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Greater risk on the part of financial institutions is the major element driving the recent sharp increases in mortgage rates for new loans, Dominion Lending Centres chief economist Sherry Cooper said.

Mortgage rates to climb further as institutional lenders react to increased risk

“These disruptive forces of COVID-19 have markedly reduced the earnings of banks and other lenders and dramatically increased their risk,” Cooper wrote in an analysis recently published by DLC’s online portal.

“That is why the stock prices of banks and other publically-traded lenders have fallen very sharply, causing their dividend yields to rise to levels well above government bond yields,” she added. “Thus, the cost of funds for banks and other lenders has risen sharply despite the cut in the Bank of Canada’s overnight rate.”

The economic shockwaves emanating from the pandemic have proven disastrous, with industry players bearing the brunt of the impact so far.

“The banks are having to set aside funds to cover rising loan loss reserves, which exacerbates their earnings decline,” Cooper explained. “An unusually large component of Canadian bank loan losses is coming from the oil sector. Still, default risk is rising sharply for almost every business, small and large–think airlines, shipping companies, manufacturers, auto dealers, department stores, etc.”

by Ephraim Vecina 02 Apr 2020

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A much-anticipated report has recommended broadening the scope of family law to let paralegals provide legal services in some matters.

If implemented by the provincial government and the Law Society of Upper Canada, the report’s recommendations would let paralegals represent clients in court in a number of family law areas, including custody, access and simple child support cases.

“I recognize that the issue of paralegals representing clients in court is one of considerable controversy,” Justice Annemarie Bonkalo said in the report.

Bonkalo is a part-time judge and former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, who was tasked with conducting a review of family law services to assess what can be done to boost access to justice. Among what are expected to be some of the more controversial recommendations is a call for the law society to create a specialized licence for paralegals to provide certain services in family law.

In 2014-15, more than 57 per cent of Ontarians who went through family court, did not have legal representation.

“When I began this review, my own feeling, based on the written submissions I received, was that in-court assistance would not be appropriate and that a line could be reasonably drawn at the courtroom door,” she added.

“As I continued to explore the issues and hear from different communities, it became clear to me that precluding paralegals from appearing in court would be a disservice to clients.”

The report contends that paralegals should also be allowed to represent clients in matters concerning restraining orders, enforcement and simple and joint divorces without property, but draws the line at more complex proceedings.

The report recommends that paralegals should not be allowed to provide services that involve child protection, property, spousal support or relocation. They also would not be able to do anything that involves the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction or complex child support in which discretionary determinations are needed to arrive at an income amount.

Paralegals can currently appear in the Small Claims Court, and the Ontario Court of Justice for Provincial Offences Act infractions.

Bonkalo has also recommended paralegals should not have to seek a judge’s permission before entering court, as it would create uncertainty and would be a disincentive to hiring a paralegal.

“From a practical stand, it may discourage individuals from pursuing the specialized paralegal licence in family law, as it would be frustrating to not be able to provide continuous service to one’s client,” Bonkalo said.

“It would be difficult to explain to a client that one could assist the client with filling out forms and preparing for court but that, where the client perhaps most needed assistance, the paralegal could not enter the courtroom. Such a limitation could very well play into a person’s decision on whether to hire a paralegal.”

Family lawyers have voiced concerns that they could be pushed out of the market if paralegals are given the right to provide legal services in any part of family law. Opponents have also said that family law is a very complex area, in which even tasks that seem simple can have serious consequences and can lead to more complicated matters. Family lawyers have also said paralegals simply do not have the same training and called for the government to let other reforms play out before considering widening the scope of the area.

The report, which was commissioned by the provincial government and the law society, also recommends that the regulator take steps to facilitate collaboration between lawyers and paralegals to create referral networks and interdisciplinary teams.

“After reading all the written submissions and hearing the diverse views expressed, it is clear to me that unrepresented litigants in family law need more options in obtaining legal assistance to resolve their family disputes,” she said in the report.

Bonkalo has submitted the report to MAG and the law society, who will now determine the next steps needed to implement its recommendations.

In statement responding to the report, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the provincial government will be working over the coming months with the law society and the federal government to create an action plan for the recommendations.

“Over half of Ontarians who use the family law system do not have legal representation, and the problem is growing,” he said in the statement.

“It is more important than ever that we work to improve access to justice for families. Our government is ready to act. We are committed to working with our partners and the federal government to consider changes that will have a real, positive impact of people’s lives, like allowing paralegals to be trained to provide family law services.”

March 6, 2017|Written By Alex Robinson

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Should paralegals be allowed into family court?

It’s one of the most divisive questions swirling through the Ontario legal community this year.

With most litigants now appearing without a lawyer for family cases in the province, a recent family law review by a former Ontario court chief justice recommends paralegals be allowed into family courtrooms on certain matters, including custody and access, simple child support cases, and restraining orders.

The recommendation has pitted many lawyers and judges, including the entire family court bench at the 311 Jarvis St. courthouse, against those who argue paralegals could possibly provide a more affordable alternative for some people who would otherwise simply show up before a judge on their own.

