Law & Psychiatry

This seminar explores the legal framework and the policy considerations linking law and psychiatry in both the civil and criminal contexts. One portion of the course focuses on the criminal justice system and mental health: fitness assessments, findings of “not criminally responsible”, Ontario Review Board dispositions, and mental health courts. The civil law portion of the course reviews civil mental health detention, mandatory community treatment, as well as the law of treatment capacity and substitute decision-making. Additional topics may include: emergency health treatment (e.g., during the Covid-19 pandemic), financial capacity and powers of attorney, guardianship, capacity to instruct counsel, ethical responsibilities of counsel when representing clients with mental health or capacity issues, criminalization of persons with mental illness, use of seclusion and restraint, sexual expression within institutional settings, occupational health and safety issues in the psychiatric facilities or long-term care homes, and the use of psychiatric expert evidence in legal proceedings (risk assessments).

Typical seminars will cover substantive law and statutory provisions, as well as policy issues and professional responsibility concerns. Students are expected to actively participate via class discussion and a class presentation. Guest speakers will provide unique perspectives on several topics.

Occupational Health & Safety

The COVID-19 pandemic put occupational health and safety (OHS) back into the headlines.  At the height of the crisis we read about ‘essential workers’ who were put in positions where they were likely to experience increased risk of exposure, but who did not feel their employers provided adequate protections, whether through the provision of personal protective equipment or barriers, or through measure in insure social distancing was maintained. These challenging conditions put our OHS regime through a stress test and revealed both strengths and weaknesses.  
Concern with OHS of course is hardly new and not confined to pandemics.  In 2019, the last year for which we have national statistics, Canadian workers’ compensation boards accepted around 270,000 lost-time injuries and illnesses and 925 work-related fatalities.  For reasons we will discuss, these figures under-estimate the toll that work takes on workers’ lives and health, but it is also likely the case that work is less hazardous now than it has been in the past.  

In this seminar we will explore how occupational health and safety regulation has contributed to improvements, where they have been made, but also the ways in which regulation still fails to all protect workers.
We focus on legal and policy dimensions of regulating hazardous working conditions.  The nature of the subject matter lends itself to a multidisciplinary approach, including economic, scientific and sociological perspectives, which are considered, as appropriate, throughout the course.

Topics to be examined may include: (1) the human cost of work-related disability; (2) theoretical perspectives on occupational health and safety regulation; (3) historical development of OHS regulation in Canada; (4) current dimensions of work-related injury, disease and fatality, and problems with existing statistics; (5) overview of the internal responsibility system mandated by statute, including worker rights to know, to be consulted and to refuse unsafe work; (6) the role of external enforcement including the powers of inspectors; (7)prosecuting and defending regulatory offences under the OHS Act; (8) the role of criminal sanctions; (9) comparative perspectives; (10) current law reform initiatives.  Of course, we will also consider the special circumstances of OHS regulation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The seminar will be taught on Zoom, however, opportunities for in-person class meetings at times when there are no regularly scheduled courses have been set aside.  More details on how we will combine Zoom teaching and in-person meetings will be available at the beginning of the semester.  However, students will have the option of attending in-person meetings virtually.

Health Law

This seminar explores the dynamic and challenging field of health law, with a focus on practical issues.  The course provides a survey of the legal framework and policy considerations underlying the cornerstone areas of health law, including: consent to treatment; mental capacity and substitute decision-making; professional regulation and governance; medical malpractice; emergency management and civil protection; and health information privacy. Practical and topical issues will be explored in the areas of: elder law (issues in long-term care facilities, retirement homes); the law of medical assistance in dying in Canada; human rights in health care; hospitals and health care facilities (including physician privileges, employment issues and tensions between administrators, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders); pandemic and emergency management; reproductive health and surrogacy; and research ethics.  

