Avant Garde | APRIL 2022 | Volume 2, Issue 4
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LINCOLN ALEXANDER SCHOOL OF LAW
IN THIS ISSUE:
The Blockades, Police Budgets and Individual Freedom Dilemma
An overview of the proposed “Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act”
BY MIRA SETIA, 2L, Editor-In-Chief
Following the six-day Ambassador Bridge (“Bridge”) blockade in February 2022, Bill 100, or the “Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act” (“Act”), was introduced by the Ontario government. The anti-mandate protests in Ottawa early this year caused major disturbances in the city. They reached Toronto, which increased Toronto Police Service’s presence in the downtown core; and finally made their way onto Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge. The Bridge, at the Windsor-Detroit border, is one of the busiest international crossings in North America and is one of the largest hubs for all Canada-U.S. trade. Approximately $17 million in goods crosses over the Bridge hourly, which makes up about a quarter of all Canada-U.S. trade. As such, the six-day blockade at the Bridge in February cost the Canadian economy around $3 billion (possibly more). The larger impact of this loss is harder to predict, because jobs and the value of those goods were also affected.
On Friday February 11th, 2022, Premier Doug Ford declared a province-wide State of Emergency in response to the protests and blockades; by the afternoon, an Ontario Superior Court judge granted an injunction barring protesters from blocking traffic on the Bridge. The goal was to end the “siege” and allow police to fine/imprison protesters that do not allow the transport of goods across international border crossings, as well as the 400-series highways, airports, bridges, ports and railways across the province. Police patrolled the Bridge that entire weekend and moved demonstrators who were blocking road access out by Sunday Night. Officers from Windsor, London, Ont., Ontario Police Service (OPP) and the RCMP remained at the former protest site the next day. The protests in Ottawa, Toronto, and Windsor increased police presence in all of these cities. The government was right to allow people to exercise their freedom of assembly and let people support the protests through freedom of opinion. But damage to the economy is where the State drew the line. The impact of massive protests like these is not cheap. The City of Ottawa incurred a $36 million policing bill to clear out the Country’s capital and it cost the City of Windsor $5.7 million to clear up the Bridge blockade (mainly a policing bill).
As a result, Bill 100 was proposed. This proposed legislation would make it illegal to obstruct certain protected transportation infrastructure (i.e international borders, airports and things relating to international trade) if the blockage disrupts economic activity or interferes with the safety, health, or well-being of members of the public.
If enacted, this Act will give law enforcement tools to respond to blockades without the province having to invoke an emergency. It includes an approximate $96 million policing investment to:
Establish a permanent Emergency Response Team for the OPP;
Enhance training at the Ontario Police College with a focus on effective public order policing; and
Purchase heavy equipment such as tow trucks to remove blockades.
Moreover, the Act allows police officers to:
Suspend drivers' licenses and vehicle permits;
Seize license plates of those involved in an illegal blockade; and
Remove and store other objects contributing to a blockade.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the Act is narrow in scope and will not impede Ontarians' ability to peacefully protest; and Attorney General Doug Downey says that this action “will provide police and prosecutors with new tools to keep people safe and protect the vital economic lifelines that drive the prosperity of our communities.”
The primary goal here is to keep borders clear and keep trade flowing for the economy. Although the scope is narrow, increasing police budgets and broadening police powers may have potential trickle-down consequences to individual freedoms. This is the dilemma. Although we do not want to increase policing budgets, when those funds could be invested in mental health and social services (i.e. the #DefundThePolice movement), we cannot allow more blockades like the one on Ambassador Bridge; because the economy, jobs and trade will suffer greatly. However, we cannot stop those blockades without training police officers on public order and giving them the tools to do so; which requires a budget increase. All of these require balancing individual freedoms.
Although it is too early to predict the legal consequences for some of the Bridge protestors, we can still anticipate that future protests will be met with more strict action from the State. Whether these strict actions, and the increased police budget, will have a trickle down effect on individual freedoms is something only time will tell. If the Act comes into force, it will be reviewed after one year. That review will answer all our concerns.
INCREASING EFFICIENCY AT THE LANDLORD TENANT BOARD - A LOSING BATTLE?
