Osgoode prof advocates for access to legal information

Office clerk searching for files in a filing cabinet drawer

Osgoode Hall Law School Assistant Professor Patricia McMahon is calling for key changes to Canada’s Access to Information Act after it took her more than five years to acquire information about a significant court case that dates back more than 100 years.

Patricia McMahon
Patricia McMahon

McMahon said certain provisions in the law are stifling research and she is organizing an interdisciplinary group of fellow academics to advocate for changes to the law.

“When I started this project, I had no idea that it would be harder to get information about what happened during the First World War than it was to get access to the documents I relied on to do my PhD dissertation on nuclear policy,” she said. “We’re trying to come up with some easy fixes that could make a big difference in the way access-to-information claims are processed.”

McMahon filed the first of several access requests in 2011, when she started researching an article about the use of habeas corpus during the First World War. She decided to focus on two cases heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1918 and filed an access-to-information request for the respective Department of Justice files. The cases were brought by two farmers – George Gray from Ontario and Norman Lewis from Alberta – who challenged the federal government’s move to revoke exemptions from compulsory military service when conscription failed to raise a sufficient number of troops to fight overseas.

She received almost the entire file on the Gray case but nothing for the Lewis case because, the government stated, it contained personal information. When she challenged that finding, she received about half the file. The rest was withheld on the grounds of solicitor-client privilege. It took five years to get the full file.

McMahon said different government officials review different access-to-information requests, even ones that are related like hers, and often come up with different conclusions as to what and how much can be released. That’s why she received most of the Gray file but had problems getting documents from the Lewis file, notwithstanding that each contained the same types of records.

“When in doubt, people typically take the cautious and most conservative approach and don’t release documents,” she said. “Everybody is afraid of releasing something that shouldn’t have been released.”

She said the interdisciplinary group of scholars she has helped to organize is hoping to shed light on the problems that the Access to Information Act is posing for researchers.

“It’s not just about access for journalists, which is really important,” she said, “but it’s also affecting the work that social scientists and others can do.”

McMahon said the group hopes to hold a symposium in the spring that will give researchers an opportunity to discuss the access-to-information problems they’re facing and some possible solutions.  

For McMahon’s research, the challenge was the way government relied on solicitor-client privilege to withhold select documents.

“Solicitor-client privilege survives for all time and belongs to the client,” she explained. “In the case of government lawyers, the government is the client. Solicitor-client privilege is a discretionary ground under the Access to Information Act, which simply means that government may withhold documents but has the discretion to release them, too.”

In McMahon’s view, solicitor-client privilege should not be used to protect government documents from permanent scrutiny. Even a temporal limit – like 20 or 30 years – would go a long way toward improving the situation.

“Whether the right amount of time is 20 or 30 years is a matter of debate,” she said, “but few could think it justified to withhold documents from researchers that are almost 100 years old.”

York U in the news: Black studies pioneer, Remembrance Day ceremonies and more

Celebrating Andrea Davis: Carving a space for Black Studies in Canada
York University Professor Andrea Davis was profiled in Royal Roads University News Nov. 15.

York’s 2023 Remembrance Day ceremonies
York University Vice-Provost of Students Nona Robinson was quoted in Excalibur Nov. 14.

Accent Inns chief executive to speak at Royal Roads University convocation
York University Professor Andrea Davis was mentioned in the Times Colonist Nov. 15.

SFU350 calls on SFU to divest from RBC
York University was mentioned in The Peak Nov. 14.

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.

OsgoodePD introduces three new courses for internationally trained lawyers

Two women students in a law class

Osgoode Professional Development’s Professional LLM in Canadian Common Law program is introducing a new stream of practice skills courses next fall. Developed by Audrey Fried, OsgoodePD’s director of faculty and curriculum development, in partnership with instructors Shelley Kierstead and Germán Morales Farah, the new courses offer students the opportunity to integrate their substantive knowledge and skills from several courses in a way that simulates the realities of Canadian legal practice.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to offer this suite of courses, which are unique in integrating substantive law and practice skills in a way that meets the needs of our Professional LLM students,” said Fried. “And these courses are a natural fit for OsgoodePD, building on our experience with simulated clients and problem-based learning, and drawing on the expertise of Professor Paul Maharg and experienced instructors like Professor Shelley Kierstead and Germán Morales.”

In Canadian Legal Strategy, Research and Writing (CCLW 6609), students will go beyond the basic legal research and writing skills by drawing on material from Professional Responsibility and Constitutional Law courses to develop interview, communication and strategy skills. They will learn how these skills work together with legal research and writing to serve the needs of clients. Students will deploy their newly gained knowledge in authentic tasks as they are called on to draft practice documents and write memoranda of law, opinion letters and demand letters.

In Canadian Business Transactions (CCLW 6638), students will move from a solid foundation in Canadian law related to corporate and commercial transactions into exercises involving communication, strategy, drafting and negotiation. Students will prepare practice documents, plan due diligence, conduct or review selected regulatory searches and negotiate key terms of a transaction.

