Montrealers argue for right to assisted dying in pivotal court challenge

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During a break in her court proceedings, Nicole Gladu wheeled down a corridor of the Montreal courthouse in the electric wheelchair she was forced to start using last month — a sign, she says, of how quickly her muscles are degenerating.

« I consider myself like a house, where the brick and the mortar are just giving up, » she said.

Gladu, who had polio as a child and later developed post-polio syndrome, says her suffering has intensified, particularly in the past two years, and her body can no longer support her.

« I don’t want to die. I want to stop the suffering, » Gladu told reporters. « The death is not the object, it is the means. »

« For me, living like I am actually, it’s an existence, much more than a life. »

Gladu is one of two Quebecers challenging Quebec’s and Canada’s medical aid in dying laws. They want the right to access a doctor’s help to die, even if they are not yet close to the end of their natural lives.

Closing arguments in the constitutional challenge began Monday before Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin.

Gladu, 73, and co-plaintiff Jean Truchon, 51, argue both the provincial and federal laws are too restrictive. 

Canada’s law requires that a person seeking the right to medical aid in dying must be at the point where their death is foreseeable; Quebec’s law is even more restrictive, requiring that a person seeking the right to a medically assisted death be at the « end of life. »

Nicole Gladu, left, and Jean Truchon are challenging the laws restricting access to medically assisted dying. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Gladu believes the concept of « foreseeable death » leaves too much to the interpretation of doctors evaluating each case.

« All my life, it was my … nature to control life as much as I could, » Gladu, a former journalist, told reporters outside the courtroom. « I guess I want to get old the same way. »

Protecting the vulnerable

Lawyers for the federal government have argued that the « foreseeable death » criterion is necessary to protect « vulnerable » people who are suffering from a serious ailment but are not fatally ill from using the law as a way to die by suicide.

But lawyer Jean-Pierre Ménard said during closing arguments Monday the laws don’t define who is a vulnerable person and argued there is a difference between suicide and medical aid in death.

« The action they want to take has nothing to do with suicide, » he said.

It’s « not at all impulsive. »

Ménard said psychological evaluations of his clients have shown that they are able to consent and are not suffering from depression or any other psychological condition that could impair their judgment.

He argues that other provisions in the law already protect those who are vulnerable, as doctors must assess their mental state and determine that they are making an informed choice before granting their approval.

As well, those approved for medical aid in dying must demonstrate their capacity to consent right up until the final moment.

Truchon and Gladu suffer from serious health problems that cause persistent and intolerable suffering, and their conditions have deteriorated significantly, he said.

Truchon, who was not at court today, has cerebral palsy and lost the use of his only functioning limb in 2012. 

Ménard argued that the laws, as written, do not accurately reflect the Supreme Court’s unanimous Carter decision in 2015, which did not include any stipulation that a person must be close to a natural death in order to access a doctor’s help to end their life.

The Supreme Court’s decision said those with a « grievous and irremediable medical condition » should have the right to access medical aid in dying.

The Quebec and federal governments will make their closing arguments in support of the existing laws, once Ménard wraps up his arguments.

That’s expected to take until Feb. 28.

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‘You don’t look like a lawyer.’ Female lawyers and lawyers of colour angered by mistaken identity in court

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During the early years of her career, Lori Anne Thomas would sit near the front of the courtroom, only to be told to move by court staff as the area was reserved for lawyers.

Except she is one.

“I’ve heard more than enough times, ‘You don’t look like a lawyer.’ I know exactly what that means, which is that I’m not a tall, white man,” said Thomas, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in criminal law and who recently became president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.

“It hits at you and just on top of dealing with everything else, being a recent call (to the bar), trying to figure out how to do everything and navigate the legal community and also build a practice, to then also have that obstacle of being constantly reminded that you’re kind of not expected to be here.”

Thomas’s story is one shared by other female lawyers and lawyers of colour, some of whom have been mistaken in courtrooms and other legal settings for assistants, interpreters and even an accused person.