BY BRYN COPP & DENA PAPAIOANNOU , 2L
The COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating a massive shift for technological solutions in industries that are historically slow to modernize. While a shift toward technology-based solutions is typically indicative of greater efficiency in processes and solutions, this is not always true.
In March 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, the Landlord and Tenant Board of Ontario (“LTB”) shut down for five months, creating a massive backlog of cases. The LTB announced their plan to make online hearings permanent in November 2020. In an attempt to combat the nearly two-year backlog that closing operations created, the Ontario government announced on April 1, 2022, that it will be allocating $19 million to the LTB. The money will go towards accelerating LTB decisions through increasing the amount of full-time and part-time mediators and improving IT platforms. The goal of the province’s recent funding announcement is to make dispute resolution more efficient and accessible.
The need for greater efficiency is a result of the enormous strain that many landlords and tenants are experiencing because of the backlog in LTB decisions. The strain that this closure has left on the Ontario system is illustrated by a couple in Oakville who are dealing with tenants who are refusing to leave the property six months following the home’s sale. The couple filed two applications with the LTB. The first application was in November 2021 to evict their tenant, and the second application was in December 2021 for the non-payment of rent. They did not hear back from the LTB until the end of March 2022 when they learned that their hearing was scheduled for the upcoming week. The situation that these homeowners are facing has intensified because in addition to dealing with an unruly tenant, the home's new buyers are threatening to sue. The main cause of this issue is that the LTB hearing wait time is roughly three to four months; but the government’s response to this issue is to throw money at increasing online access to the hearings. There is a disconnect.
On its surface, provincial funding may appear to be an effective solution. However, in practice, increasing funding does not address the root of the problem. The online hearing process that was introduced through the pandemic is described as confusing and stressful for those involved. A woman in London, Ontario, who recently had a hearing with the LTB, describes her experience as unfair and disconcerting. In February 2021, this woman received an eviction notice after the building her condo is in was unexpectedly being sold. She had lived in this condo for the past nine years and was frustrated by this sudden disruption. The issue was brought to the LTB. On the day of her hearing, the woman sat on the phone for over four hours waiting for the tribunal to hear her case. Once the hearing began, she was given the opportunity to have a brief meeting with a legal aid representative and then moved into an online room alone with her landlord. An adjudicator did not enter the call until later when she was told she had verbally agreed to move out and that the hearing was over. At no point was a mediator provided to assist with the discussions.
By spending money to make things more efficient, the LTB is losing sight of what matters - providing complainants with a fair and reasonable outcome.
HOME BUYERS AND PROVINCIAL LEGISLATION
BY BRYN COPP & DENA PAPAIOANNOU , 2L
For the first time, the average Ontario home has risen above $1,000,000. The high home prices in southern Ontario have residents panicking about whether or not there is any hope of purchasing a home in the future. As housing prices continue to soar, the answer seems bleak. In February 2022, the average price of a home in Ontario increased 26% from February 2021, at a price of $1,086,493. Furthermore, it is a 9% monthly increase from January 2022.
Despite the soaring prices, it seems that every time a house is put on the market in southern Ontario, a bidding war ensues. When multiple buyers are looking at a house and there is limited time to make an offer, it is difficult to have each potential buyer bring their own home inspector. What this means for buyers is that they must forgo home inspections for fear of losing out on their dream home. In Toronto, it is common practice for a seller to elect into pre-listing inspections. While this appears to be a solution, it is an optional process and the home inspector at this stage is accountable to the seller and to getting them the highest possible price for the home. Ultimately, buyers are left without any recourse if the inspector misses something. Without an inspection, a buyer is at an increased risk for encountering unforeseen expenses.
In an attempt to offset high housing prices, the government of British Columbia is implementing new measures that aim to put homebuyers first. On March 28, 2022, the government introduced the Property Law Amendment Act which aims to protect homebuyers by giving them time to back out of a sale agreement. This protection period gives homebuyers the opportunity to assess, finance and inspect their potential home before signing a sale agreement. While not affecting housing prices, it may give buyers a sense of security. Unfortunately on the other hand, the legislation increases sellers' risk by potentially dealing with buyers who will make offers and face no consequences. The B.C. Real Estate Association recommends that the government reconsider its position, as they believe that a pre-offer period is more beneficial. Whereas a cooling-off period allows buyers to put in offers and revoke their offer within the specified time, a pre-offer period would not disadvantage sellers while simultaneously allowing buyers more time to consider their purchase. While the proposed legislation does not go beyond introducing a pre-offer period, it is rumored that the government is looking to implement mandatory inspections and closed bidding.
