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  • 23 Jul 2021 2:34 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Federal regulator calls it “a step back overall” for privacy

    The federal Privacy Commissioner, who oversees the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and who would be the lead regulator if Bill C-11 ever becomes law has slammed the bill as a “step back overall” for privacy. In a lengthy submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the Commissioner says the bill does not get the balance between privacy and commercial interests right and is out of step with legislation in other jurisdictions. The main concerns are summarized in a press release issued at the same time by the Commissioner:


    Instead of giving consumers greater control over the collection, use and disclosure of their personal information, Bill C-11 offers less control. It omits the requirement under existing law that individuals understand the consequences of what they are consenting to for it to be considered meaningful, and it allows the purposes for which organizations seek consent to be expressed in vague, if not obscure, language.

    New flexibility without increased accountability

    In the digital economy, organizations need some degree of flexibility to use personal information, sometimes without consent, in order to maximize the potential of the digital revolution for socio-economic development. But with greater flexibility for companies should come greater accountability.

    Unfortunately, Bill C-11 weakens existing accountability provisions in the law by defining accountability in a manner akin to self-regulation.

    Organizations should be required to apply the principles of Privacy by Design and undertake privacy impact assessments for new higher risk activities. The law should also subject organizations to proactive audits by the OPC to ensure they are acting responsibly.

    Responsible innovation

    Bill C-11 seeks to provide greater flexibility to organizations through new exceptions to consent. However, certain exceptions are too broad or ill-defined to promote responsible innovation. The preferred approach would be to adopt an exception to consent based on legitimate business interests, within a rights-based approach.

    A rights-based foundation

    Bill C-11 prioritizes commercial interests over the privacy rights of individuals. While it is possible to protect privacy while giving businesses greater flexibility to innovate responsibly, when there is a conflict, privacy rights should prevail.

    To that end, the Bill should be amended to adopt a rights-based framework that would entrench privacy as a human right and as an essential element for the exercise of other fundamental rights. The OPC submission recommends doing this in a way that would strengthen the constitutional foundation of the law as properly within the jurisdiction of Parliament.

    Access to quick and effective remedies

    Bill C-11 gives the OPC order-making power and the ability to recommend very high monetary penalties. However, both are subject to severe limitations and conditions, including the addition of an administrative appeal between the OPC and the courts that would deny consumers quick and effective remedies.

    Only a narrow list of violations could lead to the imposition of administrative penalties. The list does not include obligations related to the form or validity of consent or the numerous exceptions to consent. It also does not include violations of the accountability provisions.

    In the case of failure to comply with these obligations, only criminal sanctions would apply and only after a process that could take approximately seven years. A process that would take a maximum of two years is recommended.

  • 20 May 2021 2:47 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Various recent court decisions show judges and parties wrestling—mostly successfully—with faked and misused electronic evidence

    As far back as the Uniform Law Conference of Canada’s 1998 Uniform Electronic Evidence Act—which formed the basis for the provisions in the Canada Evidence Act and various provincial acts dealing with the admissibility of electronic data—courts have been concerned about the provenance of electronic data when it is led as evidence. Specifically, there has always been concern that due to the inherent manipulability of digital data, electronic evidence could be fabricated by dishonest litigating parties and used to undermine the truth-seeking function of the trial process. Anecdotally this is something that happens often but, in our experience, rulings about it seldom show up in reported decisions. However, very recent case law indicates that, where parties and judges are properly attuned to these kinds of problems, they can be prevented and exposed, and the dishonest parties will reap the consequences.

    The trial judge in Lenihan v. Shankarwas adjudicating upon a hotly-contested custody, access and mobility dispute in a family law case, which (the judge held) featured remarkable amounts of subterfuge by the mother. Justice McGee decided in favour of the father, and provided written reasons for potential appellate review but that were also “to draw attention to the evidentiary challenges of spoofed communications and postings created to damage a parent’s credibility and tendered to gain litigation advantage.” Among the various evidentiary issues were arguments by the mother, both that emails and texts adduced in evidence by the father were fake, and that emails and other messages that the mother adduced in evidence were genuine.

    Justice McGee first reviewed the provisions of the Ontario Evidence Act relating to the admissibility of “electronic records,” noting that s. 34.1(4) simply codified the “low threshold test at common law” for authentication at the admissibility stage, namely that the adducing party simply provide “some evidence” that the record is what it purports to be; final determination of authenticity is left for fact-finding. The primary focus at the admissibility stage, she held, is the integrity of the electronic record itself, which under s. 34.1(5.1) can established by “evidence of the integrity of the electronic records system by or in which the data was recorded or stored, or by evidence that reliable encryption techniques were used to support the integrity of the electronic record.” She noted that these provisions, intended to satisfy “best evidence” concerns,

    …work to ensure that an electronic document accurately reflects the original information that was inputted or recorded on the device. With electronic documents, the focus shifts to the information contained in the document, rather than the document itself. The threshold for admissibility is low and at this stage, concerns are generally limited to the completeness and accuracy of the record.

