Doug Downey Walks Back Additional Cuts Planned For Legal Aid Ontario

Doug Downey is sworn into his role as Ontario's Attorney General at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 20, 2019.

TORONTO — Ontario’s attorney general said he would backtrack on some planned cuts to legal aid as he unveiled a suite of changes to the justice system Monday. 

The province’s Progressive Conservative government had announced in its 2019 budget that it would slash $164 million in funding — almost half of Legal Aid Ontario’s 2018 provincial funding — over the next three years. 

The $133-million cut made this year will stay in place but a planned $31-million in additional cuts won’t go ahead, government officials told HuffPost Canada.

“We decided that we’re at a level where it’s sustainable and it’s efficient and there’s opportunity to expand service with current funding,” Attorney General Doug Downey told reporters at Queen’s Park. 

We decided that we’re at a level where it’s sustainable and it’s efficient and there’s opportunity to expand service with current funding.Doug Downey

He had just introduced an 84-page bill that makes changes to 20 existing laws, including the Legal Aid Services Act. 

The reforms will give Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) more control over how it provides services, Downey said. 

LAO provides legal services for people who can’t afford a lawyer. A single person has to earn less than $22,700 to qualify for its services. Legal clinics that support injured workers and workers fighting unjust firings have already laid off staff because of the cuts made so far this year.

‘Classic ploy’

One lawyer called the changes a “classic ploy” that could further erode legal aid in Ontario. 

“We are deeply concerned,” said Dana Fisher, local vice president for the Society of United Professionals, a union that represents legal aid lawyers. 

She said the latest changes to the law will end a legal requirement for LAO to provide services in criminal law, family law, clinic law and mental health law.

“They’ve already stripped the funding and now they’re in a position where the services could be stripped,” Fisher said. 

“I think it’s appalling to suggest that there was no harm done,” by the cuts already made, she added. “There are people across this province who need access to Legal Aid Ontario and don’t get access to the services that they need.”

The cuts had been panned by lawyers, legal clinic staff, and even the provincial agency’s own CEO. 

In a letter to former attorney general Caroline Mulroney, LAO CEO David Field said the drastic cuts would hurt low-income clients. 

“Although we anticipated a reduction in our allocation … the daunting size of the reduction has truly taken us by surprise,” Field said in the April 17 letter, obtained by HuffPost Canada through a freedom of information request. 

“We are quite concerned about our ability to respond to this turn of events without additional detrimental impact on client services. It will be far from easy.”

… the daunting size of the reduction has truly taken us by surprise.David Field

LAO’s chair told reporters Monday that the cuts did create challenges, but the new law would make things easier. 

Under the current rules, LAO can’t refer a client to a lawyer who will accept their legal aid certificate, Charles Harnick said. That will change when the new rules are passed and make things easier for clients, he said.

“If people are looking for legal aid, we are open for business,” the chair, appointed by Downey’s predecessor Caroline Mulroney, said.

The government said Downey’s bill, the Smarter and Stronger Justice Act, would give LAO more power over the services it offers, make it easier for victims to sue people who share intimate images without consent, simplify the rules for administering small estates and increase fines for lawyers and paralegals who engage in misconduct. 

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By The Wall of Law December 10, 2019 Off

Golden Globes 2020 Nominations: Netflix Scores Four Best Picture Nominees

Netflix made awards show history by dominating the 2020 Golden Globes nominations, scoring its first-ever Best Picture nods for four of its films.

But Canadians were largely shut out of this year’s awards, with no nominations for last year’s Best Actress in a Drama series, Sandra Oh, or homegrown success story, “Schitt’s Creek.”

The only CanCon on the nominees list came from Aylmer, Que.’s Deam DeBlois, who wrote and directed Best Animated Picture nominee “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” which features the voice of Montreal actor Jay Baruchel. And another Montrealer, Jean-Marc Vallée, is executive producer of “Big Little Lies,” nominated for Best Drama Series. 

This year was light on surprises, with Noah Baumbach’s devastating portrait of divorce “Marriage Story” leading the pack with six nominations across the acting, writing and directing categories. Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic, “The Irishman,” which arrived on Netflix earlier this month after a limited theatrical release, trailed not too far behind with five nominations, though Robert De Niro was snubbed in the Best Actor race. 

The nominees for achievements in film and television ahead of the 77th annual awards ceremony were unveiled by actors Tim Allen, Dakota Fanning, and Susan Kelechi Watson at a news conference at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, which will host the entertainment industry’s biggest party early next year. 

Dylan Brosnan, Dakota Fanning, Tim Allen, Susan Kelechi Watson and Paris Brosnan at the Golden Globe Awards nomination announcement on Monday morning.