The third new course, Capstone: Canadian Law in Practice (CCLW 6610), further builds on those newly acquired skills as students work in a virtual firm environment, completing both a litigation and a transactional file and engaging in structured reflection of these new skills and experiences. The course will also focus on building client relationships.

These new course offerings will help internationally trained lawyers meld practical experience from other jurisdictions with Canadian substantive law and practice techniques.

Applicants with an international law degree are encouraged to apply to the OsgoodePD Professional LLM in Canadian Common Law program by Jan. 15, 2024. For more information about the program, the new course offerings and how to apply, visit the program website.

York U in the news: climate disasters, hearing loss and more

Canada must stop treating climate disasters like unexpected humanitarian crises
An op-ed co-written by York University Professor Yvonne Su was published in the Conversation Nov. 12.

How workplaces can create more inclusive environments for employees with deafness and hearing loss
An op-ed co-written by York University Professor Brent John Lyons was published in the Conversation Nov. 12.

New statistics reveal Canada’s Latin American community includes more than 1.1 million people
An article by York University alumna Isabel Inclan was published in New Canadian Media Nov. 7.

The little university that could(n’t): UPEI’s nightmare behind closed doors
York University instructor Kate Tilleczek was quoted in Global News Nov. 13.

How effective is a one-time well-being bonus?
York University Professor Marie-Hélène Budworth was quoted in Canadian HR Reporter Nov. 13.

A contest erupts in Uganda over the tainted legacy of late dictator Idi Amin
York University Professor Gerald Bareebe was quoted in ABC News Nov. 13.

ChatGPT use for wedding vows, eulogies stokes dispute over authenticity
York University Professor Alice MacLachlan was quoted in ABC News Nov. 11.

Canadians unprepared for wildfires, despite known mitigation measures: study
York University Professor Eric Kennedy was quoted in CityNews Vancouver Nov. 10.

Legal challenge of Yukon SCAN Act underway in Whitehorse
York University Professor Stephen Gaetz was mentioned in Yukon News Nov. 10.

Eight Canadian universities to compete in international building design competition
York University was mentioned in Plumbing & HVAC Nov. 13.

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.

Schulich MBA earns top spot in responsible business ranking

Seymour Schulich Building

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program at York University’s Schulich School of Business was ranked No. 1 in Canada in an annual global survey focused on responsible business.

In the survey conducted by Corporate Knights, one of the world’s largest circulation magazines, Schulich’s MBA program also ranked 13th overall among the more than 200 global business schools evaluated.

“Schulich is pleased to have once again been ranked number one in Canada,” said Schulich School of Business Dean Detlev Zwick. “We’re proud of our school’s pioneering role in the field of responsible business and our reputation as one of the world’s leading centres of teaching, research and outreach in this area.”  

The Corporate Knights Better World MBA Ranking measured business schools using one main metric: the proportion of core courses from the MBA program that include sustainable development content, from environmental issues such as carbon pricing to social, ethical and diversity issues. There was also a bonus score for the percentage of a school’s recent graduates working in social impact roles or working for social impact organizations.

For more information about the 2023 Better World MBA ranking methodology, visit the website.

Join discussions on qualitative accounting at upcoming symposium

man using calculator finanace math

York University’s School of Administrative Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, will co-host the eighth annual Qualitative Accounting Research Symposium with the University of Guelph’s Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics from Nov. 23 to 24 at the Second Student Centre on York’s Keele Campus. The hybrid event will allow for both in-person and virtual participation.

The symposium will showcase a niche area of research in the accounting field. Qualitative accounting scholars comprise a dynamic and growing component of the scholarly community. This symposium serves as a platform to unite the community, enable collaboration amongst its members and add legitimacy to its research output.

Helen Tregidga
Helen Tregidga

The event’s keynote speech will be presented by Helen Tregidga (Royal Holloway, University of London), director of the Centre for Research into Sustainability, whose research is grounded in an interest in social and environmental issues, and critical aspects of organizations and work. Her primary research has focused on the constructions of sustainable development and sustainability within the corporate context, its consequences and, more recently, the role of academics and others countering or resisting the dominant discourse.

The symposium will include presentations by 18 academics from Argentina, Canada, Ghana, South Africa and the U.K. The event’s theme, “Accounting at the Crossroads of Democracy,” will be explored by panellists including Tregidga, Carla Edgley (Cardiff University), Christine Gilbert (Université Laval), Julius Otusanya (University of Lagos) and Fernanda Sauerbronn (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro).

The hybrid event will close with a panel discussion titled “Building Ethical Leaders for the Future Accounting Profession,” geared towards professional accountants and funded by CPA Ontario.

For more information about the symposium and to register, visit the event web page.

Pest control treatments scheduled for Nov. 17 to 19

Keele Campus stong pond FEATURED image for Yfile

Pest control spray days at the Keele and Glendon campuses will begin on Friday, Nov. 17 at 5 p.m. and end on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 5 p.m.

