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The year 2017 brings with it change and importantly, new laws. Here are a few you should know about.

Ontario prohibits police carding on race

There have been many incidents and a lot of media coverage regarding police carding in the past year. Carding is when the police stop individuals and ask for identifying information such as name, age, height, weight, and the names of friends, without a reason to do so. The information is collected in a police database.

The law now prohibits a police officer for stopping someone and collecting information from him or her because of his or her race. However, there are exceptions to this rule when the officer has more identifying information apart from just race, such as a person’s clothing, height, location, behaviour, the person’s car, or the person’s friends. The additional information, however, cannot only be whether they are looking for a man or a woman, or the approximate age of the individual. Therefore the law prohibits carding of someone simply because he is a young, black man.

Police can still ask for identifying information in certain situations such as during routine traffic stops, when the person is arrested or when the person is shown a search warrant. 

Also, the police are now required to inform individuals when they want to collect identifying information about them, that they have a right to not speak to them and answer their questions. There are also exceptions to this too, such as when the police believes someone may be in danger.

More data needs to be collected on whether these laws will in practice reduce carding.

Calories to be displayed on Ontario fast food menus

If you’ve visited a fast food restaurant in Arizona or New York, you may have noticed that the menu board displays the calorie content in each of the menu items. The province of Ontario has recently decided to follow suit. As of January 1, 2017, new legislation is in effect which requires that all fast food restaurants with 20 or more locations in Ontario must display the number of calories in each of the food and drink items on their menu.

The Government of Ontario hopes this change will help people make healthier food choices when eating out.

Laws prohibiting solicitation and time-pressured consumer contracts

One of the major complaints that consumer protection groups receive is regarding door-to-door solicitation. Now it is also prohibited to have unsolicited door-to-door sales of appliances, including water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners and water filters. Individuals who are contracting for roofing or home renovation services now have a 10-day cooling off period, where they can cancel their contract in the 10 days after they agree for these services. This helps protect consumers from time-pressure sales tactics.

Reducing Ontario Land Transfer Tax for first-time home buyers

Toronto housing prices increased approximately by 17% this past year where the average house price $725,857 according to a real estate company’s 2017 housing market report. 

In response to this, new laws in Ontario are making it easier for first-time home buyers. From January 1, 2017, first-time home buyers will have no land transfer tax is paid on the first $368,000 of the price of the home. There is also an increase on the refund on Land Transfer Tax, which is now $4,000 for first-time home buyers.

As an example, if a house is purchased for $500,000, the first-time home buyer will not pay any tax on the first $368,000, and then the remainder $132,000 will be taxable. However, the buyer will also receive a rebate of $4,000 on the tax they have to pay.

Reducing charges on payday loans

Payday loans now have a maximum charge of $18 per $100 borrowed starting January 1, 2017.

Restrictions on Ontario election fundraising

Election fundraisers are only allowed to fundraise from individuals instead of businesses and corporations. Each person can only donate $1200 per party per year.

Certain individuals, such as political party leaders are also prohibited from attending political fundraising events.

Changing prices for electricity and natural gas 

The government regulates the price of electricity and natural gas. New laws now eliminated the 8% part of HST on electricity bills, however natural gas rates will increase in price by approximately $6 per month per household.

Potential new law: Saskatchewan Presumed Consent for Organ Donation

The premier of Saskatchewan announced in November 2016 that he wants to bring in a system to Saskatchewan where all individuals are assumed to consent to donate their organs unless they opt-out. 

Ontario would not necessarily follow this system even if it were to be created into law in Saskatchewan given that provincial health systems are separate. However, it would set an unprecedented law in Canada. It is possible there would be a constitutional Charter challenge if this presumed consent were made into law, given the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a person’s rights to life and security of the person. A court may find that a person’s rights are infringed based on the autonomy of the person without having that person’s clear consent to donate organs.

One possible solution to a donation shortage could be to direct funding to further education to encourage consent to organ donation.

On December 12, 2016, Tanya Walker and James Breckenridge spoke on CTV’s Your Morning television show about consent to organ donation.

Kj Chong also contributed to this article.