    Here, the father had adduced in evidence a series of text messages between the parties over a 5-month period, which he “had exported…from his phone into a printable format using an application called ‘GIIApps SMSShare 2’.” The mother argued that the texts were all fake and created to “make her look bad,” but the judge rejected this on a number of bases. The mother had refused to produce her own version of the text exchanges; the texts contained pictures that she had taken of herself which she claimed were downloaded from her Facebook page, but there was no evidence that these pictures were ever on her Facebook page; in an earlier Notice to Admit she had admitted to sending a number of the texts she now claimed were fake; and while she claimed that the phone number identified in the texts as hers was also falsified, it appeared as her number in her own Exhibit Brief. The mother also argued that some emails from her to the father which had been adduced had also been faked “to make her look bad,” but the judge noted that the mother only ever used the originating email account, and that despite her claims that someone (probably the father) had been accessing her account to send the emails, she had made no effort to “change the account, change her password or set up a new account, any one of which would be the natural next step were her email to have been “hacked” or used inappropriately.”

    The mother also adduced a particular set of emails purportedly from the father, but Justice McGee held that these were fake on the basis that: the father testified that the sending email address was not his; the emails reflected the mother’s writing style and not the father’s, “inclusive of content, word choice and spelling”; the emails repeated false claims that had been earlier made by the mother and would have made no sense if attributed to the father; the emails indicated knowledge in the sender which the father would not have had at the relevant time; and the email had markers indicating they had been printed from the mother’s known account. Although they were not authentic, the judge admitted them as evidence of the mother’s “extensive efforts to damage [the father]’s character, particularly in the eyes of their daughter’s service providers and the Court.” Other emails were similarly held to be bogus, in one case due to their clearly having been “copied and then pasted into a Word or other word processing document.”

    The mother also adduced in evidence communication logs from a co-parenting and custody app called “Our Family Wizard” which contained messages purportedly between the parties; however, the communications had numerous inconsistencies and ordering flaws, and the judge concluded that the mother had generated two accounts (one in the father’s name) and simply generated “messages that could be used as evidence.”

    Having found for the father on all matters, McGee J. concluded the judgment with some “final thoughts” on the subject of electronic evidence:

    247. As our court transitions to a fully digital platform, this trial was a stark reminder of the potential for the manipulation and misuse of electronic evidence.

    248. The most common internet definition of a spoofed email is when the email address in the “From” field is not that of the sender. It is easy to spoof an email, and not always so easy to detect. For sophisticated senders – such as actors who are “phishing” for information of commercial value – the origins of a spoofed email may never be detected.

    249. Spoofing originates from the idea of a hoax or a parody, and in the early days of the internet, it was a legitimate tool for managing communications so that a user believed that an email came from one source, when it actually came from another.

    250. Spoofing first arose as a term in family law (more commonly referred to in the U.S.A. as divorce law) to describe cell phone users hiding their identity and/or location for nefarious purposes. As a result of advances in mobile apps, websites, forwarding services and other technologies, callers are now able to change how their voice sounds, to evade a blocked number or to pretend to be a person or institution with whom their target was familiar. Targets can be tricked into disclosing sensitive information, harassed, stalked and frightened.

    251. Any electronic medium can be spoofed: texts, emails, postings to social media, and even messaging through a reputable software program specifically designed to provide secure communications between sparring parents.

    252. What stood out in this case was the purpose of the spoofed communications. Instead of tricking or scaring the target, electronic communications were spoofed to deliberately damage the other parent’s credibility and to gain litigation advantage.

    253. In R. v. C. B., the Ontario Court of Appeal foreshadowed the relevance of inauthentic electronic evidence. “[T]endered as bogus” is a critical catch that is not always apparent. A party’s lament that “it wasn’t me” may appear credible at one stage of the proceeding but may no longer be credible at a later stage. An email or text that on first reading appears authentic might later be found to be inauthentic when examined within the evidence as a whole.

    254. Fake electronic evidence has the potential to open up a whole new battleground in high conflict family law litigation, and it poses specific challenges for Courts. Generally, email and social media protocols have no internal mechanism for authentication, and the low threshold in the Evidence Act that requires only some evidence: direct and/or circumstantial that the thing “is what it appears to be;” can make determinations highly contextual.

