Overview of the 2020 ULCC Annual Meeting

29 September 2020

By Greg Blue, Q.C.

BCLI was well-represented at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada (ULCC), held on August 10-13. Kathleen Cunningham served as the Chair of the Civil Section this year and was also a member of the BC delegation. Greg Blue, Q.C. attended as a member of the BC delegation and a ULCC working group. Emeritus members Arthur Close, Q.C. and Joost Blom, Q.C. each presented reports to the Conference as the heads of different ULCC working groups.

The ULCC Annual Meeting took place by videoconference for the first time due to the pandemic. Despite this, or possibly because of it, the 2020 Annual Meeting had the largest number of delegates and observers in attendance in the 102-year history of the ULCC. Over the four days, the ULCC considered uniform legislation developed by its working groups on electronic wills, non-consensual disclosure of intimate images, and internet crowdfunding. The new uniform legislation was approved, subject to some fine-tuning of the French versions. In addition, the ULCC received progress reports from other working groups during the Annual Meeting and held a planning session for future projects.

The uniform legislation on non-consensual disclosure of intimate images deals with the serious societal problem of “revenge porn” by creating civil remedies for the harm done by unauthorized publication to third persons of intimate images, including altered images. It is intended to complement Criminal Code provisions on revenge porn. The new Uniform Non-Consensual Disclosure of Intimate Images Act creates a statutory tort for unauthorized disclosure that does not require the victim to prove damage going beyond the fact of non-consensual disclosure or threatened disclosure.  In addition to the statutory tort giving a right to monetary compensation in the form of damages, the uniform Act allows for injunctions addressed to disclosers and third parties operating an internet platform to make offending images inaccessible on the internet, de-index them from search engines, and/or destroy copies of them.

The uniform provisions on electronic wills and remote witnessing of wills via AV technology in the common law provinces and territories are likely unique in having been implemented before they were even formally adopted by the ULCC. Although in development for a year before the current pandemic, they answered an urgent need that the pandemic created to relax the requirement for testators and witnesses to be physically present in the same location when a will is signed. The uniform electronic wills provisions received third reading in the BC Legislative Assembly in July before the ULCC Annual Meeting took place, and portions of them were also used in emergency orders passed by several other provinces in the spring of 2020. In addition to remote witnessing of conventional wills on paper, the provisions also respond to an increasingly digitalized world by recognizing wills that exist purely in electronic form, and which are executed and witnessed with digital signatures.

The uniform legislation on internet crowdfunding updates the Uniform Informal Public Appeals Act to reflect the new realities of worldwide internet crowdfunding that transcends jurisdictional boundaries. It was developed by a working group headed by BCLI Emeritus Member Arthur Close, Q.C., and which included BCLI Senior Staff Lawyer Greg Blue, Q.C. They and some of the other members of the Crowdfunding Working Group had also participated in the development of the earlier uniform Act, which was aimed mainly at local impromptu fundraising appeals and was generated at a time when “crowdfunding” had not yet entered common parlance nor acquired international dimensions. The English version of the updated uniform statute developed by the Crowdfunding Working Group and approved by the ULCC is named the Uniform Benevolent and Community Crowdfunding Act. It replaces the earlier uniform Act, which was simultaneously withdrawn by the Conference.

BCLI Emeritus Member Joost Blom, Q.C. gave an interim progress report to the Conference on the review of the Uniform Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act (UCJPTA) by a working group that he is heading. The progress report referred to recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions concerning the common law rules of jurisdiction, which apply in provinces and territories where the UCJPTA has not been implemented, other than Québec. Prof. Blom’s report explained the complexities faced by the working group in considering the extent to which the UCJPTA should be revised to reflect the recent developments in Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence. The review of the UCJPTA headed by Prof. Blom will continue into 2021-22.

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