Saskatchewan trial lawyers express concern over circuit court closures

Closing four Saskatchewan circuit court points could lead to more expensive travel and court proceeding delays, according to the province’s trial lawyers association’s president.

In April, the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court decided that circuit court points will close this year in Watrous, Carnduff, Big River and Southey. Judges travel to circuit court points to hold proceedings in communities that do not have a permanent provincial court office.



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    This week, the Saskatchewan Trial Lawyer Association (STLA) responded to the measure through a news release that expressed concerns the move would add delays to “an already congested court system.”

    “You take all the matters from one centre and you just dump it into another, on top of what’s already an existing busy schedule,” STLA president Jeffrey Deagle said in an interview Tuesday.

    “You’re not opening up any more court times, you’re not opening up any more access to judges, you are simply adding more to the already existing queue that may be bulging at the seams in some locations.”

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    The Chief Judge regularly reviews the province’s judicial resources, according to a spokesperson for the Courts of Saskatchewan. A number of factors are taken into consideration, including the number of appearances at a certain location and how far a circuit court point is from the next closest court location.

    However, the STLA said the four locations were chosen without consultation. Deagle said the move could cause “individuals a lot more hardship” if they wish to take certain legal action.

    “If they want to bring a small claims action and they could easily do it because their court point was only a few minutes way, they may not want to do it anymore because now they have to go through the extra expense of going hours away,” Deagle said.

    “I think in some ways it does a disservice to our system of justice because it doesn’t allow timely and effective access to all the rural people especially.”

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    The STLA’s response to the closures came days after they were announced because the group was communicating with its broad membership in order to be “on a common front” before a statement was made, according to Deagle.

    Watrous’ court has already completed its final sitting, while Carnduff is set to hold its last court day on Thursday. Big River and Southey’s circuit court points will close later this year.

Cameras to catch Okanagan residents dumping garbage illegally

Okanagan residents are set to keep a closer eye on illegal dumping in the wilderness.

Non-profit group the Okanagan Forest Task Force is in the process of installing cameras to catch people in the act.

“We will be hiding them so you can’t see them but they can see you,” task force president Kane Blake said.

Blake took a Global Okanagan News crew up the Gillard Forest Service Road on the south slopes of Kelowna on Tuesday morning to show how much garbage has piled up in the forest.


“Today in the short time been here we found lots and lots of broken glass, an abundance of shotgun shells, we found live rounds as well burnt shingles,” Blake said. “There is a broken television beside me, there is a lawn chair over there, a newspaper from three days ago blowing around.”

The Okanagan Forest Task Force has collected 87,000 pounds of garbage from area forests between September 2016 and April 2017.

Blake says not only is the garbage an eyesore but it poses a safety hazard to people and wildlife.

“A little piece of glass, it can be a small inch by an inch, that is a little magnifying glass that on a hot day can start a fire,” Blake said.

“Deer don’t ask for this, bear don’t ask to walk through broken glass and nails.”

Fines for dumping garbage illegally can range depending on what is being dumped and where. A standard fine on Crown land is $57 but there are also legal ramifications involved because dumping can result in criminal charges.

Anyone who witnesses offenders dumping garbage illegally is asked to report it by calling the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line at 1-877-952-7277.

Garbage, human waste on riverbed cited as concerns at unsanctioned Keremeos campsite

A French Canadian fruit picker has just arrived in Keremeos for the harvest season, but with nowhere to stay he’s pitched a tent along the banks of the Similkameen River.

Soon the unincorporated area of Crown land will be a temporary home to as many as 150 riverbed campers —; mostly transients but also a handful of fruit pickers.

“Most places they don’t [provide housing] so people have to stay at this campground,” said Olivier Gourde.


He’s referring to the orchardists who are not legally required to provide accommodation to Canadian workers, although they are required to provide housing for temporary foreign workers.

However many employers do allow Canadian workers to camp on their properties.

“The big conventional farms, they tend to neglect a lot of the employees and be too much into the money, money, money thing. So they want to save a lot of money and this is neglecting the quality of living of the employees basically,” Gourde said.

Some residents are expressing concern about the unsanctioned campground, citing issues with garbage, damage to the environment, the threat to at-risk species, and public health.

“There are no facilities here. There are no washrooms. There are no hand washing facilities. There is nowhere to cook a meal,” said resident Teresa Roesch.

Roesch said the problem has grown out of control.

“I think that the orchardists in the area, this problem stems directly from them not supporting their workers. They hire them but they don’t house them,” said Roesch.

The Village of Keremeos asked the province for a land tenure so it can enforce its parks bylaw which includes a ban on overnight camping.

“Right now the area is not within the village boundary so that makes it difficult for us,” said Mayor Manfred Bauer.

Bauer said he’s also advocated for years for improved living conditions for farm workers.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and I would say it has incredibly improved in terms of providing amenities simply because the orchardists need the labour,” he said.

But Gourde said there still needs to be further protections.

“You think of the human right thing and there is still alot to be done,” he said.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations said it could not comment during the election period.

Sask. man who helped draft notwithstanding clause believes province is using it prematurely

It will be at least five years before parents may have to pay extra to enroll their non-Catholic children in the Catholic school system, thanks to the Saskatchewan government’s plan to invoke the notwithstanding clause.

