Annual General Meeting October 2020
CHAIRMAN'S ANNUAL REPORT
October 19, 2020
On February 13, 2020 the CJRB mourned the loss of one of its founding members and first chairman Robert I. Martin. Rob passed away in Guelph where he had moved to be with his extended family members. His passing drew condolences from members of the RMC and many others. An 'in memoriam' has been posted on the CJRB website https://www.canadianjusticereviewboard.ca/about-us/robert-i.-martin
This year all Canadians were impacted by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Various businesses were shut-downs and work from home directives issued. There has been a general shutting of in-person appearances in courts and tribunals prompting a move to electronic "virtual hearings", the fairness of which is untested.
On a cheerier note, on October 22, 2019 the CJRB held its Annual General Meeting and welcomed David Franklin J.D. as a new board member. David has raised the issue of financial mortgage frauds and on December 17th he was interviewed by Global News about this problem. This helps raise awareness and with David's guiding hand the CJRB hopes to persuade the Legislature to enact some laws that will provide a solution to the problem.
Federal MP Cheryl Gallant spoke at length in Parliament praising a report that Liz Marshall prepared concerning amendments to the Fisheries Act that appear to go beyond the pale. More recently, and in conjunction with the OLA, Liz sent a 5 page letter to the provincial government regarding the impact of Covid-19 on farmers, and offered some suggestions as remedies.
Glenn Lucas has provided copies of several "head scratching" decisions of the Assessment Review Board (ARB) which adjudicates appeals from property taxpayers in Ontario and provided a guiding hand in preparing a submission to Ontario Premier Ford which addressed a number of problems with the ARB about which the Auditor General of Ontario had also been critical, and recommended among other things that Ontario consider adopting the Nova Scotia assessment model. The Nova Scotia model assesses properties based on sale price plus an annual increase tied to Stat Can's inflation rate. That assessment does not change until the property is sold, at which time the new sale price becomes the base rate, Unlike Ontario, the Nova Scotia system results in far fewer appeals. Under the ARB's new rules, in-person hearings have been replaced by "virtual" hearing except in exceptional circumstances. The exceptional circumstances appear to be few and far between. For example a request from a hearing impaired person for an in-person hearing was rejected and a person who lacked internet access was told to use a neighbour's . The key to winning an ARB hearing appears to be by submitting good written arguments. I heard from a property owner in Alberta who said she had found that many properties in her small town were not on the tax roll and not paying taxes. This put an unfair burden on others. When she dug deeper she found that the group getting the property tax holiday included various municipal officials. I was able to refer her to Glenn for his comments. Glenn has indicated that he did speak with her and the situation that she described could easily become a best- selling novel or a Netflix original. I may follow up with her and suggest that CTV's W-5 might be interested in investigating the matter.
In July the CJRB was contacted by a survey firm in southern Ontario concerned about the closure of the local land registry offices in Ontario and the forced reliance on information from the private firm Teranet Inc.,which was given a contract to electronically process land title transfers. but which provides inaccurate information that includes a disclaimer as to its accuracy. Perhaps in response to some of those concerns that the CJRB and others have raised, the Director of Titles announced that the historical documents needed to conduct a proper title search would be made available electronically. Because of Teranet's seemingly less than diligent work, an untold number of bad titles in the older registry system were converted to Land Titles, creating the false impression that all registrations in Land Titles are good titles. A bad title amounts to no marketable title at all, yet many purchasers do not know of the problem.
In the fall of 2019 the federal Parliament, with all party support, put forward Bill C-5 for study by the Justice Committee. The Bill concerns the need to have judges better educated but its focus was narrow. When Parliament was prorogued the Bill died on the order paper but was reintroduced in mid October 2020. The preamble to the Bill states : "Whereas survivors of sexual assault in Canada must have faith in the criminal justice system;" The big question is: why only survivors of sexual assault. Why should every person not be entitled to have faith in the justice system, particularly in civil cases which make up the majority of complaints that the courts hear? The CJRB plans to make a presentation and suggestions to the Committee that emphasis the duty of judges to be familiar with the law and to apply the law, and not their own personal views. The lack of consistency in civil court decisions is a concern that casts the administration of justice into disrepute. The courts were created by Parliament to give to those who apply their rights according to law, and not something else. Judges have no right to give a decision in accord with their own views of equity and good conscience, as distinct from the rules laid down for them, but unfortunately the latter happens far too frequently.
Our colleague Al Rosen has continued to provide thoughtful articles about the lack of accounting standards prevalent in Canada which are in part due to decisions of the court that have put the investments of the public at risk.
For my part, I have followed up on my book titled 'About Your Financial Murder' by publishing 'Farming Humans' which I hope will raise public awareness about the financial securities industry and its unregulated nature that have cut many people's retirement funds in half. The information posted on the CJRB website and on Facebook has been well received and read by an ever growing number of people across the country.
In the past two years that I have chaired the CJRB I have been indebted to the hard work of all my colleagues on the board. I am particularly pleased to welcome Philip Slayton as a director elect. Mr. Slayton divides his time between Toronto and Nova Scotia. He studied law at Oxford University as a Manitoba Rhodes Scholar and later clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa. He taught at McGill University and was Dean of Law at the University of Western Ontario. He then practised corporate law in Toronto with Blake, Cassels & Graydon from 1983 until his retirement in 2000.
I am grateful to the other directors of the CJRB who are pursuing our common goal of improving the justice system so that it returns to delivering the protections that it should provide for all Canadians. I am confident that as the chairperson elect Liz Marshall will carry the CJRB's achievements even farther in the upcoming year.