Can you offend against children and get admitted to the bar? Plus no SCC shot for a Calgary private school, election changes secure MPs their pension, and KLM goes down for greenwashing.

Yesterday, Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew formally apologized to two men who were switched at birth. The men learned about the switch almost 65 years later, through DNA tests.

I don’t want to make a formal apology in 65 years when you realize you missed out. So I’m telling you now just how easy it is to get a free coffee from this newsletter. All you need to do is refer a few people using your custom link at the end of this email.

Have a great weekend.

— Dylan Gibbs


7 min read

  • Law Society offers a generous second chance

  • Calgary private school won’t get to make its case at the SCC

  • Election changes secure MPs a pension

  • ONCA overturns a civil verdict over bad character evidence

  • KLM goes down for greenwashing


Good character with a checkered past

Lawyer working in an office while wearing an "anonymous" mask

What sort of conduct permanently disqualifies someone from admission to a Law Society? Like any legal question, it depends. But here are some things that aren’t disqualifying — even in combination — according to Ontario’s Law Society Tribunal:

  • Sexually abusing three children

  • Failing to disclose the sexual abuse when applying for admission

  • And continuing to withhold information for three years after the Law Society opened an investigation

What happened? A man abused three children in another country. After a parent called him out, he disclosed to a child protection agency, returned to Canada, went to law school, and applied to be a lawyer. The Law Society discovered the misconduct through an anonymous letter in 2014 — just before the applicant’s bar call. The applicant didn’t come clean and withdrew his application in 2017.

Now the applicant is back. And a hearing panel said he’s a person of good character, despite his past. The Law Society lost an internal appeal of that decision, so the (somewhat) anonymous applicant is free to join the ranks of the profession.

WTF (why the forgiveness)? The hearing panel said the applicant showed a genuine commitment to rehabilitation:

[H]is actions since 2017 show a sincere and concerted attempt to address not only the historical sexual misconduct but also to address his failure to be candid, forthright, and open about that misconduct with his family, medical practitioners, and the Law Society during the initial licensing process.

2023 ONLSTH 99, para 77

Conditions attached: Despite his rehabilitation, the applicant doesn’t get free rein as a lawyer. The hearing division imposed a practice restriction saying the applicant can’t have unsupervised meetings with minors.

On appeal, the Law Society argued that someone who shouldn’t be around children surely doesn’t have good character. But the appeal panel disagreed. The appeal panel said the restriction is just like other practice limits, like a ban on practicing real estate. At least one academic disagrees with that view.

Why the anonymity? Some journalists and lawyers are upset the Tribunal anonymized the applicant’s name. Fair enough. But the Tribunal did have its reasons for keeping the information under wraps.

One of the children the applicant abused was his daughter. Publishing his name would identify her. And to make things worse: the daughter doesn’t know about the abuse. The Tribunal banned publication so that the daughter learns about the abuse on her family’s terms (if at all).

It’s not a perfect solution anyway — the applicant’s practice restriction will be posted in the Law Society’s public directory. He’ll be the only one with a restriction not to meet with children. (I checked.)



📅 A minor date change overshadowed more substantial amendments to the Elections Act. The federal government tabled changes to make voting more accessible and crack down on election interference. But the proposed changes also moved the scheduled date for the next election forward by a week. And that one-week difference is enough to guarantee a pension to MPs elected in 2019. In fairness, the government says it changed the date to avoid a conflict with Diwali. But that doesn’t explain why the date moved forward instead of backward.

🎖️ The federal government is taking away the military’s jurisdiction to investigate sexual misconduct.

🚖 The Ontario Court of Appeal released a punchy decision about bad character evidence in the civil litigation context. A young plaintiff sued for damages after she was struck by a vehicle. And a jury dismissed her claim. But the Court of Appeal overturned that result because the defence relied on inflammatory evidence. Counsel made a point of telling the jury that the plaintiff was running to avoid paying a cab fare.

Ultimately, the evidence was inadmissible. Its prejudicial impact far outweighed any marginal value it had in explaining the narrative of events to the jury. It was subsequently used to paint Ms. Jarvis in an unfavourable light – that she was a dishonest person who was not worthy of being compensated for her devastating injuries. And it must be remembered that, at the time, she was a minor, a 16-year-old, who was very intoxicated, and who ran from a measly $13 fare. A young person in these circumstances can hardly be characterized as a “cheat” who is undeserving of compensation.

Jarvis v. Oliveira, 2024 ONCA 200 at para 60

🤖 Have thoughts about the impact of AI on competition in Canada? The Competition Bureau wants your feedback and published a discussion paper as a starting point.

Beyond the border

🎓 Washington is now admitting lawyers to practice who haven’t written a bar exam. That’s not entirely new — other states and some Canadian jurisdictions do the same. But Washington is the first to open its exam-free pathway to people who don’t have a law degree. Under the state’s new rules, graduates of a specialized Law Clerk program can gain admission without a JD, and without passing the bar exam, through a mix of study and apprenticeship.

📱 The US Justice Department sued Apple over its alleged smartphone monopoly.

🌳 According to a Dutch court, KLM greenwashed its business and misled customers. The airline’s ads painted “a too-rosy” picture, giving a false impression about the extent of KLM’s environmental impacts. Closer to home, Canada’s competition commissioner also wants to fight back against greenwashing. He recently wrote to MPs asking for stronger regulation of sustainability claims.


No SCC appeal for Webber Academy

Large building resembling a private school

The 12-year legal battle involving a Calgary private school finally ended yesterday with a decision from the Supreme Court refusing leave to appeal.

The dispute involved Webber Academy’s decision not to give two Muslim students a private place to pray. The school said overt religious displays went against its secular nature. But Alberta’s Human Rights Commission rejected that argument and fined the school for discrimination.

The Court of Appeal upheld the Commission’s decision last year, which is now the final word.

Why didn’t the Supreme Court take a juicy Charter case? Likely because this one turned its facts. The appeal wouldn’t have covered whether every secular school needs to offer prayer space for its students — just this secular school.

Webber generally gave students what they needed to spend the day on campus. The school was fine with students using quiet, private spaces to study or combat anxiety. But it drew the line at prayers that involved bowing or kneeling. That distinction exposed Webber to the human rights complaint.

And although Webber argued it had the right to maintain a religion-free campus, the evidence cut against that argument.

  • The school accommodated religious dress requirements.

  • It put up a Christmas tree each year.

  • It was fine with prayers that didn’t involve bowing or kneeling.

  • And it even accommodated the Muslim students for a brief period — the students prayed in empty offices and classrooms for two weeks, without any complaints.

We accept that Webber Academy wishes to establish a campus welcoming of all faiths, believing that religious practice and instruction should be addressed by parents and caregivers of students, outside of the school environment. However, the evidence establishes that Webber Academy’s “culture” currently accommodates religious differences amongst the student body.

Webber Academy Foundation v Alberta, 2023 ABCA 194 at para 77
Dylan Gibbs

That’s all for today. Govern yourself accordingly.

You can also find me on LinkedIn and X/Twitter @DylanJGibbs.

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