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A Sum of 2020: Canadian Law Edition

With only 18 days until 2021, we can all breathe a sigh of relief - 2020, a year full of difficulty, strain, and stress is nearly over. This year, we’ve all been busy and juggling tons of things at once, and the legal field is no exception. To honour the end of 2020, here’s a brief list of some of the biggest legal issues and challenges that have arisen in Canada.


With regards to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), two financial support programs designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Canada Revenue Agency. In late August, after over 14,500 applicants became the victims of cyberattacks resulting in stolen financial and personal information, a class-action lawsuit was proposed against the federal government, stating that the government and CRA had “allowed” for the attacks to occur. The lawsuits alleges that at least three cyberattacks occurred between March and August, but the slow response from the federal government resulted in an exponential increase in security breaches.


It further states that because both programs were implemented “hastily,” there were few safety features and measures to prevent cyberattacks from occurring.


These breaches have resulted in the loss of security surrounding sensitive information, including social security numbers, bank account and tax details, home addresses, and more. As a result, the lawsuit is seeking financial compensation for all victims.


The legal world has not been quiet in the realm of the proposed federal carbon tax, either. Although carbon pricing has been in Canada since 2007, the federal government’s recent proposal to force a set carbon price on provinces that do not meet the ‘minimum standards’ set by Parliament has been heavily debated. In September 2020, the decision reached the Supreme Court, yet it was unable to end its hearing with a decision.


In simple terms, legal challenges have been posed by the provinces of Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta, arguing that allowing the federal government to essentially control carbon taxing would be overstepping provincial jurisdiction. On the other hand, the federal government argues that establishing a carbon tax that meets the minimum standard would be “acting in the national interest.” Questions surrounding responses to climate change and emergencies have been hotly discussed and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.


Finally, there has been much circulation around the expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline. In February, an appeals court in Canada dismissed a complaint from four First Nations groups, who alleged that they had not been consulted by the government prior to approving the expansion.


Ultimately, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled that the “narrowed scope” of the complaint, in addition to the reasoning that the “duty to consult does not dictate any particular substantive outcome,” were its reasons for dismissal. Ultimately, the court ruled that Indigenous peoples do not have the ability to veto project proposals entirely, but rather, should seek to balance their interests with “competing societal interests.” As a result, the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion proposal was approved to proceed.


Of course, there are many other legal cases that have taken place in Canada, from family law to employment law, from tax law to criminal law. As we approach the new year, make sure to stay well-read on issues concerning you and the community.


If any legal topics fascinate you, another phenomenal way to stay informed about the legal field and ask questions is to attend our upcoming Youth Leaders in Law conference in March 2021, open to all high school students internationally. Although our blog will be on hiatus until the new year, we are always open to questions, and you can stay updated about the event via our social media pages, website, and email (youthleadersinlaw@gmail.com). From all of us at YLL, have a safe and relaxing holiday season!

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