The Story of Law Reform in Nova Scotia: A Perilous Enterprise

By Charles, Bill | Dalhousie Law Journal, January 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

The Story of Law Reform in Nova Scotia: A Perilous Enterprise


Charles, Bill, Dalhousie Law Journal


Introduction

I. Some preliminary considerations

1. Law reform-What is it? What does it mean?

2. How law reform commissions approach law reform

3. Limitations on law reform commissions: Lawyers 'law or social policy law or both?

4. How law reform commissions do their work

5. The machinery of government and law reform

II. The pre-commission era and law reform

1. Conference of Commissioners on Uniformity of Legislation in Canada

2. Nova Scotia Legislative Research Centre: Dalhousie Law School

3. The Nova Scotia Barristers ' Society

III. The first Law Reform Advisory Commission 1969-1981

1. Bill-43 and the reasons for it

2. The workplan-Doing law reform

3. Some ongoing problems

4. Accomplishments of the first commission

5. Why was the commission abandoned?

6. An assessment of the Nova Scotia Law Reform Advisory Commission

IV. The second Law Reform Commission-The independent Commission

1. Bill-70, 1990

2. How the Commission saw itself

3. Accomplishments or productivity of the Commission

4. Three perennial concerns of the Commission

5. Significant events in the life of the second Commission

6. Why is stable funding for law reform commissions not sustainable in Nova Scotia?

V. Possible reasons for the demise of the first Law Reform Commission and government withdrawal offunding for the second

Conclusion

VI. Postscript

Appendices

Introduction

The legal system and its constituent parts, like an old automobile, require constant attention, maintenance and repair. Principles and rules that make up the substance of the law, together with the supporting institutions, practices and procedures that provide our society with law and order and the way to settle our disputes, need to be constantly monitored and updated. The process of doing this we call law reform. It is a process that is crucial to the support and maintenance of the rule of law. Law reform can be carried out by different agencies or organizations and can be sporadic or continuous. In this paper we will focus our attention upon two Nova Scotia agencies created by statute to carry out continuous law reform. Called Law Reform Commissions, the first was created in 1969 and given the title of an "Advisory Commission."1 The second was brought to life in 1990 and described as "An Independent Commission."2 Although our main emphasis will be upon the operations of these two statutory bodies, we will also explore some general themes or issues inherent in the law reform process as a whole in order to provide a general backdrop against which to examine the roles, achievements and experiences of our two commissions.

The whole process of carrying on or doing law reform work is far from simple and usually involves issues or problems that are common to all law reform agencies. The car analogy mentioned above tends to give the impression that law reform is a simple process, but it is not. We begin our more general discussion of the law reform process with a closer look at such issues as how law reform commissions approach their work, the work method they employ and the limits of law reform. Also discussed will be the machinery of government and its role in law reform, why governments cannot do a proper job of law reform, and the general characteristics of law reform commissions. In the context of law reform in Nova Scotia specifically, we will examine early attempts at law reform in the province prior to the creation of the first law reform commission in 1969. We will then proceed to a fairly detailed review and analysis of the two law reform commissions. An overarching question, based upon the experience in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, is whether continuous law reform, as carried out by a law reform commission, is a sustainable activity in Nova Scotia particularly and if not, why not?

In the late 1960's and early 70's in Canada each of the common law provinces and the federal government had statutorily created law reform commissions or other institutions established to carry out continuous law reform. …

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