    255. In a digital landscape, spoofing is the new “catch-me-if-you-can” game of credibility.

    256. I urge lawyers, family service providers and institutions to be on guard, and to be part of a better way forward. Courts cannot do this work alone, and the work must be done well. High conflict litigation not only damages kids and diminishes parents; it weakens society as a whole, for generations to come.

    In R. v. Aslami, the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed the appellant’s conviction on multiple charges related to the firebombing of a home. The crux of the Crown’s case at trial had been various messages sent via Facebook, SMS text and a texting app called “TextNow.” The Court of Appeal accepted the appellant’s argument that the trial judge had failed to take into account issues with the authenticity/integrity of the messages, and that these issues tended to support the defence theory that the complainant’s ex-wife and her new boyfriend had been attempting to frame the appellant for the firebombing. Each group of messages, the Court wrote, “has its own particular frailties.”

    The SMS messages originated from a sender whom the ex-wife had identified in her own phone as the appellant, under the name “Sumal Jan” which she claimed was a name he was called by some in their home country. However, “[a] police detective gave evidence that there were several entries on the appellant’s ex-wife’s cellphone for the name ‘Sumal Jan’ that had different phone numbers associated to them.” The TextNow messages had been retrieved via screenshots of the ex-wife’s phone, but the timestamps had been uncertain, and the Crown had not led “any expert evidence regarding the functioning of the TextNow app, or its reliability, or any ability to manipulate the date, number, name of the sender, or any other details as to the operation of the app.” The trial judge had engaged in a speculative evaluation of this evidence, comparing spelling, phrasing and substantive content between the SMS texts and the TextNow messages, which had the effect of assuming that the appellant had sent them without there being reliable evidence to this effect. The Facebook messages had been exchanged between the ex-wife’s boyfriend and someone using the name “Trustnoone Mob,” and the only evidence linking the latter identity to the accused was the boyfriend’s testimony that he believed he was communicating with the accused.

    In allowing the appeal, Nordheimer J.A. commented:

    [30] As I said at the outset, trial judges need to be very careful in how they deal with electronic evidence of this type. There are entirely too many ways for an individual, who is of a mind to do so, to make electronic evidence appear to be something other than what it is. Trial judges need to be rigorous in their evaluation of such evidence, when it is presented, both in terms of its reliability and its probative value. The trial judge did not engage in that rigorous analysis in this case. In fairness, the trial judge was not assisted by the prosecution in this task. The prosecution ought to have called expert evidence to address the issues that the evidence posed, but they did not.

    Another case of interest is R. v. H.S.S., where Judge Chen of the British Columbia Provincial Court presided over the prosecution of a young person for the alleged sexual assault of another young person (both were 16 years old at the time of the incident). The complainant alleged that during a school day, her friends were using her phone to exchange Instagram messages with the accused, and told her that the accused wished to meet with her in the school’s “handicapped bathroom to talk.” She went to the meeting, not reviewing any of the messages her friends had exchanged with the accused, and he assaulted her by touching her sexually. It transpired, she said, that her friends and her sister had been exchanging Instagram messages with the accused for several days; she selected the “relevant” ones to give to the police upon reporting the alleged assault, and deleted the rest.

    In his defence the accused adduced all of the Instagram messages between himself and the complainant, which amounted to hundreds sent between the two over several days, and which disclosed that they had agreed to have a sexual encounter in the bathroom. He testified that she was a willing participant in the kissing and heavy petting that constituted the alleged assault. In cross-examination the complainant tried to explain away the many inconsistences in her evidence by saying that her sister and friends (none of whom were called as witnesses) must have been using her phone to communicate with the accused, but the judge found her explanations unconvincing in light of both her proven conduct, implausible explanations and the numerous credibility problems her various stories presented.

    In the end Judge Chen held that “even the evidence of the Complainant leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Accused was indeed ‘set up’.” The judge ruled that the complainant and her sister had carried out a campaign of “cruel and callous” sexualized teasing of the accused, who was infatuated with the complainant, and that the Crown could not prove lack of consent to the activity in the bathroom. The accused was acquitted.

  • 20 May 2021 2:45 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Information, misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 has been ebbing and flowing along with the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Many have been engaged in sharing their opinions about the virus, possible treatments and vaccinations, but the regulators of healthcare professionals have taken a keen interest in social media posts that may, in their view, harm public health.

    The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) has in three cases found that public social media commentary it considered to be inaccurate and misleading presented a potential risk to public health and imposed discipline on the offending physician.

