From Vavilov to unconscious bias, and does Justice Mahmud Jamal ever sleep?

  • February 01, 2023
  • Joseph Redman

The CBA Administrative Law, Labour and Employment Law Conference made its triumphant return to in-person (with a hybrid option) on November 4-5, 2022 in Ottawa. Lawyers and speakers from British Columbia to Newfoundland escaped unseasonal cold snaps, blizzards, and fog to converge on our nation’s capital, which was practically balmy by comparison. Over two days, presenters covered a wide range of legal topics and trends, and there was plenty of opportunity to meet and speak with like-minded colleagues from across the country.

Professor Paul Daly from the University of Ottawa kicked off the substantive portion of the conference with The Year in Review in Administrative Law, covering Supreme Court of Canada cases whose subject matters ranged from procedural fairness in Law Society of Saskatchewan v Abrametz, 2022 SCC 29, to the place of administrative tribunals in the Canadian legal system, in Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada v Entertainment Software Association, 2022 SCC 30, and everything in between. The Honourable Justice Stratas of the Federal Court of Appeal and David Jones, K.C. of de Villars Jones LLP followed up with a lively discussion of how the Vavilov decision has played out in lower courts across the country in Vavilov in Real Life. The remainder of the first morning was split between concurrent sessions of The Impact of Northern Regional Health Authority v Horrocks on the labour and employment side, and Abrametz and Dealing with Delay in Administrative Proceedings on the administrative side.

The afternoon began with concurrent panels comprised of a combination of academics and practitioners speaking on a Cross Canada and Federal Legislative and Case Roundup; and Confronting Unconscious Bias in Administrative Decision-Making and Judicial Review. The final plenary session of the day was a powerful discussion on Ethics and Professionalism entitled Truth and Reconciliation: From Words to Action with former CBA President Brad Regehr, of Maurice Law, Corey Shefman, of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP, and Brenda Gunn, of the University of Manitoba, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The speakers reflected on their own lived experience and the privileged position that we as lawyers hold in society.

It has long been a tradition to invite a Supreme Court of Canada Justice to the conference to take part in a “Fireside Chat.” This year, the attendees were treated to a candid conversation between Justice Mahmud Jamal and Audrey Boctor, of IMK LLP. Justice Jamal’s charm and wit were on full display as he discussed his journey to and through law, ultimately culminating in his appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada. An entirely unofficial and in no way comprehensive survey following the Fireside Chat left every single attendee with one pressing question: Does Justice Jamal never sleep? It is the only logical explanation for how a person could accomplish so much in one career. On behalf of all attendees, a special thank you to Justice Jamal for being so generous with your time and choosing to spend it with us.

The final substantive session was A View from The Bench and Other Decision Makers, covering a range of topics including diversity amongst decision makers and lessons learned from COVID-19. Koml Kandola, of Kandola Arbitration Services Ltd., Ginette Brazeau, of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, and the Honourable Lukasz Granosik, of the Superior Court of Quebec shared their perspectives on how the law has been forced to rapidly adapt in the last two years in response to the pandemic, and reinforced that it is critical that people subject to the law see themselves reflected in the people making the decisions that affect them.

A very special thank you to the conference Co-Chairs, Valerie Dixon from the City of Vancouver and Pam Hrick from the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund and the entire conference committee for their tireless work in putting together a fantastic conference, and to all of the CBA staff for their endless support and patience. 

Work is already underway on planning the 2023 conference, and we hope you will be able to join us there.

Joseph Redman is a partner with Shores Jardine LLP.