Work is undertaken using accepted practices and approved materials by Professional PCO Services, which holds an Eco Green Ergonomic Extermination certificate from the Ministry of the Environment. A work permit has been submitted and approved by York University’s Health, Safety & Employee Well-Being office.

For further information, contact John Leva, manager of grounds, fleet and waste management, Facilities Services, at jleva@yorku.ca; or Tom Watt, director of food services, Ancillary Services, at watttm@yorku.ca.

York U in the news: artificial intelligence, four-day workweek and more

Google’s new mobile phone alters the perception of reality: AI already makes our photos more and more fake
York University Professor Jennifer S. Mills was quoted in the Limited Times Nov. 9.

Nearly all Canadian workers happier with four-day workweek: report
York University professor Carlo Fanelli and Maria Foggia were quoted in HRD Canada Nov. 8.

Proposed amendments to the Railway Safety Act and Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act fall short
An op-ed by York University Adjunct Professor Bruce Campbell was published in National Newswatch Nov. 9.

Why Gaza has so little water
York University research Fellow Syed Imran Ali was quoted in the Washington Post Nov. 3.

York University is the latest to go digital with mobile identification cards
York University was mentioned in University Affairs Nov. 6.

See more ways York University is making headlines at News @ York.

Schulich partnership helps propel student startups in India

Businessman with white rocket launching from his hand to sky

The Schulich School of Business recently concluded its Together Mission 4.0, the fourth edition of its annual entrepreneurship bootcamp and venture competition supported by an ongoing partnership with the Government of India’s Startup India initiative.

The global online event, which bridges the innovation ecosystems of Canada and India, pairs Schulich master of business administration (MBA) students and alumni with inspired teams of student entrepreneurs hand-picked by Startup India from over 17,000 Indian colleges and 700 Indian universities. The Schulich mentors assist with pitch design, business planning and competitive analysis throughout the course of a three-week intensive mentorship program, and then each team presents their idea. After the top six teams are determined, they are invited to take part in a grand finale event, with live pitches streamed to an estimated audience of 10,000.

“The Together Mission is an incredible opportunity for our students to reach out across the globe and leverage their entrepreneurial training and mindset as a force for good and friendship,” said Chris Carder, executive director of Schulich’s Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, who created the program. “We love seeing these companies grow and thrive in India, thanks to our many students and alumni mentors, and we’re already excited for next year.”

This year’s winning team, Climec Labs, led by Indian student entrepreneurs Inderan Kannan and Atul John, received a $10,000 cash prize for their innovative idea to use microalgae to improve indoor air quality. Supporting the project were Schulich MBA students Aditya Singh, Aditya Chandel and Adhiraj Singh.

“We are deeply grateful for Schulich and York University in helping us achieve the impactful goals we set forth in our pitch,” said Kannan. “We never imagined the incredible impact these Canadian students made on our startup in only one week.”

Receiving a $5,000 cash prize as the runner-up was team InnrGize, led by Shalmali Kanu and Siddharth Warrier, with a device that uses neurostimulation to reduce stress and improve sleep.

In addition to the cash prizes, winners of the competition are rewarded with access to powerful startup tools and global networks to help them realize their dream.

Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to empower startups to grow through innovation and design.

For more information about the Together Mission, visit schulich.yorku.ca/together/together-about 

A full video of the event is available to watch on LinkedIn.

Join dialogues on degrowth at upcoming webinar series

Aerial Of Colorful Autumn Rivers & Lakes Though Mountains In Northern Ontario Canada

Beginning Nov. 22, York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present “Aim high, degrow: dialogues on degrowth,” a series of six lunchtime webinars addressing the many sides of degrowth, which argues we cannot maintain infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

The series will introduce key degrowth concepts and some of the major issues, debates and possibilities emerging from the field. It will be held virtually and all are welcome to attend.

Degrowth is a growing global movement of activists and researchers that prioritizes social and ecological well-being ahead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy for people and their communities.

The webinar series aims to provide a space for deeper dialogues on degrowth, involving scholars and audiences from within and outside the degrowth world to explore key debates and how they connect to other issues like urbanization, decolonization, technology and the role of the state. Each discussion will run for an hour and is programmed around lunch hours. Guest panellists come from around the world and the moderators will be drawn from EUC.

The first event of the series, “Degrowth: a slogan, a movement, or a concept?,” takes place Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. It will provide an overview of the economic and ecological premises of degrowth and its main arguments. The speakers are York University Professor Emeritus Peter Victor and Elena Hofferberth, a researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

The other webinars in the series are:

  • “Decolonization and feminism: does degrowth cut it?” on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the city: urbanization and planning for degrowth” on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 11 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and systems: back to the caves or back to the future?” on Monday, Feb. 12 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the State” on Friday, March 22 at 12:30 p.m.; and
  • “Transitioning to a degrowth future: naïve or revolutionary?” on Thursday, April 18 at 12:30 p.m.

For more information and to register, visit the webinar series website.