The idiosyncratic voting body comprised of 90-plus journalists, known as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, determine who’s in the running for Globes glory and have a history of surprising Hollywood with refreshingly divergent nominations. Last year’s winners, however, were an uncharacteristically accurate portent for Oscars gold, with Rami Malek of “Bohemian Rhapsody” and the polarizing “Green Book” taking the top prizes

This year, Netflix’s Eddie Murphy-fronted comedy “Dolemite Is My Name” was also represented strongly in nominations for the comedy categories, while the absorbing religious drama “The Two Popes” scored four nods for the streaming service.

But don’t count out Quentin Tarantino’s sweeping “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” about Hollywood’s golden age, which nabbed five nominations, or Todd Phillips’ record-breaking “Joker,” which won four nominations and could get the last laugh this awards season. 

Olivia Colman in

In the television arena, Netflix’s royal drama “The Crown” and “Unbelievable,” as well as HBO’s “Chernobyl” are front-runners heading into the ceremony, while Apple TV Plus’ “The Morning Show” made a surprisingly plentiful showing with nominations for leads Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. After a divisive final season, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” won’t make a victory lap at the Golden Globes ceremony, scoring only single nod for actor Kit Harington.

Despite immense critical acclaim and securing Emmys earlier this year, Ava DuVernay’s searing Netflix series, “When They See Us,” was completely ignored by the Globes.

The 2020 Golden Globes also will honour Tom Hanks with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.” In addition, Hanks’ turn as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” may figure in the nominations.

Ellen DeGeneres is set to receive the Carol Burnett Award, which pays tribute to a performer who has made outstanding contributions to television both on and off screen. 

The 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards will be presented Sunday, Jan. 5, in Los Angeles with Ricky Gervais returning as host for the fifth time.

Check out the full list of nominations below. 

Best Motion Picture – Drama 


“The Irishman”


“Marriage Story”

“The Two Popes” 


Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy 

“Dolemite is my Name”

“Jojo Rabbit”

“Knives Out”

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”



Best Director 

Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

Sam Mendes, “1917”

Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”

Todd Phillips, “Joker”


Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Cynthio Erivo, “Harriet”

Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”

Renee Zellweger, “Judy”


Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”

Antonio Banderas, “Pain & Glory”

Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”


Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Awkwafina, “The Farewell”

Ana de Armas, “Knives Out”

Beanie Feldstein, “Booksmart”

Emma Thompson, “Late Night”

Cate Blanchett, “Where’d You Go Bernadette”


Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Daniel Craig, “Knives Out”

Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”


Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Annette Benning, “The Report”

Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”

Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”

Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”

Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”


Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Al Pacino, “The Irishman”

Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”

Brad Pitt, “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”

Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”


Best Foreign Language Film 

“The Farewell”

“Les Misérables”

“Pain and Glory”


“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”


Best Motion Picture – Animated

“Frozen II” 

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”

“Missing Link” 

“Toy Story 4” 

“Lion King”


Best Screenplay

“Marriage Story”


“The Two Popes”

“Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”

“The Irishman”


Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“Beautiful Ghosts” (“Cats”)

“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” (“Rocketman”)

“Into the Unknown” (“Frozen II”)

“Spirit” (“The Lion King”)

“Stand Up” (“Harriet”)


Best Original Score

“Motherless Brooklyn”

“Little Women”



“Marriage Story”


Best Television Series – Drama

“Big Little Lies” 

“The Crown” 

“Killing Eve” 

“The Morning Show”



Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy



“The Kominsky Method” 

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” 

“The Politician”


Best Actress TV Series – Drama 

Jennifer Aniston, “The Morning Show”

Jodi Comer, “Killing Eve”

Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”

Reese Witherspoon, “The Morning Show”

Olivia Colman, “The Crown”


Best Actor TV Series – Drama 

Brian Cox, “Succession”

Kit Harington, “Game of Thrones”

Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”

Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”

Billy Porter, “Pose”


Best Actress TV Series – Comedy

Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag”

Natasha Lyonne, “Russian Doll”

Kirsten Dunst, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida”

Rachel Brosnahan, “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”


Best Actor TV Series – Comedy 

Ben Platt, “The Politician”

Paul Rudd, “Living With Yourself”

Rami Yousef, “Rami”

Bill Hader, “Barry”

Michael Douglas, “The Kominsky Method”


Best Miniseries or Television Film 




“The Loudest Voice”



Best Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Michelle Williams, “Fosse/Verdon”

Helen Mirren, “Catherine The Great”

Merritt Wever, “Unbelievable” 

Kaitlyn Dever, “Unbelievable”

Joey King, “The Act”


Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Chris Abbott, “Catch-22”

Sacha Baron Cohen, “The Spy”

Russell Crowe, “The Loudest Voice” 

Jared Harris, “Chernobyl”

Sam Rockwell, “Fosse/Verdon” 


Best Supporting Actress in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie

Meryl Streep, “Big Little Lies”

Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”

Emily Watson, “Chernobyl”

Patricia Arquette, “The Act”

Toni Collette, “Unbelievable”


Best Supporting Actor in a Series, Limited Series or TV Movie

Alan Arkin, “Kominsky Method”

Kieran Culkin, “Succession”

Andrew Scott, “Fleabag”

Stellan Skarsgård, “Chernobyl”

Henry Winkler, “Barry”

With files from Maija Kappler and the Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law December 9, 2019 Off

Lawyer competence includes knowledge of Indigenous-Crown history: B.C. law society

VANCOUVER — The Law Society of British Columbia has moved to require Indigenous cultural competency training for all practising lawyers in the province, in response to gaps in legal education that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified.

