“We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”
– J K Rowling
Law reform (or “legal reform”) refers to the process of examining existing laws, and advocating and implementing changes in a legal system, usually with the aim of enhancing justice or efficiency.
As lawyers, we understand how Canada’s laws and legal system can protect, promote, and enhance – or frustrate, hinder, and negate – justice and social change.
Our society is constantly changing, and we believe Canadian law must keep up and go further to make the promises of constitutional rights and reconciliation and a reality.
Progress is not inevitable and requires both vision and execution. Our advocacy skills and legal expertise are available to assist our clients in legal reform initiatives that promote a better and more just world and legal system.
TEST CASES AND PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION
A test case is any type of legal action brought specifically to establish an important legal right or principal. These cases are vital to shaping, building, clarifying and enforcing rights and jurisprudence, improving access to the justice system and ensuring a fair and more efficient system. Litigation can be a tool to focus the attention of governments on critical issues, to get new policy and legal precedents in place and to inspire and force change. This tool can be used in situations where it is valuable to set an important legal precedent or where negotiation is impossible due to irreconcilable positions.
Test cases are often brought by a single person (plaintiff) to establish a legal precedent. Intervenors also have an important role to play in public interest litigation. Other parties, such as Indigenous and advocacy organizations (e.g. the Assembly of First Nation, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, etc.) can play a role through public interest standing and have an important role to play in making arguments at the level of the Supreme and appellate courts of courts of Canada.
Some examples of test cases establishing important legal principles include:
- Indian Residential School Class Action and the ongoing Indian Day School Class Action
- Brooks v Canada Safeway Ltd (1989 SCC), a historic precedent-setting case protecting pregnant women from discrimination at work
Tests cases like these ensure that Canadian law evolves in a good way by setting important precedents related to rights of Indigenous peoples and equality-seeking groups. These developments in the law are not inevitable and require diligence, courage, and determination by litigants and counsel alike.
We can help you with test cases on:
- Treaty and Aboriginal Rights
- Equality Rights
- Human Rights
- Charter and Constitutional Rights
- Environmental Law
- Aboriginal Law
And in areas such as:
- Lands and Waters
There are programs that assist with funding test cases, such as the Court Challenges Program.
SUBMISSIONS AND ENGAGEMENT
The Canadian government often seeks input from key stakeholders and the public to help shape its policies, programs and legislative initiates. These engagement processes provide the opportunity to advocate for changes to the existing and propose legal regime. Funding is sometimes available overtly or on request. There is sometimes funding available for stakeholders, overtly or by request, to participate in engagement process. We can help you find these opportunities and available funding.
We are available to assist with submissions and engagement within a number of processes and initiatives, including:
- Parliamentary and Senate commissions reviews of proposed legislation (Bills), such as:
- Proposed United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Bill C-262)
- Proposed Indigenous Languages Act (Bill C-91)
- Federal Reviews of Legislation and Regulations
- Amendments to the Fisheries Act and regulations (Bill C-68)
- Amendments to the Impact Assessment Act, the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and the Navigation Protection Act and regulations (Bill C-69)
- Submissions to the Ministerial Working Group (Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies Related to Indigenous Peoples)
- Public engagement
- Recognition and Implementation of Rights Framework
- Impact assessments
- Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
- Many more