Toronto criminal defence lawyer Janani Shanmuganathan said she’s been mistaken several times for a Tamil interpreter at the Scarborough courthouse, where staff or a Crown attorney will approach her in the hallway telling her she’s needed in a courtroom.

Other times, staff will approach her in the courtroom, even though she’s seated in the reserved area for lawyers.

“I don’t think people are saying that to be mean or in a negative way, but I think the gut reaction for people is that I don’t fit the stereotype of who they think a lawyer should be,” she said.

“It’s very frustrating and sad. I’m a child of immigrants. I’m the first lawyer in my family. I worked really hard to get to where I am. It’s unfortunate that I have to constantly be demanding my space and the right to be recognized for the lawyer that I am. It’s disheartening.”

According to the Law Society of Ontario, which regulates the legal profession in the province, about 43 per cent of lawyers are women. And the final report released in 2016 from the law society’s Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group noted that the proportion of racialized lawyers in Ontario had doubled between 2001 and 2014, from 9 per cent to 18 per cent.

Ottawa lawyer Erin Durant, who specializes in civil litigation, said she’s become increasingly annoyed as the years go by, having been mistaken for a court reporter or an assistant.

“It’s tough. What I would like to say, especially if it’s an older male lawyer, is: ‘No, are you an assistant?’ But I haven’t grown the guts to say that yet,” she said. “I think it’s more of a societal change and letting the public know that not only are there female lawyers, but we’re actually pretty close to being the majority.”

Toronto lawyer Raj Anand, who co-chaired the law society’s working group, told the Star that the issue of unconscious bias, and people assuming who are lawyers and who aren’t, was something heard “loud and clear” during his group’s study.

“I think it’s part of a culture change,” he said. “One would hope that both court offices and judges would clearly recognize that we’re dealing with a changing demographic, and more than half of students graduating from law school are women, and something like 25 to 30 per cent are racialized in Ontario. That obviously plays a role in who appears in court.”

He said education and greater awareness for the judiciary and court staff could be helpful — something that his group recommended be done for lawyers.

Thomas said it’s a systemic issue, highlighting that the court staff in Brampton who told her she couldn’t sit in the lawyers’ area in the courtroom were also people of colour.

“It’s not just this perception of white or non-racialized individuals,” she said. “It is a systemic belief that is ingrained in all of us that people in certain positions look a certain way.”

The Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for staffing and operating the courts, takes this issue “very seriously,” said spokesperson Brian Gray.

Staff and managers receive training on a number of topics, including “bias awareness, unconscious bias, diversity dialogues and anti-racism,” he said.

Lawyer Trevin David said he can’t even count the number of times he’s been confused for a Tamil interpreter at the Scarborough courthouse. He also recalls an incident at a Toronto courthouse where a Crown attorney confused him for an accused criminal.

“I was in the Crown’s office waiting to speak to somebody else and the Crown attorney runs in and starts yelling at me about how I’m late, and I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And it becomes very clear that he thought I was a self-represented accused person,” David said. “And he didn’t apologize. He just said he was really busy.”

David said it takes a few moments to process what is going on in such exchanges, and sometimes the conversation is over by the time he’s ready to react.

“Even when you’re confused with being the interpreter, you’re still ultimately there for your client, so sometimes it might not be in your client’s best interests to get really angry, even though that’s what your initial reaction is. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and laugh it off,” he said.

“It’s not that these are just other random members of the public. These are people that work in the courts every day. These are Crowns and clerks. If they can’t imagine that you’re a lawyer, what larger story does that tell?”

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering legal affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

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PCO lawyer asked prosecutor if there was a way to ‘engineer issues’ in Norman case, court hears

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The top lawyer at the Privy Council Office apparently asked federal prosecutors if it was possible to « engineer the issues at stake » in the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.

The remarks — made on Sept. 18, 2018 and attributed to PCO lawyer Paul Shuttle — were contained in prosecution notes entered into evidence at a pretrial hearing involving the former vice-chief of the defence staff, who faces one count of breach of trust.

