words, non-Osgoode students are entitled to access the library to obtain material or use our reference services; however, study space is restricted due to the fact that these spaces are limited and reserved for Osgoode students only. To facilitate and monitor the restricted access policy, Osgoode students will be issued a sticker that will be placed on your YU-cards to identify you as Osgoode students. If you do not already have this sticker, please stop at the Library circulation desk to obtain one.  While this policy is in effect, please be prepared to show your YU-card to the library staff every time you enter the library.

In the meantime, take a deep breath, focus, and think of the relief that awaits on or around December 20th. Enjoy that while it lasts, since you’ll be back to do it all over again on January 6th!

Oh, and for a smile (again):

Senate Reform Déjà Vu

While much of the world’s attention on Canadian politics has been focused on the bizarre scenes that have been unfolding in Toronto, the Senate scandal that dominated headlines prior to the Mayor’s crack admission has continued apace. Much as in Toronto, the scandal has elicited popular hue and cry for something – anything! – by way of legislative reform to ensure that it never happens again. However, unlike Toronto, where a fix would be a relatively easy (if not politically palatable) amendment to the City of Toronto Act (or some other quick fix), in the case of the Senate, reform or, as many are calling for, outright abolition, would be very messy indeed. It should be no surprise, then, that the government has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in with a reference.

What is somewhat surprising is the fact that Senate reform has been something discussed almost as long as the body itself has existed. A simple keyword search in our catalogue for “senate reform” for yields eighty hits, with the oldest being from 1899 and 1909. There is, admittedly, a significant jump between 1909 and the next oldest hits from 1983, when a Special Joint Committee on Senate Reform was struck, which resulted in a report in January of 1984. The issue has never really gone away since, with a wealth of material available from the past thirty years. Since it is an issue that has elicited particularly partisan fervour, it is a subject that requires a particularly critical eye when reviewing the material, which is often heavily imbued with the political leanings of the author and/or the think tank (the Fraser Insitute has long adopted senate reform as a pet cause).

Shooting fish in a barrel, pt. 2

The now-infamous photo of Rob Ford

Lo, those many months ago, before newspapers were reduced to printing articles about explaining crack to their children, Rob Ford, the Mayor of Toronto, was embroiled in what now seems to be a quaint conflict of interest issue. An Off the Shelf post, entitled “Shooting Fish in a Barrel” was written, and that was seemingly the end of that.

Well, as the entire world now knows, that was not, in fact, the end of that, and thus another instalment of “Shooting Fish in a Barrel” has come to light. The developments have come in fits and starts, but the past two weeks have seen devastating revelations on a near-daily basis, with the latest (at the time of this writing) being yet another video of the Mayor in a state that was, by his own admission, “extremely inebriated.” While politicians of all stripes have called for him to resign and/or go to rehab, he won’t go, go, go. Unfortunately, this has created a bit of a bind for City Council as, unlike with most other levels of government, there are very few mechanisms for the removal of a sitting mayor (and the one means has already failed). Short of being arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned (all of which is unlikely to occur before the next election in October 2014), if the Mayor doesn’t want to leave, he doesn’t really have to.

However, that has not stopped councillors from trying to curb his powers, including a proposed motion from councillor John Filion that would essentially strip Ford of his power to appoint members to his executive committee and shift that power to council. This motion was proposed before the latest developments (i.e. admitting he’s smoked crack; today’s hopped-up death threats video), so there has been further calls for the province to step in and do something – anything.

Since the City of Toronto is, like all Ontario cities, a creation of the province, in theory, the province could amend the City of Toronto Act or find some other means of removing the Mayor, but it would set an undeniably bad precedent. Under the current legislation, there would be a couple of ways in which the Mayor (or any council member, for that matter) could lose the right to hold office. Section 203 (2) (c) states that a sitting member could be disqualified from holding office if they”would be prohibited under this or any other Act from voting in an election for the office of member of city council if an election was held at that time.” If one is being held at her Majesty’s pleasure, voting is a right which is withheld.

The other option, and this is the one that has garnered the most discussion, is s. 204 (c) of the City of Toronto Act, which designates a seat as being vacant in the event of three consecutive months of missed council meetings. The logistics of how to keep the Mayor away from council meetings for three straight months, especially given that it’s less than a year until the next election, remains to be seen.

The fact is that as things stand, the Mayor cannot be forced out, doesn’t have any intention of going, and can stand for re-election. He probably can’t even be forced into rehab unless he completely bottoms out, and his family apparently have no intention of getting him the help he needs. Whether he gets elected remains to be seen. Given how much has transpired since our last Rob Ford-themed post (less than ten months), a lot can (and probably will) change. When it does, you can be assured that part three of “Shooting Fish in a Barrel” will find its way to Off the Shelf.