Law Matters - Spring 2018



As the incoming Chair of the Canadian Bar Association, Alberta Branch’s Editorial Committee — and, consequently, as the new Head Editor of that Committee’s Law Matters magazine — it is my privilege to introduce both the new direction we are taking with the magazine, and the first step in that direction: this spring 2018 edition focussing on Indigenous victims and criminal justice.

Law Matters has been an Albertan staple of the Canadian Bar Association’s publishing efforts for many years. And with generous support from Rob Harvie, QC — the outgoing Chair of the Editorial Committee — we will be reorienting the magazine towards topical commentary on controversial legal issues. Rob did incredible work with Law Matters during his tenure as Chair and his significant investments in the magazine have left us with a solid foundation from which to develop a new vision for the magazine as a forum for constructive discourse on pressing legal issues; a forum where interested readers, no matter their political stripe, can come to find insightful and balanced commentary.

So, what will Law Matters look like in the coming years? We will strive to choose topics that are topical and controversial. Further, we will aim to attract authors who are experts and disagree. Lastly, both in terms of topics and authors, we will endeavour to capture the diversity of Alberta and Canada. Of course, there are limits to these goals. Our editorial judgment, author availability, and author autonomy, all circumscribe the extent to which we can simultaneously advance all of these objectives. But our overarching goal will persist nonetheless — being a “one stop shop” where Albertans, and Canadians, can come to read diverging and thoughtful views on important issues confronting the Canadian legal system. Modern social media often leaves many of us (myself included) in echo chambers that dilute the quality of discourse. We hope to counteract that trend and encourage exchange, reflection, and ultimately, progress — even if we can’t all agree on its precise terms. As we navigate these complex waters, we will be assisted by Junior Editors from the student bodies of the Faculties of Law at the Universities of Calgary and Alberta, another new development for Law Matters! Sincere thanks to Bernadette McMechan (an impressive University of Alberta J.D. student) for her critical support with this edition, during exams no less.

The spring 2018 edition aspires to the lofty goals described above. We begin with introductory remarks from Jessica Robertshaw (pg. 7), providing an objective (a loaded word, I know) overview of the facts underlying the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier in the tragic deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. Next, Professor Harding discusses biased representations of Indigenous issues in the media (pg. 8). Indeed, as Professor Tanovich later argues, racial bias likely impacted the Stanley verdict (pg. 14). We then turn to an outstanding piece from Professor Metallic — one of multiple Indigenous contributors in this edition, in line with the diversity commitment noted above — where she passionately describes the visceral impact these verdicts had on many Indigenous people (pg. 10). And later, two further Indigenous scholars — Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt — explore how narratives surrounding the Stanley trial (namely, a knight protecting his “castle”) frame our (mis)perception of the events that took place (pg. 12).

Lastly, and with a specific view to promoting our commitment to adversarial discussion described earlier, we have multiple authors who take opposing sides on some of the most controversial issues that have arisen in the aftermath of these verdicts. Kathy Hodgson-Smith supports the government’s social media response to the verdicts, and reasons that this response maintained confidence in the administration of a justice system under harsh scrutiny for its treatment of Indigenous victims (pg. 16). In stark contrast, Professor Plaxton criticizes this politicization for the very opposite effect — compromising the integrity of the criminal justice system (pg. 17). Further, Professor Roach supports the government’s abolition of peremptory challenges in the interest of promoting diverse juries (pg. 20), whereas Michael Spratt argues, in part, that such an abolition — without complementary reforms of the systemic barriers to jury service for Indigenous and racialized people — will, in fact, undermine diversity in juries (pg. 21).

As I noted at the outset, we have five goals for Law Matters in the coming years: relevance, controversy, expertise, disagreement, and diversity. I am, of course, biased. But I think that our Committee has put together a worthy publication that balances those interests superbly in this latest edition. We hope you enjoy reading this magazine, and more importantly, hope it leads to productive dialogue with those around you, particularly those across the notional aisle.

Joshua Sealy-Harrington
May 10, 2018