Justice Heather Perkins-McVey made reference to them on Friday as the Crown attempted to explain why it redacted notes being sought by Norman’s defence team.

The judge acknowledged there is a lot background missing from the reference.

« You wonder what that is about, » said Perkins-McVey. « We don’t know the context, what they were speaking about. »

Defence attorney Christine Mainville agreed and suggested she wasn’t prepared to jump to conclusions either, saying a lot of references in both the censored and uncensored versions of the notes « remain ambiguous. »

But she also noted during Friday’s pretrial hearing that notes of meetings between the Crown and officials at the Privy Council Office, which reports directly to the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet, will be important to the defence when it moves at the end of March to have the charges against Norman dismissed.

Whether the ‘engineering’ reference will help the defence remains to be seen.

Earlier this week, the lead Crown lawyer, Barbara Mercier, stated in an email to the defence that the notes were redacted for « litigation privilege » because they involve discussions of « trial strategy. » That prompted defence lawyers to allege political interference on Monday.

The director of the prosecution service denied the claim of interference in a written statement this week. That point was reinforced by Crown lawyer John MacFarlane in court Friday.

« There no direction from the Privy Council Office to PPSC on how to direct the case, » he said. « There was no direction or input from the Prime Minister’s Office to our office on how to direct the case. »

Judge asks about comments

As he spoke, Justice Perkins-McVey flipped through the uncensored version of the meeting notes and asked, « What about comments from Paul Shuttle, like, ‘Is there a way to engineer the issues at stake?' »

MacFarlane insisted the meetings were meant to identify a potential witness who could speak to the issue of cabinet confidences. Norman is accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to a $668 million shipbuilding deal to lease a supply ship for the navy in 2015.

The judge seemed skeptical of that explanation.

« There was certainly a discussion of evidence, » said Perkins-McVey, referring to the notes but not quoting further from them. « There was discussion of the evidence-gathering process. Obviously this was done well before. »

Norman does not go to trial until August. His lawyers have been arguing in court for months over access to federal government documents, including secret cabinet memos and notes related to the prosecution.

The Crown has fought most of the requests, claiming they are not relevant to the charge that the former commander of the navy leaked sensitive cabinet information both to executives at both the Davie shipyard in Levis, Que., and to CBC journalist James Cudmore.

The case will be back in court Feb. 22.

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Ontario Superior Court dismisses bid to save basic income pilot project

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A grassroots attempt to overturn the Ford government’s decision to kill the basic income pilot project has failed.

In a unanimous decision Thursday, Ontario Superior Court said the applicants made “clear and cogent submissions” on the importance of the experiment and the harm participants endured when the government cancelled the anti-poverty initiative last July.

“However, the pilot project is a government funding decision which does not give rise to individual rights enforceable on judicial review,” the three-judge panel wrote.

“This court has no power to review the considerations which motivate a cabinet policy decision,” the justices said in their 10-page ruling dismissing the case.

Courts do not have authority to order government to spend money, which would have been the “inevitable effect of an order to quash,” they added.

The participants’ lawyer Mike Perry said his clients are “understandably disappointed with today’s decision.”

“But they respect the court and the legal process and have asked me to thank the court for its consideration of their application,” he said Thursday.

Perry had argued in the case, heard in Toronto Jan. 28, that courts can step in when governments act irrationally, in bad faith and in breach of ethics.

The group will not be appealing the decision as it is focused now on its class-action lawsuit, he added.

Although Thursday’s ruling was “disappointing, applicant Dana Bowman, 57, said the case “put a human face” on the government’s actions.

“I felt heard by the justices,” said Bowman, who was living on Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) payments due to chronic physical and mental health challenges when she enrolled in the pilot project last winter.

“I can’t thank them enough,” she said.

The other participants in the legal challenge included Grace Hillion, Susan Lindsay and Tracey Mechefske.