    One physician in particular was the subject of multiple complains from the public related to her activities on Twitter, which included posts such as ““There is absolutely no medical or scientific reason for this prolonged, harmful and illogical lockdown” and “If you have not yet figured out that we don’t need a vaccine, you are not paying attention” and “Contact tracing, testing and isolation.. is ineffective, naïve & counter-productive against COVID-19.. and by definition, against any pandemic.” Other posts that gave rise to other complaints, including a tweeted a message that strongly implied that hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) could “prevent, cure and treat early COVID-19” but that the federal government was withholding this treatment from the Canadian public for vague but sinister reasons.

    In three separate decisions, all of which are currently under judicial review, the College cautioned the physician for her lack of professionalism and failure to exercise caution in her postings, which was considered to be irresponsible and a possible risk to public health. The ICRC concluded:

    The Committee did not accept the Respondent’s position that her tweets come from a personal Twitter account that has no affiliation with her practice. The Respondent’s Twitter biography makes it very clear that she is a physician and also identifies her as the leader of a group of physicians, Concerned Ontario Doctors. The Respondent’s tweets are accessible by the public. Moreover, members of the public who are not healthcare professionals are likely to attribute significant weight and authority to the Respondent’s tweets, given her profession. Non-medically trained members of the public would likely have difficulty determining the scientific and medical validity of the Respondent’s tweets.

    On the basis of the above, the Committee decided that it would be appropriate to caution the Respondent in this matter.

    The ICRC stated that this was particularly problematic, and “irresponsible and careless in the current context and climate”.

    Though some may perceive otherwise, regulated professionals – including healthcare professionals – continue to have professionalism obligations when using social media, particularly when their comments are connected to their holding of credentials and are on a controversial matter related to their profession.

  • 20 May 2021 2:42 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    The Ontario Court of Justice asks: “In the age of Zoom, is any forum more non conveniens than another?”

    In a motion brought to stay proceedings in the Ontario court in favour of an arbitration in Chicago, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice had to grapple with time-worn arbitration and conflicts of laws questions, but through a completely novel lens. Justice Mogan commenced the reasons in Kore Meals LLC v. Freshii Development LLC:

    [1] In the age of Zoom, is any forum more non conveniens than another? Has a venerable doctrine now gone the way of the VCR player or the action in assumpsit?

    The plaintiff, Kore Meals LLC, and defendant, Freshii Development LLC, were parties to a Development Agent Agreement that contained an arbitration clause that called for arbitration in the city of the defendant's head office, which was named as Chicago. The plaintiff wanted to litigate in the courts in Ontario, named as a co-defendant the parent company of Freshii Development that was based in Ontario, and pointed to the fact that the defendant’s only presence in Chicago was a mailbox. The defendant had no office or personnel in Chicago.

    In the usual course, an arbitrator would be called upon to determine whether the case was arbitrable. Because that arbitration necessarily “sit” in Chicago, the plaintiff said that would be unfair and impractical, as it is that venue that is being challenged. When asked where the American Arbitration Association is located, both parties counsel indicated they were unsure as all submissions would be made online. When asked if the proceeding would similarly be online, counsel advised the court that would likely be the case in light of the pandemic. With this information, the court wrote:

    [29] All of which undermines the majority of forum non conveniens factors. If hearings are held by videoconference, documents filed in digital form, and witnesses examined from remote locations, what is left of any challenge based on the unfairness or impracticality of any given forum? To ask the question is to answer it. Freshii Developments may have a miniature post office box or an entire office tower in Chicago, and witnesses or documents may be located in Canada’s Northwest Territories or in the deep south of the United States, and no location would be any more or less convenient than another.

    Following consideration of the fact that there would likely be no issue of enforcement of any arbitral award issued by an American arbitrator, the court concluded that location is currently largely irrelevant:

    [31] It is by now an obvious point, but it bears repeating that a digital-based adjudicative system with a videoconference hearing is as distant and as nearby as the World Wide Web. With this in mind, the considerable legal learning that has gone into contests of competing forums over the years is now all but obsolete. Judges cannot say forum non conveniens we hardly knew you, but they can now say farewell to what was until recently a familiar doctrinal presence in the courthouse.

    [32] And what is true for forum non conveniens is equally true for the access to justice approach to the arbitration question. Chicago and Toronto are all on the same cyber street. They are accessed in the identical way with a voice command or the click of a finger. No one venue is more or less unfair or impractical than another.

    The defendant’s motion for a stay was granted in favour of arbitration as contemplated in the agreement.

  • 16 Apr 2021 2:51 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    The CAN-TECH LAW Association offers a variety of ways for our members to get involved via our various committees. Volunteers are at the heart of what we do, and it is only because of the time and knowledge our volunteers contribute that we are able to fulfill our mission.

    Our committees in particular help shape key organizational decisions, provide strategic direction, and move the field of legal technology forward.

    Committee volunteer benefits include building a strong professional network, learning about key legal technology issues, and participating in professional development opportunities. Committee members are expected to actively participate in their committee; however members will have the opportunity to work with Committee co-chairs to discuss how much or how little time they can contribute to various initiatives. 

    Below are current CAN-TECH LAW committee opportunities for 2021. However, we are open to creating new committees based on membership interest.

    • Women in Tech Law - This is a standing committee which supports female identifying members of the legal bar by providing tools to success including a variety of leadership development, education, networking and mentoring opportunities for women at all levels of their careers. Committee participation and events are open to all members and all are encouraged to participate.
    • Diversity - This is a standing committee whose principal project for 2021 includes implementing the suggestions outlined in the organization’s diversity and inclusion report from 2020. The committee also supports the planning of D&I events as appropriate.
    • Mentorship - The Mentorship Program will be launched in 2021 with a goal of creating meaningful mentorship relationships between junior, intermediate and senior Can-Tech members to help junior members achieve success in their career. This program will be supported by both WIT and D&I. 
    • Spring Conference Planning Committee - This is an annually constituted committee which is currently actively planning our spring series conference which will occur in late May/June. 
    • Fall Conference Planning Committee - This is an annually constituted committee which is responsible for planning our fall conference. Volunteers are currently welcomed.
    • Privacy, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Identity, Cybersecurity, FinTech - These are ad hoc committees whose goals will be to discuss and comment on developments in the applicable fields and organize round-tables for members on key topics as appropriate. 

    *Co-chair position(s) open; please indicate to us if interested.

    While you can volunteer at any time, we invite you to volunteer by Thursday, April 22, 2021.

    Committee participation is open to all CAN-TECH LAW members.

    Should you have any questions or would like to participate kindly send a note to

  • 12 Jan 2021 2:52 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    The ADR Institute of Canada (ADRIC) has adopted Med-Arb Rules and announced a new Chartered Mediator-Arbitrator (C.Med-Arb) professional designation in recognition that med-arb is a distinct process that is different from either mediation or arbitration on their own.

    Med-arb is widely used in areas such as employment and family disputes and is now gaining acceptance in the commercial disputes. It promises both flexibility and finality, saving time and money by having a single mediator-arbitrator conduct the entire process. This makes it an attractive option for resolving many technology disputes.

    But there are traps for the unwary. There must be clear procedures to ensure fairness and an enforceable agreement or award at the end of the day. The Med-Arb Rules, which incorporate ADRIC’s existing Mediation Rules and Arbitration Rules, provide a complete procedure for both the mediation and arbitration phases of the med-ab process.

    The Rules can be incorporated in a contract or stand-alone dispute resolution agreement. They can be modified by agreement of the parties, providing a high degree of flexibility.

    The Rules require that the mediator-arbitrator remain independent and impartial at all times. There must be full initial and ongoing disclosure of any potential conflicts. But the Rules also make it clear that merely acting as a mediator, meeting separately with parties or questioning the merits of a party’s position during the mediation phase, will not amount to procedural unfairness.

    Those seeking the Chartered Mediator-Arbitrator designation must have training and practical experience to avoid the potential traps that can lead to unfairness and bias claims. The goal is to ensure that there is a valid and enforceable agreement or award at the end of the med-arb.

    The transition from the mediation phase – when everyone is at least trying to get along and come up with a settlement – to the arbitration phase – when everyone suits up to fight over the remaining issues – is the most difficult part of any med-arb.

    The Rules deals with these crucial transition issues:

    • The mediation phase ends when an agreed time limit expires, the parties have settled all issues in dispute, the parties agree in writing, or the mediator decides to end it.
    • When the mediation phase ends, the parties must confirm which issues have been resolved (to be documented in a settlement or consent award).
    • The parties must also identify the unresolved issues to go to arbitration. If they can’t agree, the mediator-arbitrator will identify those issues.
    • At the beginning of the arbitration phase, the mediator-arbitrator will decide any challenge arising from the mediation before continuing with the arbitration. Any party that does not object is deemed to have waived any such challenge.
    • Any other objection to the mediator-arbitrator, such as impartiality or qualifications, must be resolved under the ADRIC Arbitration Rules.
    • During the arbitration phase the mediator-arbitrator must not use information from the mediation phase unless it becomes evidence in the arbitration or the parties consent to its use.

    These points expressly address many common concerns about the med-arb process.

    With technology or project disputes, when time is critical, there may be a temptation to move quickly to a final settlement or award, but the Rules recognize that there are dangers in moving too fast.

    There must be a clear, bright-line transition from mediation to arbitration.

    The parties and the mediator-arbitrator must document the issues that have been resolved and those that have not. This may be tricky in some cases. For example, agreement on one issue may be dependent on resolution of another.

    If a party has an objection to the mediator continuing as arbitrator for any reason, they must raise it right away. They can’t wait to see how things go and object later, if the award goes against them.

    The rule against using information from the mediation unless it becomes evidence in the arbitration puts a responsibility firmly on the arbitrator, and on each of the parties, to be very clear about what information is in evidence and what is not.

    As noted in McClintock v. Karam2015 ONSC 1024 (CanLII), an often-cited family med-arb case, the mediator-arbitrator “cannot be expected [to] entirely cleanse the mind of everything learned during the mediation phase, and of every tentative conclusion considered, or even reached, during the mediation phase. However, at a bare minimum the parties are entitled to expect that the mediator/arbitrator will be open to persuasion, and will not have reached firm views or conclusions.”

    The ADRIC Med-Arb Rules and evolving best practices should help meet that goal.

    See Michael Erdle’s column for more commentary on med-arb and the ADRIC Med- Arb Rules.

  • 27 Aug 2020 2:53 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    In January of 2020, the CAN-TECH Board of Directors created a Diversity and Inclusion Working Group (“Working Group”) composed of Elena Iosef, Andrew Alleyne, and Lisa R. Lifshitz. The Working Group’s recommendations to CAN-TECH regarding diversity and inclusion as of July 2020 are outlined here.

  • 19 Jun 2020 2:54 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Motions judge orders cross-examination on affidavits to proceed online

    In Sandhu v Siri Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara of Alberta, the applicant in the underlying application was seeking to be reinstated as president of the respondent organization. He made a motion for a judge to direct that cross-examination on affidavits be permitted to proceed by way of some form of video-conference. The respondent objected, arguing that there was a substantial number of cross-examinations to be completed, where some of the affiants were old and some amount of translation was required; they sought an order that the cross-examinations would be completed within two weeks of the COVID-19 order being lifted (which was indeterminate at that point).

    The motions judge, Justice M.J. Lema, first turned to the question of whether the Alberta Rules of Court actually permitted cross-examination by video. The existing Rules provided only for electronic “hearings,” which were to be in the presence of the court and did not necessarily apply to “upstream” litigation activities like cross-examination at motion hearings. However, case law under the predecessor Rule had expansively interpreted that rule to allow discoveries, etc. by video, and the evidence around the formulation of the new rules did not indicate that this expansive interpretation was to be somehow repealed. It was clear that, particularly since the onset of COVID-19, the use of video was being viewed in a more friendly way by motions courts and moreover it was clear that the “foundational-rule imperatives” (i.e. those promoting the inexpensive and timely resolution of disputes) could favour the use of video in appropriate circumstances. On this basis, Justice Lema concluded that the court had authority to order direct remote questioning on affidavits.

    In granting the order this case, Justice Lema cited approvingly the decision of Justice Myers of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Arconti v. Smith (reported in a recent edition of this newsletter), where an in-depth analysis produced a conclusion that the benefits of cross-examination by video-conference outweighed the risks. Regarding the need for an interpreter, Justice Lema relied on previous case law to the effect that proceeding by video-conferencing was a beneficial route for “modern international litigation,” and had ordered that individuals be subjected to cross-examination with the use of an interpreter who was physically present with the affiant in his/her location. This solution would work well in the present case. He also noted with approval the May 2020 Alberta Protocol for Remote Questioning, which had been formulated by experienced litigators and stakeholder organizations, and which would likely prove useful.

  • 19 Jun 2020 2:51 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    The Court sought guidance from defamation and privacy precedents in evaluating appropriate general damages award

    The first assessment of damages under Nova Scotia’s revamped cyberbullying statute is reported at 2020 NSSC 177. The Court had previously found liability in favour of the complainant and requested further submissions on damages and costs.

    The decision is notable because the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia determined that the evaluation of damages under the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act“should be determined with guidance from caselaw in related areas of tort law, including defamation and breach of privacy.”

    The statute requires that the Court consider a list of factors at section 6(7):

    (a) the content of the intimate image or cyber-bullying;

    (b) the manner and repetition of the conduct;

    (c) the nature and extent of the harm caused;

    (d) the age and vulnerability of the person depicted in the intimate image distributed without consent or victim of cyber-bullying;

    (e) the purpose or intention of the person responsible for the distribution of the intimate image without consent or the cyberbullying;

    (f) the occasion, context and subject-matter of the conduct;

    (g) the extent of the distribution of the intimate image or cyber-bullying;

    (h) the truth or falsity of the communication;

    (i) the conduct of the person responsible for the distribution of the intimate image or cyber-bullying, including any effort to minimize harm;

    (j) the age and maturity of the person responsible for distribution of the intimate image without consent or cyber-bullying;

    (k) the technical and operational practicalities and costs of carrying out the order;

    (l) the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and

    (m) any other relevant factor or circumstance.

    The Court determined that this must be evaluated in light of the purposes of the Act, set out in Section 2:

    Purpose of Act

    2 The purpose of this Act is to

    (a) create civil remedies to deter, prevent and respond to the harms of non-consensual sharing of intimate images and cyber-bullying;

    (b) uphold and protect the fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; and

    (c) provide assistance to Nova Scotians in responding to nonconsensual sharing of intimate images and cyber-bullying.

    In the absence of previous damage awards under the Act, the Court reviewed a range of cases related to defamation, intrusion upon seclusion and false light publicity, and applied the principles for defamation damages set out in Hill v. Church of Scientology:

    [19] The factors to be considered in determining general damages for defamation were considered in Hill v. Church of Scientology of Toronto, 1995 CanLII 59 (SCC), [1995] 2 SCR 1130, where Cory J. said, for the majority:

    182 The factors which should be taken into account in assessing general damages are clearly and concisely set out in Gatley on Libel and Slander (8th ed.), supra, at pp. 592‑93, in these words:


    1451. Province of the jury. In an action of libel "the assessment of damages does not depend on any legal rule." The amount of damages is "peculiarly the province of the jury," who in assessing them will naturally be governed by all the circumstances of the particular case. They are entitled to take into their consideration the conduct of the plaintiff, his position and standing, the nature of the libel, the mode and extent of publication, the absence or refusal of any retraction or apology, and "the whole conduct of the defendant from the time when the libel was published down to the very moment of their verdict. They may take into consideration the conduct of the defendant before action, after action, and in court at the trial of the action," and also, it is submitted, the conduct of his counsel, who cannot shelter his client by taking responsibility for the conduct of the case. They should allow "for the sad truth that no apology, retraction or withdrawal can ever be guaranteed completely to undo the harm it has done or the hurt it has caused." They should also take into account the evidence led in aggravation or mitigation of the damages..

    In the result, the Court ordered the respondents to pay, jointly and severally, general damages in the amount of $50,000, punitive damages in the amount of $15,000 and aggravated damages of $20,000.

  • 19 Jun 2020 2:45 PM | CAN-TECH Law (Administrator)

    Appeal court determines that CASL is intra vires federal jurisdiction and impact on expression is justified under the Charter

    A unanimous panel of the Federal Court of Appeal has upheld the constitutionality of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which was attacked on a number of fronts by CompuFinder. CompuFinder had been found to be in violation of CASL in 2017, and unsuccessfully challenged the legislation before the CRTC. On appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal, that challenge failed.

    The decision in 3510395 Canada Inc. v. Canada (Attorney General) addresses division of power objections and a range of Charter questions.

    With respect to constitutional division of powers, CompuFinder argued that CASL was ultra vires the parliament of Canada as an unlawful intrusion into provincial jurisdiction. The government countered that it was a legitimate exercise of the general trade and commerce power in the Constitution.

    CompuFinder’s attack was focused on the regulation of commercial electronic messages, which is one part of the regulated activity within CASL. The Federal Court of Appeal referred to the more general objects of CASL:

    [93] There is, of course, no purpose clause for CASL’s CEM scheme in particular. However, the purpose clause for CASL as a whole, found at section 3 of the Act, is useful in discerning the purpose of the impugned scheme. Section 3 states that CASL’s purpose is “to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that discourages reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities”. The Act’s title echoes this purpose. The reasons why Parliament sought to regulate commercial conduct of this description through CASL are enumerated in paragraphs 3(a) to (d), which speak to the evils the legislation aims to address. More specifically, the commercial conduct regulated by CASL is targeted because that conduct:

    (a) impairs the availability, reliability, efficiency and optimal use of electronic means to carry out commercial activities;

    (b) imposes additional costs on businesses and consumers;

    (c) compromises privacy and the security of confidential information; and

    (d) undermines the confidence of Canadians in the use of electronic means of communication to carry out their commercial activities in Canada and abroad.

    It is because certain commercial activities can give rise to these undesirable consequences that impact the economy that Parliament undertook to regulate those activities through CASL.

    To determine its validity under this head of jurisdiction, the Court referred to the five indicia from the General Motors case, the first two of which were admitted by CompuFinder:

    [113] The five indicia of valid general trade and commerce legislation were set out by the Supreme Court in General Motors. They are as follows: (i) the impugned legislation must be part of a regulatory scheme; (ii) the scheme must be monitored by the continuing oversight of a regulatory agency; (iii) the legislation must be concerned with trade as a whole rather than with a particular industry; (iv) the legislation should be of a nature that provinces jointly or severally would be constitutionally incapable of enacting; and (v) the failure to include one or more provinces or localities in a legislative scheme would jeopardize the successful operation of the scheme in other parts of the country (Kirkbi at para. 17 citing General Motors at 662).

