Summary Judgment in Family Law Proceedings: Where Are We Now?

Summary Judgement in Family Law Proceedings: Where Are We Now? (CPD 259)

Join Sean Sinclair (Robertson Stromberg) for this informative discussion about summary judgment in family law proceedings. The “new Rules of Court” were introduced with considerable fanfare and with the potential to assist litigants seeking timely and cost-effective access to justice. Among the changes was the development of a summary judgment procedure to avoid the needless expense and time of a trial. In the family law realm, the summary judgment process was potentially a tool to allow families to obtain affordable judicial finality. At the now seven year mark of the introduction of the “new Rules”, this webinar will explore the reported cases and developments regarding summary judgment in family law proceedings with an eye on whether the summary judgment process has been successful in promoting timely and cost-effective access to justice.

September 15 (Online) | 12:00 – 1:00 PM

Qualifies for 1 CPD Hour

Delay in Professional Disciplinary Cases

Abrametz v Law Society of Saskatchewan is an important new decision from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal dealing with the impact of delay in professional disciplinary cases.

The charges against a lawyer under discipline, Peter Abrametz, were stayed by the Court of Appeal because of the time it took to investigate and prosecute the case. The investigation in Abrametz started in 2012 and ended with a hearing in 2018. The member was under an interim suspension since 2013.

Some of the important takeaways from Abrametz include:

  1. The courts will look at the delay both in the investigation and prosecution of the charges. This is different than criminal cases, where the courts typically only look at the prosecution length;
  2. To get a stay of charges, there must be “undue delay”. The Court looked at the Law Society’s reasons for delay and attempted to determine which delays were attributable to the regulator, as opposed to the member;
  3. The Law Society was determined to be responsible for 32 ½ months of delay, which was found to be unreasonable;
  4. In order for charges to be stayed, the member had to establish that there was harm or disadvantage suffered that was serious enough that to offend the public’s sense of decency and fairness. The interim suspension against Mr. Abrametz was a significant consideration in relation to this factor.

Abrametz is an extension of the Supreme Court’s decision in R. v. Jordan (2016), 1 S.C.R. 631 dealing with delay in criminal proceedings.

The impact of Abrametz is that it is now more important than ever that regulators investigate and prosecute cases swiftly. To the extent that delays are experienced, regulators should keep careful records as to why the delays are occurring and to who those delays are attributable. If they are delays caused by the member, those delays may not be counted against the regulator in determining whether there was “undue delay”.

Sean Sinclair of Robertson Stromberg LLP would be pleased to answer any questions or concerns that you have in relation to the Abrametz decision or any other regulatory issues. Sean can be reached at or 306-933-1367.

Sinclair lifts publication ban on name of teen

Sean Sinclair successfully brought an application to lift a publication ban for the CBC in a sexual assault and drug trafficking case.  The victim, Tonya Pahtayken, a 15-year old leukemia survivor, died shortly after testifying in the criminal trial.  There had been a publication ban on Tonya’s name and any information that might identify her. The CBC, at the request of Tonya’s family who wanted to tell her story, was able to lift that ban and has published an account of Tonya’s struggles here:

Importance of the Press

On March 26, 2020, the Government of Saskatchewan further limited the businesses that can continue to operate in the province as a result of COVID-19.  Among the “critical services” that are to be maintained are local and national media.

Journalists across our province are continuing to provide up-to-date and important information to citizens. They continue to attend press conferences, ask our leaders important questions, try to digest and disseminate important health-related information and disabuse individuals of potentially dangerous misinformation.

Having reliable and professional information broadcast to a wide audience (through newspapers, television and social media) is incredibly important for our public officials to provide updates on this crisis. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, and Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, have, through the media, imparted daily updates on the medical risks and transmission of the virus. Our political leaders have warned residents through daily press briefings on the importance of social distancing to attempt to flatten the curve.

In addition to providing important health information, the media has provided messages of hope and resilience. Media organizations have covered:

  1. The outpouring of support for marginalized youth in Saskatoon:
  2. Families working out together at home while practicing social distancing: and
  3. Veterinarians assisting pets from outside of their clinics:

In recent years, the media has been vilified in some corners.  However, it is at times like these, that the importance of the press is highlighted.  We see journalists, every day, digesting quickly changing information, trying to weed out “fake news” and doing so at potential personal peril as they attend briefings and track down stories.  The media has proven itself to be a “critical service” to the public.

For more information, please contact:


Sean M. Sinclair


Email: s.sinclair

Privacy of Intimate Images in a Digital Age

Privacy of Intimate Images and Videos in a Digital Age

By Sean Sinclair of Robertson Stromberg LLP


The online distribution of intimate images and videos (often referred to as “revenge porn”) is a growing problem in Canada.  According to the RCMP, as outlined in a story by CBC News[1], police forces are on track to handle more than 5,000 complaints of the unauthorized distribution intimate images or videos over a five-year period.  The problem is intensifying in recent years, with police handling more than 1,500 cases per year for each of the past three years.

There are both criminal and civil law issues that arise from these actions.  Some of these issues are addressed below.

Criminal Offence

Section 162.1 of the Criminal Code criminalizes the publication or distribution of intimate images (including videos) of an individual without consent.  A working group looking at whether to pass this law found that the existing offences of voyeurism, obscene publication, criminal harassment, extortion and defamatory libel did not adequately address the issue of non-consensual distribution of intimate images and that changes to the law were needed.[2]  Section 162.1 of the Criminal Code was introduced in 2014, motivated in part by the cases of Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd who had committed suicide after individuals had distributed intimate images of them online.

An individual in Saskatchewan has since been convicted under Section 162.1[3] and received an 18-month prison sentence.  There are other cases decided across Canada and several ongoing matters which deal with this same issue.

Civil Claims

In addition to criminal law prosecutions, there are a few cases where victims of this conduct have brought court actions against perpetrators.

The nature of the civil lawsuits varies, to some extent, province-to-province.

In Saskatchewan, the government passed amendments to The Privacy Act in 2018 to address the distribution of intimate images.  It is now a tort in Saskatchewan for a person to distribute an intimate image of another person without that person’s consent[4].  The Act presumes that consent was not given, and the poster of the material bears the onus to establish that he or she had reasonable grounds to believe that consent was given, to avoid liability.

There are no reported Saskatchewan decisions on these new sections of The Privacy Act.  Thus, it is difficult to know what monetary compensation might be given for this type of conduct.

In several other provinces, there are no statutes that create civil liability for the online distribution of intimate images.  However, courts have expanded tort law to allow for civil liability for this type of a claim.

The leading case is Jane Doe 464533 v N.D.[5] (an Ontario case where they do not have a statute that deals with this issue).  The basic facts are that the defendant had posted an intimate video of the plaintiff on a pornographic website without consent.  The defendant allegedly also showed the video to some of his friends or acquaintances.  The plaintiff’s friends became aware of the video as well.  It was removed by the defendant after approximately 3 weeks.  There is no way to know how many times it was viewed or downloaded.  The plaintiff was devastated.  She deferred examinations, skipped school and stayed in bed.  She had trouble sleeping and started seeing a counsellor to deal with the emotional fallout.  She experienced serious depression.

The defendant in Jane Doe did not initially file a statement of defence.  He was, therefore, deemed to have admitted to the acts in the claim, including the fact that he posted the video without consent.  The judge found that the acts of the defendant led to liability on three different bases: breach of privacy, intentional infliction of mental distress and breach of confidence.

On the breach of privacy claim, the judge adopted a new tort, which stems from American case law, of “public disclosure of private facts”.  In order to establish that there has been public disclosure of private facts, the judge in Jane Doe indicated that a plaintiff would need to show that there had been publication of a matter that is highly offensive to a reasonable person and is not of legitimate concern to the public.

The Court in Jane Doe awarded general damages of $50,000, aggravated damages of $25,000 and punitive damages of $25,000.

It should be noted that the defendant later successfully brought a motion to lift the default judgment to allow him to defend the claim.[6]


These issues of online dissemination and distribution of intimate images and videos without consent are increasing.  Hopefully though, the relatively new criminal sanctions and developing tort law will have some positive effect in deterring individuals from sharing such materials without consent.





[4] Section 7.3(1) of The Privacy Act

[5] 2016 ONSC 541

[6] 2016 ONSC 4920

Lawyers Sean M Sinclair