Under the three-year experiment launched by the previous Liberal government in April 2017, about 4,500 people in Hamilton, Thunder Bay and Lindsay were to receive up to $16,989 annually.

Couples were to get up to $24,027, while individuals with disabilities were eligible for a $6,000 top-up.

The goal was to see if regular payments with no strings attached would improve health, housing and employment outcomes for people living in poverty.

The project was also testing whether a basic income would be a simpler and more economic way to deliver social assistance, a program mired in rules and bureaucracy.

Under the Ford government’s plan to scrap the experiment, participants will receive their last payment in March, a year before the pilot project was set to end. Apart from intake surveys, which showed participants were experiencing stress, struggling to pay rent and having trouble affording healthy food, no followup research was conducted on the impact of the extra income.

As news of the decision trickled out on social media, participants in other communities also expressed their dismay.

Tracey Crosson, 47, of Thunder Bay said she was “disappointed, hurt and confused,” by the ruling.

“I honestly don’t know what to do. I can’t live off of $1,168 a month. I am disabled. I can’t do it,” said the grandmother, who has relied on ODSP on and off for almost 20 years due to an accident.

Crosson moved to Toronto a month ago for medical treatment and was in court for the hearing. She says her basic income payments allowed her to cover her $950 monthly rent, buy nutritious food and focus on her health.

Ontario Premier Doug “Ford is attacking the vulnerable and he is winning,” she said, her voice breaking with emotion. “This is unfair. When will they realize what they are doing to the vulnerable is wrong?”

The decision was “not entirely unexpected … having listened to the very technical legal arguments,” said Sheila Regehr, chair of the Basic Income Canada Network, who also attended the hearing.

“In this very particular judicial review circumstance, it didn’t meet the test,” she said. “But it is still cruel, immoral and very callous. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Despite the legal setback, Regehr said her network, which has been pushing for a national basic income for almost 20 years, will “keep up the fight.”

“The groundwork has been laid by the former Ontario government in getting this designed and getting payments out there,” she said.

“The world is still looking at this and still thinking this was quite a remarkable achievement and there’s still lots to learn from it.” she added. “It’s just harder now.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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Saskatchewan carbon tax case heads to court — province argues its unconstitutional

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Lawyers are expected to pack a Regina courtroom Wednesday to argue the constitutionality of a federally imposed carbon tax.

A panel of five judges is to listen to arguments from both the Saskatchewan and federal governments as well as from 16 interveners on both sides of the dispute.


READ MORE:
Saskatchewan’s justice minister says carbon case likely headed to Supreme Court

Saskatchewan opposes the federal government’s plan to force a carbon tax on the province and plans to argue it is unconstitutional because it’s not applied evenly in all jurisdictions.

Ottawa says the constitution gives it the power to impose a carbon price because climate change and greenhouse gas emissions are national concerns.

The two-day hearing is to open with Saskatchewan presenting its case followed by submissions from other carbon-tax opponents.

WATCH: Trudeau’s carbon tax is ‘unconstitutional, ‘Moe says







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The governments of New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta’s Opposition United Conservative Party are among the presenters.

On Thursday, Ottawa is to get its turn as well as interveners from the pro-carbon-tax side.

“I would put this case on a short list of important federalism decisions that courts have grappled with,” said University of Alberta law professor Eric Adams.

He said there are merits to both arguments.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan, Ottawa carbon tax case ‘monumental’ for Constitution, expert says

Where Saskatchewan will want to keep the court focused on the federal-provincial division of powers, Ottawa is likely to steer its argument towards the issue of climate change itself, Adams said.

Saskatchewan Attorney General Don Morgan has said challenging the constitutionality of Ottawa’s carbon tax is the right thing to do for his province’s residents and its energy sector.

Saskatchewan is one of four provinces without a carbon pricing plan that will be subject to Ottawa’s fuel charge starting in April.

New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba are the others.

The federal government’s carbon price starts at a minimum at $20 a tonne and rises $10 each year until 2022.