We leave you to consider whether legislation similar to B.C.s Property Law Amendment Act and its cooling-off period would provide southern Ontario home buyers with protections against unforeseen expenses that have the potential to arise when they are forced to refrain from conducting home inspections.
REVIEW OF CLUBS AT LINCOLN LAW
BY IVY LOK, 2L
As the end of the Winter 2022 term comes to a close, we can finally say that our students of LASL have experienced law school in-person. Between the bustle of POD’s hallways and the smell of hot chocolate wafting from the student lounge, our cohorts have been busy making the most out of their face-to-face communications – particularly our student organizations. Many of our associations and clubs have been busy planning in-person events (with the caveat of current COVID restrictions). Many of us had to get creative as we navigate accommodating our online and offline members.
Our organizations last year were a bit limited by the intricacies of building a constitution and the lack of promised funding for their events. This year, however, our students have been imbued with a financial budget and the addition of a new cohort has brought in a number of new organizations.
As we reach the end of the term, let us look back at the events that our student groups have worked so hard to put together.
Access to Justice Interest Group
This organization took a creative route with exam preparations by organizing “A Bubly For Your Thoughts”, where students were able to provide advice in exchange for a can of Bubly. If you walk into the student lounge, you may catch our interested readers snapping a photo for their later reference.
Asia Pacific Law Students’ Association
APLSA’s biggest celebration was held during Lunar New Year, where the organization hosted a hybrid Gathertown event for their online attendees, and an in-person dinner for members to get to know one another.
Black Law Students' Association
BLSA’s monthly Get It Off Your Chest events allows members to vent online about their experiences, to offer each other support, and to commiserate with one another. Among the many panels that BLSA has hosted, we cannot forget to mention BLSA’s in-person celebration of Black History Month.
Environmental Law Club
If there is an opportunity for this club to set up shop at our LALSS events, you can expect to see them there! The ELC has been busy with organizing environmental law panels, clothing swaps, holiday campaigns, and joint initiatives with Danny’s Legacy Initiative.
Legal Entrepreneurs Club
We are beginning to see more and more clubs partner up with other organizations this year to host events together. This club not only hosted an online Halloween Kahoot, but also teamed up with the Law and Technology Society and LALSS to give out goodie bags to our students.
The dedicated executives of this organization meet weekly, and their events have definitely reflected their efforts. They organized an EDI Training Session, open to all students and mandatory for our LALSS Executives and EDI Council members, which was an amazing opportunity for attendees to learn to be more equitable and inclusive in their leadership.
Many of these organizations took the chance to, at the very least, organize a meet and greet with their executive team. We have had quite a number of our new clubs and associations, and it has added a layer of camaraderie and unity within LASL that gives all of us a welcome break from assignments, readings, and our upcoming exams. Some of these new additions include Danny’s Legacy Initiative, Family Law Students’ Society, and Lincoln Alexander Animal Justice Club, as well as Jewish Law Students’ Association Access & Disability Association, Mature Law Students’ Association, and Caribbean Law Students’ Association adding more equity-based groups within our school. I am sure that we all look forward to next year’s additions and creative events that will no doubt add to the spirit of Lincoln Alexander School of Law.
FOR IFTAR: LINCOLN ALEXANDER'S RAMADAN FOOD DRIVE
BY: SOUTH ASIAN STUDENTS' ASSOCIATION
From April 1 to May 1, Muslims around the world will be celebrating Ramadan. Ramadan is a holy month of worship, the study of the Quran, prayer, and fasting; and during this month, all healthy adults are expected to fast. Individuals fast for many reasons during Ramadan, such as renewing their faith, seeking forgiveness, and increasing self-discipline. However, while some people are able to break their fast during iftar -the evening meal with which Muslims end their daily Ramadan fast at sunset - there are individuals who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and are unable to break their fast alongside their fellow devotees.