Typical seminars will cover substantive law including case law and statutes, as well as policy issues and professional responsibility concerns. Students are expected to actively participate via class discussion and a class presentation. Guest speakers will provide unique perspectives on particular topics.  Students will be asked to attend (in person or through electronic means) a hearing in the health law field and to reflect on that proceeding in a midterm written paper.  Through readings, class discussion and assignments, students will gain a foundation for a dedicated health law practice or an analytical framework for addressing health law issues as they arise in other practice areas.


This course deals with the law of patents in Canada. Patent law is one of the main headings of intellectual property law (along with copyrights and trademarks); trade secrets arise from a combination of contracts, equity and property law. The regime of patents protects inventions by granting inventors a limited monopoly of twenty years in exchange for disclosing the invention to society. The essential justification of the patent system is that it enables and rewards innovation. Arguments may also be made that patents afford a secure means by which inventions may be put to commercial use by investors. The course will examine the statutory basis of patent law in Canada, the judicial construction and interpretation of both primary and subsidiary regulations of Canadian patent law. The course will also locate developments in Canadian patent law in the context of international and regional transformations in the field. In this context, the course will explore contemporary controversies over the expansion of patent rights in biotechnology (from patenting mousetraps to patenting mice), and the shift from copyright protection to patent protection for computer programs. It is expected that at the end course, students would have a solid understanding of Canadian patent law as well as how international developments shape and influence Canadian patent law.

Disability & the Law

This course examines disability as a legal category with implications for the rights of persons with disabilities. Students will be introduced to alternative conceptions and theories of disability and impairment, and will examine how law constructs and regulates the lives of individuals with disabilities. Throughout the course we will examine statutory provisions and jurisprudence in different areas including: family, reproduction, death and dying, health, human rights, education, social assistance and economic supports to understand how disability is defined and regulated by law. This course analyzes and evaluates how law can best achieve the goals of social justice and equality for individuals with disabilities.

This course offers in-class instruction in an interactive lecture/discussion/presentation format. Students are expected to read the assigned materials before class and to participate in analytical class discussions. From time to time, guests will be invited to speak about their area of expertise and/or their experience of law and disability.

Environmental Law

This course is an introduction to the law of environmental protection in Canada. Major issues and contemporary developments in environmental law are brought to life via case-study scenarios drawn from news stories and real-world environmental controversies and guest speakers. Topics typically include common law environmental litigation (e.g. toxic torts, class actions, SLAPP suits); jurisdiction to regulate (e.g. federal division of powers, local government powers, aboriginal self-government); command regulation and regulatory innovations; public participation and environmental rights (e.g. Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights, community right to know laws); environmental compliance and enforcement (e.g. environmental sentencing, citizen enforcement); international law and the environment (e.g. multilateral environmental agreements, international trade and investment law); judicial review of environmental decision-making (e.g. standard of review, public interest standing); economic policy instruments (e.g. carbon taxes and trading); federal toxic substances regulation; environmental impact assessment; endangered species protection; and parks and protected areas. We take up major federal environmental statutes including the Fisheries Act, Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and Species at Risk Act, as well as the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights. Throughout the course, we use cross-cutting issues like climate change, sustainability, and disasters to understand complex legal and policy problems.

The course is evaluated based on in-class participation, a mid-term assignment, and a final exam. For the mid-term  assignment, students work in groups to present an in-class client briefing, or submit a public comment to a government agency on a real-life proposed environmental act, policy, or regulation that is posted for comment on the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights registry or the federal environmental registry.  
The course is integrated with the Faculty of Environment & Urban Change graduate course ENVS 6164 and typically includes students from the MES and MBA programs, whose presence greatly enriches the learning experience.

 Note: The instructor of this course/ seminar has indicated a preference or willingness to conduct optional in-person meetings for students. All in-person meetings will be optional for students until the general return to in-person instruction that is expected for the winter 2022 term. Any in-person meetings in the fall 2021 term that cover examinable course content will be accompanied by a remote participation option, such as a separate remote class, live dual delivery, and/ or a recording of the class, at the instructor’s discretion. More information will follow from the instructor after students have enrolled; please also note that there is no guarantee of in-person instruction in any course or seminar.