WATCH: How climate action incentive payments work






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New Manitoba court for people with FASD could be game changer: experts

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Lawyers and judges say a new court set to open in Manitoba specifically for people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder could be a game changer.

« If you have somebody who can’t read, can’t write, physically cannot connect cause and effect, there has to be a way to address a sentence that they will understand, » said Winnipeg defence lawyer Lori Van Dongen.

« That is just common sense. »

Van Dongen said people with the disorder are often set up by the justice system to fail. The legal world has been slow to adapt to their challenges — whether it’s bail conditions they can’t adhere to or a list they are unable to read, she said.

When a fetus is exposed to alcohol it can cause brain injury and the impacts range from mild to severe. Only some people show physical signs, but most people with the disorder see and understand the world differently.

They struggle to understand the consequences of their behaviour and many are impulsive. They follow others easily and have drug or alcohol problems. Without the proper support they often end up in front of a judge and behind bars.

It’s not known how many people in Canada have the disorder, because it can go undetected and is difficult to diagnose. But Health Canada says it’s the leading known cause of preventable developmental disability in the country.

Research suggests that up to one-quarter of inmates in federal corrections facilities could have the disorder. A 2011 study out of Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba found the rate was 10 times greater in the federal prison than in the general population.

Mary Kate Harvie, a Manitoba provincial court judge, said it was clear a long time ago that changes had to be made so people with the condition could be treated fairly in the legal world.

In 2004, she was involved in creating a program that helps young people get a diagnosis and connects them to community supports. It also gives lawyers and judges more information about issues an accused offender might have because of the disorder.

Challenges linked to criminal behaviour

The program has had more than 1,200 referrals, has done more than 400 assessments and helped get almost 300 kids diagnosed.

Harvie said the Manitoba Court of Appeal has made it clear that a sentencing judge should consider how challenges faced by someone with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can be linked to their criminal behaviour.

« If people are not showing up to court because they have short-term memory loss, that’s a big difference from someone who is just blowing court off. »

Administrative charges have filled courts, remand centres and prisons with offenders who break curfew or miss a meeting with their parole officer because they struggle with the concept of time, Harvie said.

« We are hoping this project will start to address a number of aspects of that. »

Smaller, quieter courtroom

The court, which is expected to open at the end of February and sit one day a week, is an extension of the original youth program. It will have judges with an understanding about the complexities of the disorder as well as support workers to advise and connect sufferers with community programs.

It will also help obtain a medical diagnosis for anyone who shows signs of having the brain injury — although the wait continues to be long.

This is a really good move for our courts, for our province, for our clients.’– Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White

There will be a smaller, quieter courtroom with fewer distractions and visual images will be used to make sure offenders understand what’s going on.

Defence lawyer Wendy Martin White said she is optimistic that the new court will help her clients and hopes it will divert people from jails and toward community supports.

« This is a really good move for our courts, for our province, for our clients, » she said. « I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s going to be in a year’s time and then in five years’ time. »

Audrey McFarlane, executive director of Canada FASD Research Network, suggests it’s time for a national strategy.

« Right now all the provinces and territories do what they think is best and … they are trying really hard, but Canada needs to also provide additional support, guidance and leadership, » she said.

« Canada, as a whole, has put in very few resources to address FASD. »

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Several witnesses in Norman trial still haven’t searched personal records for evidence, court told

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Several major government figures at the centre of the criminal case against Vice-Admiral Mark Norman have not searched their personal email and phones for correspondence relevant to the case, despite the instructions of court-ordered subpoenas.

Zita Astravas, who serves as the chief of staff to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, was called to testify Thursday at a pretrial hearing in the breach-of-trust case against Norman.

She said the advice she received from lawyers at National Defence was that she was required only to surrender communications from her work-provided BlackBerry phone.

Norman’s defence team, led by Toronto lawyer Marie Henein, has been fighting in court for the disclosure of thousands of federal government documents — and have accused the federal government of conducting a selective and haphazard search for those documents.

