Posts by Michael Hackl

Bill 21 allows tyranny of the majority to trump minority rights

September 27th, 2019 by Michael Hackl

This article was first published on

Earlier this week, Quebec’s Human Rights Commission released a 327-page report (a 32-page summary can be found here), documenting xenophobic and Islamophobic acts of hate. The commission found that crimes reported and classified as hate crimes have been on the rise across Canada over the past decade, and in Quebec the two most targeted groups in hate crimes reported to the police in 2017 were Muslims and Arabs (and 78 per cent of xenophobic or Islamophobic acts were not even reported to the police). Further, the respondents to the study had experienced an average of three xenophobic or Islamophobic acts, and 35 per cent of the victims said they had changed their lifestyle as a result of encountering acts of hate.

The report’s recommendations include taking steps to address systemic discrimination. Myrlande Pierre, vice‑president of the Quebec Human Rights Commission, stated: “Systemic or structural racism exists. Quebec is not exempt from this phenomenon.”

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A constitutional cop‑out: Federal government passes the buck on conversion therapy

April 1st, 2019 by Michael Hackl

This article was first published on

The federal government missed an opportunity to introduce a significant protection for the LGBTQ community by failing to take steps to ban conversion therapy (the discredited practice of trying to convert individuals with non-heterosexual sexual orientations to heterosexuality under the guise of therapy). Instead, in its response to a petition calling for a ban on conversion therapy the federal government passed the buck to the provinces and territories.

The petition and the government’s response

On February 1, NDP MP Sheri Benson presented a petition to the House of Commons seeking a ban on conversion therapy, with a focus on protecting minors. The petition pointed out that organizations such as the World Health Organization and the Canadian Psychological Association have issued statements indicating that the practice is not supported by scientific research, lacks medical justification, and rather than providing assistance to affected individuals, can have significant adverse effects on their mental and physical health.

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Police technology vs. civil liberties — science fiction or current reality?

September 27th, 2018 by Michael Hackl

I enjoy reading science fiction, especially when it considers humanity’s struggle to deal with new technologies. Often these stories present a cautionary tale about how new technologies can be misused to oppress people. This idea of science fiction as cautionary tales was summed up by author Ray Bradbury, who wrote: “The function of science fiction is not only to predict the future, but to prevent it.”

One of my favourite science fiction writers is Philip K. Dick, who wrote a number of these cautionary tales. One of them, “The Minority Report” (which you may know instead as a Tom Cruise movie — the short story is better) presented a future where police did not investigate crimes that had occurred; instead, the “PreCrime” unit stops crimes before they occur, based on predictions from precognitive mutants.

Reality imitates fiction

So imagine my surprise when I came upon an article discussing police use of a computer program called PredPol (short for predictive policing) to identify areas that are more likely to experience crimes and to direct police resources to those areas. Read the rest of this entry

Medical cannabis benefits denied: How statutory insurance plans can avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits

April 26th, 2018 by Michael Hackl

As we move toward the legalization of recreational cannabis, I thought it would be interesting to look at a recent case dealing with medical cannabis and the efforts of one person to get assistance from his province’s workers’ compensation board to contribute to the cost of the medical cannabis prescribed to him.

The case of Skinner v. Nova Scotia (Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal) provides insight into how the use of medical cannabis is sometimes still perceived as an unconventional treatment despite having been legal in Canada for almost two decades, and also how administrative law gives statutory insurance schemes ways to avoid providing benefits to individuals seeking coverage for medically prescribed treatment. Read the rest of this entry

Case Study: Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Extends its Membership Beyond Ontario

April 5th, 2018 by Michael Hackl

As your organization or business looks to grow or expand, all manner of new issues arise that you will need to address to ensure that the organization complies with its legal, regulatory and governance requirements.  Getting good advice and assistance at the outset of your efforts to expand can help to avoid issues later on.

We recently helped Gay Lea Foods, Ontario’s largest dairy co-operative, open its membership to dairy farmers in Manitoba. The proposition of opening an Ontario co‑operative’s membership rolls to those outside of the province presented some legal challenges that we were able to help Gay Lea overcome.

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Chronic work stress? Amendments will let more people qualify for workers’ compensation, but questions remain about how the changes will be applied

February 26th, 2018 by Michael Hackl

January 1, 2018 was a banner day for employee’s rights and protections in Ontario.

In addition to changes to the Employment Standards Act that came into force on January 1 (see our previous blog post here), a new entitlement for benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997 (the WSIA) for “chronic or traumatic mental stress arising out of and in the course of the worker’s employment” also came into effect that day.

An entitlement under the WSIA simply means that a worker who meets those criteria is entitled to benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) insurance plan. So, for example, the act states that a “worker who sustains a personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of his or her employment is entitled to benefits under the insurance plan.”

Previously, the WSIA provided that a worker suffering from mental stress was not entitled to benefits unless the stress was “an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event arising out of and in the course of his or her employment” – far too high a bar for many workers. As an example, prior to January 1, an employee might have been entitled to benefits if he or she experienced mental stress because they had been involved in or witnessed a horrific accident in the course of their employment, but not if they experienced mental stress due to an ongoing course of events, such as persistent harassment. Under the new entitlement the later scenario may be covered; the WSIA may provide benefits for mental stress resulting from an ongoing course of events.

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