“Lawyers and the law created a justice system that discriminates against Indigenous people,” said Law Society president Nancy Merrill, noting that it was illegal for a lawyer to take a retainer from an Indigenous person until the 1960s. 

“That’s still recent history,” she said. “We need to move forward.”

Last week, the law society’s board of governors determined that lawyer competence includes knowledge of the history of Indigenous-Crown relations, the history and legacy of residential schools and specific legislation regarding Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Beginning in 2021, all practising lawyers in B.C. will be required to take a six-hour online course covering these areas, as well as legislative changes that could arise from the province’s newly enacted Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Lawyers will have up to two years to complete the course the mandatory course, which is a first among law societies across Canada, Merrill said.

“The law society’s role is to protect the public interest in the administration of justice,” said Vancouver-based lawyer Michael McDonald, who co-chaired the law society’s truth and reconciliation advisory committee. He is also a member of Peguis First Nation in Manitoba. 

“Serving the public interest means a knowledge of the facts of history, even if that history does not show our society in a good light.”

Historically, the legal system was an agent of harm for Indigenous peoples and in some ways it continues to be, McDonald said, pointing to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prisons and the judicial system.

Issues of concern to Indigenous peoples permeate all areas of the law, he said, from criminal and family law to corporate law to environmental law to intellectual property and trademark law.

Law students in B.C. are getting some cultural competency training already, but many lawyers have been practising for decades and some are coming to the province from other jurisdictions, said McDonald, adding that the requirements passed by the law society are the “baseline minimum.”

It’s important to support criminal justice lawyers with basic knowledge of key aspects of Indigenous experiences in Canada, such as the ’60s Scoop, during which Canadian government policies facilitated the apprehension of thousands of Indigenous children who were placed with non-Indigenous foster families, McDonald said.

“People who become more aware of that can then use that to inform the quality of their legal services,” he said.

Many real estate lawyers also lack knowledge about the Indian Act and how to strike development deals on reserves, said McDonald.  

“If you’re not aware of the internal politics and the history and culture of the people that give you your instructions, how are you going to be a good lawyer in that deal?”

There is a plan to develop more specific, supplementary courses in the future, he said, which would be voluntary.

In its report released in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called upon the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to ensure lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, including the history and legacy of residential schools, treaties and Indigenous rights, Indigenous law, and Indigenous-Crown relations, as well as training in conflict resolution and anti-racism.

John Borrows, the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Law at the University of Victoria, said he hopes the law society’s cultural competency training might one day delve into Indigenous communities’ own laws and legal traditions.

“It’s opening up those spaces to see Indigenous law, to see the agency of Indigenous clients and the context that they operate from,” he said.

This story by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2019.

Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press

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By The Wall of Law December 9, 2019 Off

District says it’s not liable for boy, 8, who killed himself

CINCINNATI — The death of an 8-year-old boy whose parents say killed himself after he was bullied by another student is at the centre of a legal fight with his family and the Cincinnati Public Schools.

School officials said the district isn’t liable for the death of Gabriel Taye, pushing for the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a federal trial judge’s refusal to dismiss the parents’ wrongful death lawsuit, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The boy’s parents argue that Carson Elementary School never told them that Gabriel was knocked unconscious by another student during an altercation outside a school restroom on Jan. 24, 2017. School officials claim Gabriel told staff he had fainted and never said he had been bullied or assaulted.

The district released a video that shows one boy bullying other students and then, according to the family’s attorneys, pushing Gabriel into a wall when he tried to shake the boy’s hand and knocking him unconscious. The spokeswoman said it’s unclear from the video what happened to Gabriel at that moment.

An assistant principal arrived about 4 1/2 minutes after Gabriel fell to the floor, followed by other school employees and the school nurse, who helped him to his feet, according to surveillance video. He was on the floor for about seven minutes.

The school nurse called Gabriel’s mother, Cornelia Reynolds, and told her that he fainted.

Gabriel returned to school two days later when he was bullied again, according to the lawsuit. He killed himself that night.

Reynolds claims she didn’t learn of the bullying until her attorneys saw a copy of an email written by a Cincinnati police homicide detective in an investigative file that described the scene outside the boys’ bathroom, her lawyers said.

The Associated Press

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By The Wall of Law December 8, 2019 Off