In testimony Wednesday, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance acknowledged that he had not searched his personal email or his iPhone for anything that might relate to the case. Gen. Vance has insisted he doesn’t conduct any work-related business on his non-government devices.

Earlier this week, lawyers for federal cabinet minister Scott Brison delivered to court personal emails relevant to the case, separate from his government accounts.

Norman, the former commander of the navy, has been charged with one count of breach of trust and is accused of leaking cabinet secrets related to a $668 million contract to lease a supply ship for the navy. He was suspended as the military’s second-in-command in January, 2017.

Astravas was director of issues management in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office between November 2015 and August 2017 — the time period when the criminal investigation involving Norman first became public. She would have been the public servant tasked with briefing the prime minister on important issues and daily crises.

Astravas testified she didn’t know if her former email account had been searched in response to a subpoena issued by Norman’s lawyers.

Robert MacKinnon, the federal lawyer responsible for the record search, told the court the instruction given to all departments was that all devices must be searched. He said that instruction will be repeated.

​The pre-trial hearing has focused largely on the collection and production of communications relevant to the case. The actual trial is scheduled to begin in August, just months before the federal election.

Henein asked Astravas if she is aware of any communications within government about the timing of the case.

« Do you recall having any communications about delaying this trial or about the timing of this trial? » she asked.

« I don’t remember, » Astravas replied.

‘Fishing expedition’

On Tuesday, the defence team produced a list of words used in documentation to refer to Norman that it had obtained through Access to Information. They include Kracken, MN3, C34 and The Boss.

Vance said the military routinely uses jargon, acronyms and pseudonyms and he didn’t see anything on the list that he thought would qualify as a ‘codename’.

The list released to the defence team through the access request did not include any terms used in Sajjan’s office, which claimed a ministerial exemption from the request.

Astravas said after she received a subpoena to appear in court late Wednesday, she asked her staff to make « best efforts » to check if other pseudonyms for Norman had been used. She said they did not come up with additional terms.

Henein asked if Astravas knew of the terms « the certain naval officer, » « a certain naval fellow » or a « a naval colleague » being used, but Astravas said she could not recall.

Norman’s defence team has been engaged in legal wrangling with government lawyers over the the release of documents deemed relevant to the case.

Henein described the situation as « quite extraordinary, » with the government asserting cabinet confidence over certain documents and the defence securing subpoenas to obtain those documents.

Crown lawyer Barbara Mercier suggested the defence is trying to prolong the process to « kingdom come. »

« I have a very strong feeling that this has been a very large fishing expedition, » she said.

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Court approves EI sickness class-action settlement with new moms

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It is official. The Federal Court has approved a multimillion-dollar class-action settlement that will see Ottawa pay EI sickness benefits to as many as 2,000 new parents — mostly mothers — who were seriously ill during parental leave, but denied the additional money.

Justice Catherine Kane’s decision late Wednesday ends a six-year battle waged by Calgary mother Jennifer McCrea on behalf of about 2,000 others who will receive an average of almost $4,000 each.

McCrea, who was awarded an additional $10,000 as an honorarium for her efforts as class plaintiff, was “very relieved that it is over.”

“It has been quite a long journey,” she told the Star. “So many times I wanted to quit … But I am grateful that I had the strength to fight … many women didn’t have it in them to fight.”

Ottawa settled with McCrea last August and the deal was confirmed in September, subject to court approval.

The settlement, which covers parents who were denied the benefit between March 2002 and March 2013, is estimated to be worth between $8.5 million and $11 million, depending on the number of class members who apply for the money.

McCrea, 42, developed breast cancer in 2011 while on maternity leave with her youngest son, Logan, but was denied additional EI sickness benefits.

She is owed $7,515, the maximum 15-week benefit at the time.

Under the terms of the settlement, only parents who were sick during the parental leave portion of their combined maternity/parental leave period and were denied additional EI sickness benefits are eligible for compensation.

In her ruling, Kane said the settlement “is fair and reasonable” and that the honorarium for McCrea is warranted “given her significant contribution to this litigation and settlement.”

Kane noted the benefits would likely have been of more help to the women when they were ill. But she said the settlement was “nevertheless … a very good result.”

“They will receive their benefits, albeit years later, and they will have witnessed both a change in the legislation to benefit others like them and improvements in the manner that information is shared by Service Canada about such benefits,” she added.

McCrea’s lawyer Stephen Moreau was “thrilled” by the ruling.

“I’m glad to know this very long chapter has been closed,” he said.

Moreau, who has been battling Ottawa on the issue for almost nine years, was particularly pleased class members will receive 100 per cent of the EI benefit they are owed.

Moreau and his law firm, Cavalluzzo LLP were awarded about $2.5 million to cover legal costs.

The court action stems from a 2002 change to EI legislation that extended sickness benefits to working parents who become ill during pregnancy or while on maternity and parental leave.

It meant new mothers, such as McCrea, could take up to 15 weeks of sickness benefits to recuperate and then resume their parental benefits.

But EI officials didn’t interpret the changes that way; they argued that since an ill woman on parental leave wasn’t available for work, she wasn’t eligible for EI sickness benefits.

It wasn’t until Toronto mother Natalya Rougas successfully appealed her case in 2011 that the federal government took notice.

Moreau, who represented Rougas in her successful claim, launched the class action in 2012 on behalf of McCrea after the Calgary mother read about the case online in the Star.

Stephen Harper’s Conservative government eventually changed the law in 2013 to ensure new mothers with serious illnesses are not denied EI sickness benefits. And it quietly paid about 350 women who had their applications denied in 2012 and 2013.

But it refused to pay McCrea and others who were denied sickness benefits between 2002 and 2013.

McCrea said she was grateful to the Liberal government for living up to its 2015 election promise to settle the case, “albeit not as quickly as we had hoped.”

She also thanked the Star for keeping the case in the public eye.

“You were there when (others) couldn’t care less and that made all the difference.”

Laurie Monsebraaten is a Toronto-based reporter covering social justice. Follow her on Twitter: @lmonseb

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Meng Wanzhou expected in B.C. Supreme Court to make changes to bail order

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Vancouver—Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is expected to appear at B.C. Supreme Court at 9:45 a.m. Pacific Time Tuesday to make changes to her bail order.

Meng, who was arrested on Dec. 1 at the request of the United States, was granted $10 million bail on Dec. 11.

Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, right, arrives at a parole office with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 12. She is expected in court this morning to make a change to one of the people acting as sureties for her $10 million bail.
Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, right, arrives at a parole office with a member of her private security detail in Vancouver, on Wednesday December 12. She is expected in court this morning to make a change to one of the people acting as sureties for her $10 million bail.  (DARRYL DYCK / The Canadian Press)

In a statement, the Canadian Department of Justice said on Tuesday Meng is seeking to change the name of one of the people named as a surety in her bail order.

“The British Columbia Supreme Court will decide whether or not to consider and accept a substitute surety for Ms. Meng,” said Ian McLeod, with the DOJ.

“The Crown agrees/agreed to this application, and it was anticipated at the time of the original bail order for Ms. Meng.”

Read more:

China reacts with warnings to Canada and U.S. to drop charges, Meng extradition

Chinese state media coverage of John McCallum’s dismissal shows former ambassador was viewed as an ally, says expert

U.S. unveils 23 criminal charges against China’s Huawei as Ottawa fights to free two Canadians detained by Beijing in retaliation

Previously, five parties had been named as surety, including a realtor who put up his own home, worth $1.8 million, two former employees of Huawei and their family members, a neighbour, Scot Filer, CEO of Lions Gate Risk Management — the group responsible for making sure she sticks to bail conditions, in addition to cash put up by her husband, Liu Xiaozong.

It’s unclear which party the Tuesday bail order change application involves.

More to come

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