Public feedback on the report by ex-chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo was being accepted until this week, and the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada, the body that regulates both the legal and paralegal professions, are working on an action plan to be released this fall.

When the Bonkalo review was released in March, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said, in a statement, that the government is “committed to working with our partners and the federal government to consider changes that will have a real, positive impact of people’s lives, like allowing paralegals to be trained to provide family law services.”

In an effort to mobilize public support around the paralegal recommendations, and out of a concern that the Law Society will push back against them, the National Self-Represented Litigants Project at the University of Windsor has launched a petition directed at the ministry and law society.

“The public ask us all the time, self-reps ask us all the time: why can’t we have a paralegal do our family matter? They can do small claims, immigration, traffic court, why the heck can’t they do family cases?” said project director and law professor Julie Macfarlane.

courtroom with old style windows in London

The Superior Court of Justice is dedicated to ensuring meaningful access to justice for family law litigants at all Superior Court locations. Access to justice means providing family court services and processes that are timely, efficient, effective, and affordable.

The purpose of these services and processes is to resolve family cases in ways that minimize conflict, safeguard the children’s best interests, protect the legal rights of all family members, and resolve issues as early as possible.

Family Court Services

Family Court services include:

Much of the following information about Family Court services is drawn from the Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for administering many of these services. For further information about Family Court services, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Family Mediation Services

Family mediation is a way of helping people resolve issues relating to parenting, separation, and/or divorce including custody of or access to children, child and/or spousal support, and property division. A family mediator can help people identify the issues that need to be resolved upon separation, and can assist in working out solutions.

Government funded family mediation services are available at all court locations in Ontario where family cases are heard. These services are available on-site for cases that are in court on that day and appointments can also be made for off-site mediation services.

To locate a family mediator in your area, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Mandatory Information Programs (MIPs)

MIPs provide litigants with essential information about the family justice system, the options available to resolve their disputes, and the effects of separation on children and adults. This program empowers litigants – represented or unrepresented – to make informed choices about their future and to discover what resources are available to assist with the philosophy of putting children first and of resolving matters early before further, unnecessary litigation.

MIPs are provided at all court locations across the province where family cases are heard. In most cases, both litigants are required to attend a MIP as a first step in their family court case.  These programs cover such topics as:

  • the effects of separation and divorce on adults and children
  • alternatives to litigation
  • family law issues
  • the Family Court process
  • local resources and programs for families facing separation and/or divorce

For further information on MIPs, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Family Law Information Centres (FLICs)

FLICs services are available at all court locations where family cases are heard to provide information about separation and divorce, family justice services, alternative forms of dispute resolution, local community resources, and court processes.

Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs) are available at designated times at these resource centres to help litigants understand their needs and to make referrals to appropriate services. IRCs provide information about family mediation and other ways to resolve issues without going to court.

For a listing of FLICs offices throughout Ontario, see FLICs Locations.

Additional information regarding FLICs can be found on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website, Family Law Information Centres (FLICs).

Dispute Resolution Officer Programs

Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) are senior family lawyers appointed to conduct family case conferences. DRO programs provide litigants in family proceedings with an early evaluation of their case by a neutral third party. This service often narrows the issues in dispute and facilitates settlement. The work conducted by DROs mainly deals with motions to change child and spousal support orders.

In locations where the DRO program is offered, the first appearance on a request to change an order comes before a DRO, rather than a judge. The DRO meets with the parties to determine the issues, explore settlement options, and determine if the file is ready to go before a judge. DROs do not have the authority to make orders, but are often able to help the parties agree to a settlement, which can then be confirmed by a judge, or at a minimum, can assist in setting a schedule for disclosure and the next steps in a case.

DRO programs are currently available in Toronto, Brampton, Milton, Newmarket, Barrie, Durham and Hamilton. For the DRO program schedule, please see the Dispute Resolution Officer Schedule Annex. Additional information can be found in the Court’s practice direction.

For further information on Family Court services and additional programs, please see Family Justice Serviceson the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Law of Business

Are you looking for help bringing an invention to market? Are you seeking financial assistance from a potential investor? If so, you may have heard of, or are putting together, a non-disclosure agreement.

A non-disclosure agreement, also known as a NDA or confidentiality agreement, is intended to prevent an idea or technology from being stolen and copied. In today’s business climate there are several things that you may want to consider before presenting your potential partners with an NDA.

Do you need a non-disclosure agreement?

You may want to consider using a non-disclosure agreement if you are concerned that information may be shared with a competitor (either on purpose or accidentally). If you are considering licensing your intellectual property, a non-disclosure agreement will help safeguard your idea from potential copy-cat inventions.

If you are looking for someone to invest in your product, you may find that some investors may be hesitant to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This is not because they intend to steal your idea and present it as their own, but more likely it is a question of time. Investors and venture capitalists may review many pitches each week and the extra paperwork may be seen as an unnecessary precaution. Your potential investor may even see an NDA as a deterrent to doing business with you. It may be wiser, or simply easier, not to share the portions of your idea or invention that may be vulnerable.

