Canadian Lawyer

May 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 7 of 43

UPFRONT 6 NEWS BRIEFS Recent Alberta decisions on 'just cause' firing leaning toward employees Stikeman lawyers say such terminations of employment should be used sparingly THREE RECENT Alberta decisions indi- cate that employers will have an uphill battle to terminate employees for just cause, say lawyers Sheena Owens and Maja Blanchette at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Calgary. These deci- sions, the lawyers say, show courts are increas- ingly reluctant to rule in employers' favour. "It doesn't mean that employers are always going to lose," says Owens. "However, the recent decisions illustrate that 'just cause' is a difficult argument to make and courts tend to favour the employee if there is any discre- tion to be exercised." The three Alberta Court of Queen's Bench decisions found that the employers did not have just cause to terminate the employees' employment. In Underhill v. Shell Canada Limited, Shell dismissed Underhill for just cause following an investigation into her behaviour. The case included allegations that she was involved in at least six instances of serious misconduct, such as failing to identify a conflict of interest, breach of confidence and "complete disregard" for Shell's termination and investigation procedures. The court concluded it was not satisfied that Underhill demonstrated the "serious lack of understanding of conflicts" that Shell alleged. It also noted that Underhill was a B.C. branch of CBA releases report on modernizing justice system For all the havoc COVID-19 has caused, it has shone a spotlight on what is needed to improve British Columbia's justice system, including a digital transformation. The Canadian Bar Association's B.C. branch has released a report that provides a roadmap for modernizing the justice system and relevant provincial legislation. "Agenda for Justice 2021" offers more than 40 recommendations in 22 key areas, touching on what Jennifer Brun, president of the CBA's B.C. branch, calls "everyday situations" affecting people in B.C. The situations may be families undergoing a separation, small businesses settling a contract dispute and rural communities without access to basic legal services. Legal aid program gives sexual assault complainants faster access Legal Aid Alberta has launched a new system to help sexual assault complainants quickly find legal representation in cases where their sexual history, relevant emails or text messages and medical records come under scrutiny in a trial. Since mid- January, LAA and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service have been working together to make it possible for prosecutors to directly get in touch with the non-profit group to find a lawyer that can protect complainants' interests. Complainants can receive up to 10 hours of free legal advice and support under this system, regardless of their financial circumstances. Mining law and sustainability program tackles climate change The Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia now offers an Executive Learning Program in Mining Law and Sustainability, focusing on Indigenous issues. The program, which started accepting registrations in April, will benefit mining industry professionals such as in-house lawyers and external counsel, engineers, geologists, environmental managers and Indigenous business and community leaders. The online program will explore the complex legal and regulatory frameworks and environmental challenges in mining and consist of five modules over five weeks, comprising about 30 hours in total. Alberta introduces amendments to Health Professions Act Alberta has introduced the Health Statutes Amendment Act, 2020 (No. 2) to make changes to its laws governing health professions. The bill bans a college from acting or representing itself as a professional association. Another proposed amendment will require every applicant to present evidence of good character and inform the college if a regulatory body has disciplined them in another jurisdiction responsible for that profession. Other changes pertain to the processes for reinstating cancelled registration and practice permits and the use of competence committees and continuing competence programs. New B.C. insurance fairness officer aims to foster transparency The B.C. government is planning to introduce legislation to create a fairness officer position to promote trust in the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia processes. The position aims to build independence and transparency as B.C. transitions to its Enhanced Care coverage system on May 1, designed to provide customers with savings on their premiums. The new fairness officer will have the power to review customer complaints and make recommendations on how to decide such complaints. WESTERN UPDATE

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