Four late-stage cancer patients granted legal exemption to use magic mushrooms for therapy

Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu has approved the application by four terminal Canadian cancer patients to use psilocybin, commonly known as magic mushrooms or shrooms, for their end-of-life therapy.

The patients’ application invoked s. 56 (1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, SC 1996, c 19, which gives the federal health minister the power to grant an exemption from any provision of the legislation upon the belief that the exemption is needed for a medical or scientific purpose or is in the public interest.

This is the first time that anyone has been publicly granted an exemption to access psychedelic therapy under the legislation, and also the first time that any patient has legally used the compound since it was first declared illegal in the country back in 1974, said a news release from TheraPsil, a non-profit coalition that fights for compassionate legal access to psilocybin therapy for palliative Canadians.

“Although it has taken a long time we are impressed with [the federal health minister’s and the government’s] willingness to listen to patients who have not been heard and to shift focus and policy to accommodate their interests and protect their needs,” said Dr. Bruce Tobin, founder and chairman of TheraPsil.

Tobin and TheraPsil had supported the four patients with their application, which was initiated in 2017 and initially denied in March this year. Upon review, however, the four patients received approvals on compassionate grounds.

Laurie Brooks, one of the four patients granted an approval, said that she hoped that “this is just the beginning and that soon all Canadians will be able to access psilocybin, for therapeutic use, to help with the pain they are experiencing, without having to petition the government for months to gain permission.”

TheraPsil said in the news release that it expected other applications seeking exemptions under the legislation to follow.

“The recent grant of the section 56 exemption by the Minister of Health for the legal use of psilocybin may represent a watershed moment for further exemptions on a similar basis,” said McMillan LLP in a news release.

Personal costs ordered for trustees who showed ‘persistent lack of self-awareness’

In a recent case before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, a testamentary trustee and estate trustee both sought costs following their conduct during the litigation that the court described as showing a “continued and persistent lack of self-awareness.”

Cardinal v. Perreault, 2020 ONSC 4825 involved the issue of costs in two court applications in connection with the estate of Joseph Edmond Beaulieu, which had an estimated gross value of $339,000. The first is an application for directions filed by Roger Cardinal, the testamentary trustee. The second is an application for the passing of accounts filed by Ginette Perreault, the estate trustee.

Various actions undertaken by both parties caused difficulties and delays in the court proceedings. On the part of Perreault, she initially resisted Cardinal’s reasonable request for accounting. Her counsel also complained about the court proceedings being conducted in French and about the translation costs he had to spend.

Justice Ria Tzimas, writing for the Superior Court, said that Perreault’s conduct showed a lack of understanding about her obligations as estate trustee. On the other hand, Cardinal attacked Perreault’s integrity and personal dignity and made allegations of bad faith and misappropriation of funds.

Tzimas cited Rule 57.01(1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194, which contains a non-exhaustive list of factors that the court will consider when exercising its discretion to award fair and reasonable costs, with the overriding principle being reasonableness.

“In the context of estates litigation, it is useful to note the Ontario Court of Appeal’s direction that the modern approach to fixing costs in such cases is to carefully scrutinize the litigation and to follow the costs rules that apply in civil litigation, unless public policy considerations dictated otherwise,” wrote Tzimas.

Tzimas tackled a few of the factors under Rule 57.01. As to the complexity and importance of the issues of the case, both sides became entrenched in their respective legal positions, which complicated the issues and the proceedings, wrote Tzimas. As to the parties’ conduct, Cardinal’s allegations against Perreault were reprehensible, while Perreault’s actions, though lacking in efficiency, were not reprehensible, Tzimas wrote.

The court, considering Rule 57.01 factors and the proportionality of costs in relation to what was in issue and to the size of the estate, awarded Cardinal costs of the application for directions at $18,000, which was 60 per cent of his full indemnity costs, and awarded Perreault costs of the application for the passing of accounts at $48,000. The net amount came to $30,000 in favour of Perreault. The court disallowed the translation costs sought by Perreault’s counsel.

UManitoba Law names David Asper as acting dean

The University of Manitoba Faculty of Law has announced the appointment of David Asper as its acting dean, effective July 1.

Asper is a criminal defence litigator, known for acting on behalf of David Milgaard in the prominent wrongful conviction case. In 2019, he received a designation as Queen’s Counsel from the Province of Manitoba. He has worked in various committees of the Law Society of Manitoba.

Asper holds a bachelor’s degree and an honorary degree from the University of Manitoba, a Masters in Law from the University of Toronto and a Juris Doctor from the California Western School of Law. He has served as an assistant professor and as a sessional lecturer in the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law and has taught at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin School of Law and at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.
Asper, who is committed to philanthropic and community initiatives, has contributed his efforts and resources to the Asper Foundation, where he served for seven years as chairperson, to the David and Ruth Asper Research Centre at the Pan Am Clinic Foundation in Winnipeg and to the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights at the University of Toronto, which has initiated numerous legal challenges invoking the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

For his work, he has received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 and the Sol Kanee Distinguished Community Service Medal in 2018.

In the news release announcing the appointment, the university said that felt “honoured to have Mr. Asper serve in this acting role in one of Canada’s oldest law schools, where he will surely inspire the next generation to pursue truth, justice and the betterment of all.”

New Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu decries toppling of statues, calls to defund police

The new Minister of Justice in Alberta — the first Black politician in Canada to hold such a position — says that while he sympathizes with those who are protesting for social justice reforms, he “absolutely” decries calls to defund the police and is pained when he sees acts of vandalism such as tearing down monuments of those who helped found this country.