On April 20, a Court of Queen’s Bench judge ruled that the province can no longer fund non-Catholic children in Catholic schools.

Once the necessary legislation is passed, the notwithstanding clause will override the judge’s verdict for a five-year period.


This course of action appears sudden to Howard Leeson, who helped draft the clause 35 years ago.

“So we really don’t need to use it right away. If at the end of the court process you wanted to use it that’s an entirely different thing. My general feeling is it’s premature right now,” Leeson said.

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When the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) launch their planned appeal, it would have delayed the implementation of the judge’s decision.

Leeson, who is a baptized Catholic, supports the verdict.

“I think it’s a genuine discrimination against other faiths, because at the moment they can take only 80 per cent of their funding,” Leeson explained.

“The court is not saying there can’t be funding to religious schools, it just has to be equal amongst the religions, and I think that’s a pretty good argument.”

Leeson anticipates the ruling will be upheld in an appeal, which he said would bring the “real crunch”.

Premier Wall said Monday that if his government is still in power in five years, and a decision hasn’t been reached, they will renew the notwithstanding clause.

READ MORE: Judge rules Sask. government cannot fund non-Catholic students in Catholic schools

Education Minister Don Morgan said that the province will likely get involved in the SCSBA appeal. He defended the status quo of education funding because it has worked for over a century.

“There’s a lot of reasons why it works well. If a child has a problem in one school system it gives that student the opportunity to go to the other school system and have a fresh start, it allows some resources to be shared,” Morgan said.

Morgan said that there are no plans to change the education system in Saskatchewan, because no one has come forward advocating that change.

“We’re also hearing from people in the public school, saying if we brought 10,000 kids in we can’t absorb them. We don’t have the facilities to do that,” Morgan said.

Constitutional lawyer with MTL Aikens Khurrum Awan discusses the notwithstanding clause with Global News.

Kael Donnelly/Global News

Constitutional lawyer with MTL Aikens Khurrum Awan represented the public school system in the Theodore case. He believes using the notwithstanding clause sends the wrong message.

“Given the religious diversity of the province today where you have 35 per cent of the province’s population either being people of no religious affiliation, or religious affiliation other than Catholic or Protestant, that it was no longer open to the government to be selectively supporting the choice of some non-Catholic parents who are comfortable with a Catholic education,” Awan said.

“The idea of choice that the government is promoting is in itself discriminatory when you consider the religious and non-religious diversity of the province.”

Public Schools of Saskatchewan executive director Larry Huber said he is disappointed in the government’s choice to use the clause. Awan said his clients share a similar view.

“My clients in the public board are deeply concerned about the precedent that it sets. That’s a precedent, in our respectful opinion, exceeds the political interests of the day,” Awan said.

Meanwhile, the SCSBA said they are extraordinarily pleased that the government is giving parents breathing room with the clause.

Tom Fortosky with the SCSBA said they are investigating fundraising options to cover the cost of the appeal.

“We received a quote from our council on the cost of an appeal, and it’s approximately $125,000,” Fortosky said.

If the appeal goes to the Supreme Court of Canada, \ that appeal cost would likely double.

Conservative think-tank dumps leader days after Donald Trump thanks him

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, has ousted its leader after a power struggle.

The Washington non-profit’s board of trustees unanimously asked for and received the resignation of Jim DeMint at a meeting Tuesday. The board chairman said in a pull-no-punches statement afterward that “significant and worsening management issues” led to the ouster.

“Heritage has never been about one individual, but rather the power of conservative ideas,” chairman Thomas Saunders III wrote in a statement. “Heritage is bigger than any one person.”

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DeMint, a former South Carolina senator, could not immediately be reached.

Dozens of Republicans in Congress wrote a love-letter of sorts to DeMint on Monday. They praised him for serving as an inspirational conservative figure “even when confronted by overwhelming opposition, bitter criticism and nagging skepticism.”

Rep. Dave Brat, a Virginia Republican, called DeMint’s ouster “a tragedy.”


“He’s just kind of an ideal person who understood the think-tank world and understands the timing and the strategy along with policy,” Brat said. “And to lose that, it’s incomprehensible. I don’t get it. At all. I don’t get it.”

Some board members called the decision a painful, but necessary, one.

Kay Cole James said it was “purely about management, organizational and structural issues” – not philosophical differences with DeMint.

James said Saunders expressed admiration for DeMint during an all-staff meeting late Tuesday to announce the leadership change. She added that DeMint had already left the building by then.

Heritage, which has 500,000 members, brought in about $92 million in revenue in 2015 and paid DeMint more than $1 million every year. That’s according to its most recent publicly available tax filings.

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The non-profit has been a crucial ally of President Donald Trump and his still-young administration. The president thanked Heritage – and specifically DeMint – during his speech Friday to the National Rifle Association.

Yet the organization struggles with the same complex internal dynamics facing Republicans writ large: Heritage Action, its advocacy arm, was urging lawmakers to reject Congress’s omnibus spending bill even as the Trump administration was aggressively making the case for it on Tuesday.

The bill, Heritage argued, “woefully fails the test of fiscal responsibility and does not advance important conservative policies.”

Founder Ed Feulner will serve as president and chief executive officer during a search for DeMint’s replacement.