    The Court distinguished the regulation of commercial electronic messages from the trade in securities, as was the focus of the Securities Act reference:

    [122] The appellant’s analogy between the Securities Act and CASL’s CEM scheme is ill suited in this regard. In the first place, the impugned CEM scheme does not regulate all messaging, but only one specific type—commercial messaging. It furthermore targets only a narrow aspect of this type of messaging, leaving ample room for provincial regulation of CEMs, including in the areas of consumer protection, privacy and marketing mentioned by the appellant. Further still, “messaging”, or, more properly, “commercial messaging”, is not a discrete economic industry in the same way as the trade in securities. E-commerce transcends industries and permeates the economy, meaning that CASL’s CEM scheme regulates a specific aspect of many industries, rather than all aspects of a specific industry, as with the Securities Act. The current inquiry centers on whether that specific aspect falls within the federal domain. The appellant’s strained analogy with the scuttled Securities Act does not support, let alone compel, a negative finding on this question.

    The Court then found that the provinces can still regulate in this area (pointing to privacy and consumer protection), the other General Motors indicia were made out. The court particularly highlighted that a single province that failed to regulate in this area could become a haven for spammers, undermining the regulation in other provinces. As a result, the Court determined that CASL is intra vires the general trade and commerce power.

    CompuFinder also attacked the legislation as violating freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter. The respondent conceded that section 2(b) was infringed, so the analysis focused on whether it could be upheld under section 1 as a reasonable limitation.

    CompuFinder’s first section 1 argument was that the law was too vague to be “prescribed by law”, particularly focusing on the definition of “commercial electronic message” and the other defined terms that are imported into its meaning. The Court dismissed this argument, holding that the “zone of risk” was sufficiently defined. At paragraph 151: “CASL is sufficiently precise to delineate an area or zone of risk, which is all that can be realistically expected and all that is constitutionally required of legislation.”

    The Court then found that the objectives of CASL are sufficiently pressing and substantial, noting that – at this stage of the analysis – one should not confuse the objectives with the means chosen to address those objectives.

    With respect to the rational connection branch of the analysis, CompuFinder argued that CASL went well beyond truly “harmful spam” and regulated a much larger universe of communications. As a result, there was no longer a rational connection between the objectives of the Act and the Act’s scheme. The Court rejected this argument:

    [168] If the Act’s objective were to prevent only “the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam”, it would be possible to argue that CASL’s central prohibition, even though partial and accompanied by numerous exceptions, is nevertheless overbroad and must fail the rational connection test. However, the Act’s objective is not so narrow. The Act’s objective is to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that, inter alia, impairs the efficiency and optimal use of, or undermines Canadians’ confidence in, electronic means of carrying out commercial activities. A wide range of commercial messages, far beyond what could be considered “the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam”, could controvert these objectives and therefore be rationally and not arbitrarily captured by the prohibition in subsection 6(1).

    On the minimal impairment argument, much of the analysis involved a comparison between CASL and the Australian anti-spam law. Canada’s law is “opt-in” while Australia’s is “opt-out”. The Court determined that both statutes address essentially the same categories of messages and was ultimately persuaded that opt-out would permit harmful messages to land in inboxes. Ultimately, the Court found that the Canadian model was one of a reasonable range of options for Parliament to adopt.

    The final branch of the section 1 analysis was also found in favour of upholding the legislation. The Court rejected CompuFinder’s argument that CASL has substantial deleterious effects on forms of expression other than commercial expression and that the impact on commercial expression is mitigated by numerous exceptions and prescribed method of compliance. Expression was regulated, not prohibited. The Court noted, citing Irwin Toy that commercial expression “is not as jealously guarded” as other forms of expression. Regulation and restriction of commercial expression can be more easily justified than with other types of expression, such as political expression, which lies closer to the core of s. 2(b) values. In conclusion, the Court found that the benefits outweighed the deleterious effects on freedom of expression.

    CompuFinder also argued that CASL violates section 7 of the Charter which provides particular rights when one is “charged with an offence”. The Court dismissed this and concluded that CASL is regulatory and not penal in nature. Similarly, the scheme of “administrative monetary penalties” is regulatory and does not engage section 7. Arguments put forward by CompuFinder related to sections 8 and 11 of the Charter were dismissed.

    It is not known whether CompuFinder intends to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.


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