“I understand the concerns that people have,” says Kaycee Madu, who was promoted to Justice Minister, from his previous post of Minister of Municipal Affairs, in August. He says he is “particularly pained” by the tearing down of the statue of Canada’s first Prime Minister, John A Macdonald, in Montreal this past weekend.

“No leader is perfect and tearing down statues of our founding fathers is not going to solve any problems.” Says Madu — who replaces Calgary-Elbow MLA Doug Schweitzer, who was moved to a newly rebranded Jobs, Economy and Innovation Portfolio. He says his “historic” appointment as justice minister comes at an important time, when Black and other minority communities are leading a fight against systemic racism.

“I do think that in the midst of all this, I am privileged to live in one of the freest countries, and provinces, in the world.” However, there is a need to continue to make reforms even better and to “address concerns from those communities,” he says.

“We must continue to live true to the creed of our founding fathers,” Madu says. While coming from a different time in history, “they had the vision to build a world and a society in which it doesn’t matter where you come from, and that justice is available to every single Canadian.”

Madu, who was born in Nigeria and came to Canada in 2005, says the argument made by some anti-racism protesters to defund police forces as an approach to reforming justice is simply wrong.

“I do not think that any sane, balanced-minded person would want to take away resources from the police when there are safety issues that law enforcement needs to tackle.” He adds that while there are always “bad apples” in any profession, the men and women who join the police forces “take on enormous risk” to keep communities safe. “Defunding police is something that I absolutely oppose,” he says. “It is not going to help us get to the promised land or build a more . . . perfect nation.”

Those calling for police defunding — including those in the Black Lives Matter movement — say that reallocating money from police departments into other services, such as mental health, is a better approach, and some suggest defunding police entirely.

Legal tech company releases toolkit summarizing e-filing requirements across Canada

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, courts have been allowing e-filing more as a way to prevent physical contact through expanding its use of technology. Toronto legal research software provider CiteRight saw a need and has just filled it with the launch of a free e-filing toolkit.

The toolkit summarizes the requirements for e-filing for every jurisdiction in Canada that allows it. It follows on the heels of a COVID-19 courts resource that the company launched in March, and its core CiteRight product launched last year, which is a platform that allows legal teams to work together and to automatically cite sources.

“In building a tool to help lawyers comply with court requirements and generate properly formatted submissions, it meant that we learned a lot about how the courts operate,” says CiteRight founder and CEO Aaron Wenner. “And … so we were able to turn that around and say, ‘Okay, well, how can we generate more information about this that’s helpful to the wider legal community?’” The result was the online COVID resource — a daily update of how the courts’ practice records are changing in response to coronavirus — and then the e-filing toolkit.
“As we started speaking to our customers, we heard that this thing, electronic filing, was becoming implemented more widely across Canada, but that the rules were really hard to find,” says Wenner. “We felt like we could make those rules a lot more accessible to the general public by just extracting the core parts, rather than having to read an entire document at a glance.”

Wenner is trained as a lawyer (McGill Law, then articling for a large Bay Street firm), and experienced a lot of problems that CiteRight is trying to solve, he says. “When it came to the coronavirus and e-filing, I realized there was a crisis. It feels like giving back to the legal community … but coming from my background, we care about making resources available. We have a general interest in contributing.”

“What we’ve done is look at every single place in Canada that allows e-filing, and extract common elements across all of them. Do you submit by email? Is there a filing fee? A naming convention [for files]? … For every jurisdiction, we’ve filled out that list. … We’ve summarized those rules for every single jurisdiction in Canada that allows e-filing, and if there’s more than one branch in that court. It provides an at-a-glance summary for electronic submission of court materials.”

CiteRight counts some of Canada’s largest law firms as its clients, and Wenner says the response to both its core product and to the toolkit has been very gratifying; “our site traffic has doubled, and we’re continuing to grow.

All of CiteRight’s products have been built in close partnership with its users, and new information, such as filing fees, was recently added in.

Brad Regehr becomes first Indigenous president of CBA

Winnipeg lawyer Brad Regehr has become the first Indigenous president of the Canadian Bar Association, assuming the office on Sept. 1.

Regehr, who is a partner with Maurice Law in its Winnipeg office and practises Aboriginal law, civil litigation and administrative law, told Canadian Lawyer that he will continue the CBA’s strategic direction of focusing on young lawyers, lawyer wellness and co-chairing (with immediate past president Vivene Salmon) the CBA’s Task Force on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19.

As well, “a big thing for me is our ongoing work on Truth and Reconciliation,” he says. “We’re doing good work, and I want to continue that good work.”

Regehr will continue communicating with members through the podcast Conversations with the President, which this year will focus on the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.

A native Winnipeger and member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in Saskatchewan bordering on Manitoba, Regehr was called to the Bar of Manitoba in 1997 and has been a CBA member since law school. He has been actively involved in various leadership positions in the Association for the past 15 years, including as vice-president in 2019-2020, as a national board member, and as chair of the National Aboriginal Law Section. He also served as president of the Manitoba Bar Association for two years.

Regehr’s practice focus is aboriginal law, with administrative and civil law tying into that, and a smattering of corporate-commercial work.

“I went into law wanting to work for Indigenous people, and oriented my career towards doing that,” he says. “I feel quite passionate about being an advocate for Indigenous people within the legal system. That’s what I love doing.”

Regehr was part of the legal team that successfully defended a challenge to a First Nation’s tax laws under the First Nations Fiscal Management Act, the first litigation involving that statute. He also acted for a First Nation which became a partner in a major hydro-electric project, and has advised several First Nation on implementation issues involving land claims and flooding agreements, and in arbitrations and litigation concerning the Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement and Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement.