courts, law, lawyers, politics

More turmoil for SCOTUS

Unlike Canada, where Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada face mandatory retirement at age 75, thus giving the Prime Minister, (barring the unforeseen)  an orderly schedule for the making of  future appointments, US Supreme Court jurists serve for life, Continue reading “More turmoil for SCOTUS”

First Nations, politics, Remembrance Day, Truth & Reconcilitation

A Separate Remembrance

your correspondent’s peripatetic rambling on the BC coast continued this fall, nosing into fog shrouded nooks and crannies, looking for the faint moss covered traces of the first nations communities that once populated the now empty coast.

Along with barely discernible depressions in the forest marking the sites of ancient long houses and the occasional standing house pole, IMG_4070are stone fish traps, canoe runs, and shell middens, and sometimes, in more recently abandoned sites the hulks of crumbling cabins choked by salal. One can also find faint echoes of  modern war; the foundation of a gun emplacement on Spring island, a  concrete look-lookout tower atop Radar Hill, or the decaying remains of the coastal fort at Yorke Island, still guarding Johnson Strait.

In past remembrance day blogs I’ve celebrated some of the unique memorial sites found along the coast, such as the poignant plaque overlooking Wickaninnish  beach, IMG_4351or Shearwater’s flying boat memorial, but these celebrate the sacrifices of the newcomers, the settlers, loggers and fishermen who have discovered the coast in recent history. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But what of the indigenous people of the coast? Did they also serve? Did they fall, and where and how are they remembered? this year in the spirit of the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Report, I decided to find out.

It turns out that our indigenous people made impressive contributions to the war effort of the First and Second World Wars and the Korean conflict. Indeed, proportionately, a higher percentage of the first Nations population  (over 35%) enlisted than any other identifiable ethnic group. At least 7,000 and possibly as many as 12,000 indigenous people served in the armed forces during those wars ( due to sloppy record-keeping Métis and Inuit and non-status natives did not have their ethnicity recorded.)

That they enlisted at all is somewhat remarkable, given the shabby treatment they received. Initially, at the start of the First World War the recruitment of “red Indians” was prohibited, in part out of a fear that they might revert to their old ways and start scalping enemy soldiers!  As the carnage in the trenches grew however, the demand for cannon fodder forced a relaxation of the band, and in due course two primarily indigenous battalions, the 107th “Timber wolves”  chap5-4band Brock’s Raiders, the 117th Battalion, were formed,and served with distinction.

In truth it seems that our indigenous peoples gave our nation far more loyalty than our nation gave in return, since after both wars returning first-nations veterans found themselves falling between the cracks- were they the responsibility of Veterans Affairs or of Indian Affairs?  Racism was the order of the day, and First Nations Vets were denied access to the postwar benefits that accrued to other veterans, while their families were often ill treated at home while they were fighting overseas.

Incredibly it wasn’t till the year 2000,threatened by a lawsuit, that the federal government finally apologized for its treatment of Aboriginal Vets.

So is it any wonder that a movement has been slowly growing since the 1990’s,to honor indigenous veterans separately from the rest of our Armed Forces. Aboriginal Remembrance Day is celebrated each year on 8 November, rather than the 11th. it has been celebrated annually since 1994, and the centerpiece of the remembrance ceremonies is the National Aboriginal Veterans Memorial.


I confess to some ambivalence about the growth of two separate memorial days, as it seems to me that all veterans, regardless of race or creed, shared the same hardships and made the same sacrifice, and when we pause to remember we should be remembering all, but still I’m glad I took the time to learn something of the contribution made by our indigenous veterans and would not want to stand in the way of their desire to forge a separate remembrance if such is more meaningful to the indigenous community.

lest we forget

Big Law, courts, family law, law, lawyers, Legal Aid, pro bono law

Cage Fight!

Next weeks Law Society Annual General meeting is shaping up to be the sort of brawl usually reserved for MMA competitions.

In the first bout, the Benchers of the Society will square off against the family law bar, Continue reading “Cage Fight!”

courts, law, lawyers, politics

Pulling on the Golden Thread

One of my favourite fictional characters, Horace Rumpole of the Bailey, was famous for beginning his addresses to the jury with the admonition that “The presumption of innocence is the Golden Thread that binds British justice–”

In truth that presumption is indeed a cornerstone of our criminal justice system. That Golden Thread is spun into a protective cloak draped over every accused, lest any innocent citizen be wrongly convicted. But ought that same cloak be available to those being tried in that other court- the court of public opinion? Continue reading “Pulling on the Golden Thread”

law, lawyers, wills & estates

Weird Wills

At Darnell & Co we do a lot of estate planning and wills drafting  for clients, so inevitably we  come across testamentary requests that are just a little off the wall. Alas, as juicy as some of them are, professional ethics prevent us from talking about them.

Once probated however, wills become  public documents, so we are allowed to snicker at some of the bizarre provisions that find their way into the last wills of the rich and famous.

Charles Dickens, for example, was a man after my own heart  (and not just because of  my favourite line  in A Christmas Carol  “Are there no prisons? are there no work houses ?”) Like me, Dickens abhorred the attire which most funeral goers affect, so his will stipulated  the at “Those attending my funeral  wear no scarf, cloak,  black bow, long hat band or other such revolting absurdity”

And then there was famous escape artist Harry Houdini, who apparently thought he had a shot at escaping  death itself. His will required his wife to conduct a seance each year on the anniversary of his death, so that he could communicate, in code, from the other side to let her know that his greatest escape had worked. She gave up after ten years , but apparently the tradition endures to this day.

Lawyers are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to weird wills. Take T.M. Zink, for  example. An Iowa lawyer who died in 1930- he had a wee problem with women, leaving nothing to his wife, only $5 to his daughter, and the rest of his estate to build a “Woman-less library” not only would no women be allowed, but only  books by male authors would be displayed! (As a lawyer he should have known the will would be challenged -it was, and the library was never built)

Canadian lawyer Charles Millar created a “baby derby’ when the details of his will became public. He gave his entire fortune to the Canadian woman  giving birth to the most babies in the 10 years following his death  (the derby ended in a four way tie between a quartet of  women who each produced 9 offspring)

Lastly, we have American super -patriot Solomon Sanborn, who requested, in 1871,  that his skin be made into two drums, one inscribed with  Pope’s “Univesal Prayer”, and the other with the  Declaration of independence, and further stipulated that the  drums should be used each June 17th to beat out the tune of “Yankee Doodle ” on Bunker Hill!

I must say, the provision I made in my very first will, that I be given a viking funeral using the leaky sailboat I briefly owned as a law student, pales by comparison!



law, lawyers, wills & estates

Estate planning disasters of the rich and famous

The news following Aretha Franklin’s recent passing that she had left a very substantial estate with no will, and without making adequate provision for a special-needs child, left me shaking my head. I guess I always thought that behind any celebrity was a team of professionals; agents, managers, accountants and lawyers, making sure their affairs were in order. It appears not.

Ever curious, I decided to poke around a bit see if I can uncover any other estate planning disasters of the rich and famous and I didn’t have to look very far.

Pablo Picasso, one of those famous artists of all time died a very wealthy man with a huge inventory of artwork stuffed in his château, and remarkably without a will. He reportedly steadfastly refused to ever make one.

Picasso had a famously convoluted love life, with two wives, many mistresses and number of children born both in and out of wedlock. his refusal to make a will left his estate in an absolute mess which took some seven years and the expensive assistance of a number of lawyers to sort out. In the end result, the clear winner was the French government which walked away with the lion’s share of the estate in death duties.

Indeed, for a time it appeared that only his eldest son would inherit, and it was only due to a posthumous modernization of  French intestate succession law that his other children eventually received anything.

Quelle mess!  It can’t have been what the great man intended .


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courts, divorce, family law, law, lawyers, negotiation

Know when to hold em, know when to fold em- why lawyers hair turns grey

I once employed a junior lawyer who had come the law late in life  after a first career in academia. She viewed the practice of  law through a somewhat different lens, as a result of her previous rich and varied life experience. Some of her observations were very shrewd. Continue reading “Know when to hold em, know when to fold em- why lawyers hair turns grey”