What should a well written NDA include?

You will want to define:

  • To whom the agreement applies: is it between an individual and a company or between two companies?
  • What is included and protected in the agreement that you draw up. Do you need to protect all aspects or are there specific details that you do not wish to share?
  • A time frame for the duration of your NDA. How long does the agreement last? You will want to allow enough time to realistically bring said product to market or to close the financial deal.
  • Where the agreements apply geographically — in Canada, North America, worldwide?

Additional tips when drafting a non-disclosure agreement:

Keep information on a USB key or on your own laptop — don’t email documents that you wish to protect.

Explore the internet for websites that may offer templates or examples of NDAs that may fit your particular business situation.

Be sure to discuss the use of a NDA with a legal professional, as it may be difficult or expensive to reinforce if not written properly.

For more information on developing your unique ideas, consult our sections on Copyright and Intellectual property and Innovation.

man talking on social network checking phone and computer

Canada, as put in perspective in light of Canada’s notorious (worldwide) patent trolls

WE RARELY write about Canadian patent law, but we certainly write about Canadian companies like BlackBerry and i4i because they use the US patent system (for the most part) to go after their rivals. IAM recently published, for a law firm as usual (shameless self-promotion), “Patent law: 2016 year in review” (it’s Gowling WLG Canada about various cases which we rarely touched or even mentioned here). “Patent assertion entities” is the final part of it, which basically alludes to patent trolls. BlackBerry and i4i both became Canadian patent trolls. As for WiLAN, a troll which is headquartered in Ottawa, it’s still as active as ever.

“As far as we are aware, software patents are not (or hardly) a problem in Canada, but the country has already yielded quite a few patent trolls…”According to End Software Patents with its resources on Canada, Canada’s “Patent Act reads: “No patent shall be granted for any mere scientific principle or abstract theorem.”” In practice, however, a lot of the above entities simply pursue patents at the USPTO and then utilise as much as they can get there for litigation purposes.

Two Canadians, Ian Goodman and Dane Smith from “SIM. IP Practice,” (whatever that is, complete with the dot) published this article about “Test for Obviousness in Canada”. Before refusing a patent application,” it explains, “the Canadian Patent Office convenes a panel of the Patent Appeal Board (the “PAB”) to review the application and provide a recommendation to the Commissioner of Patents. This recommendation and the Commissioner’s determination on the allowability of the application are published together as a “Commissioner’s Decision”.”

This is the equivalent of PTAB in the US or the appeal boards (BoA) of the EPO.

They also said that Canada’s “Supreme Court further stated in Apotex that an “obvious to try” inquiry may arise in the fourth step of the test in “areas of endeavor where advances are often won by experimentation”.”

As far as we are aware, software patents are not (or hardly) a problem in Canada, but the country has already yielded quite a few patent trolls, which conveniently operate outside Canada (typically in countries that have software patents and where patent maximalism prevails). 

Tim Hortons franchisees are pushing back against changes implemented by the chain’s new owners that are designed to cut costs but will lower the quality of the products, a report suggests.

According to the report in Tuesday’s Globe & Mail newspaper, the franchisees have created an organization called the Great White North Franchisee Association to represent their interests and urge the chain’s owner, Restaurant Brands International, to slow down and rethink aggressive cost-cutting strategies.

In 2014, Restaurant Brands bought Tim Hortons and merged it with Burger King. Since then, the new owners have pushed for efficiency changes at the ubiquitous coffee and doughnut chain that have pleased investors — the stock is up by almost 40 per cent since the deal — but upset long time franchisees.

Among the complaints are inferior equipment such as coffee carafes, mugs, lids and trays that break more often, the report said. Those money-saving moves have hurt Tim Hortons brand and hurt the franchisees’ ability to make money, according to a letter sent to company management and signed by John Sotos of law firm Sotos LLP, which represents the irate franchisees.

Sotos confirmed the existence of the letter in an email to CBC News, but declined to provide a copy of it, saying it contains “privileged and confidential information.”

Restaurant Brands, meanwhile, poured cold water on the notion that there’s any sort of rift, and noted that its goal is to keep working “shoulder to shoulder” with franchisees. “We are proud of the growth we have achieved in recent years and we will continue to listen to franchise owners on how we can build a stronger business together,” a spokesperson told CBC News.

The company reached out to all of its franchisees in a letter this week from Elias Diaz, the brand president of Tim Hortons, in which he reassured them that “the Tim Hortons brand has been built by thousands of dedicated franchise owners. They are the foundation of our system, and we have always and will continue to seek their counsel and work in close collaboration with them to deliver a great guest experience every day across our restaurants in Canada.”

Noting that sales and profitability at the chain have increased every year since buying Tims, the letter from Diaz told franchisees that the company looks forward to working with them “to ensure that the Tim Hortons brand is healthy for the long run by focusing on what will help us serve our guests and the iconic Tim Hortons brand now and in the future.”

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