Justin Safayeni is an experienced litigator. His clients appreciate his clear thinking, sound judgment, practical advice and strong courtroom advocacy skills.
Justin’s practice focuses on administrative and public law, media/defamation law and commercial litigation and appeals.
In his administrative and public law practice, Justin represents clients in judicial reviews before the Divisional Court, as well as in hearings before tribunals, including the Ontario Securities Commission, sports law tribunals (including the Court of Arbitration for Sport), academic discipline tribunals at Ontario universities and human rights tribunals. He also acts as independent legal counsel to a number of regulators. Justin has represented clients in constitutional challenges involving freedom of expression, voting rights, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and other Charter protections.
Justin acts for both plaintiffs and defendants in defamation cases. He has a particular interest in “anti-SLAPP” proceedings, having written and lectured on this topic and represented interveners before the Supreme Court on the leading cases in this area. Justin also has experience in proceedings for extraordinary relief that often arise in the context of defamation cases, including Norwich Pharmacal orders, injunctions and de-indexing/“take-down” orders. In addition to defending the media in defamation cases, Justin acts for media parties in seeking access to court documents, as well as resisting publication bans and production orders. He routinely provides pre-publication advice to authors, media organizations and publishers to minimize defamation and privacy law liability and risk.
In his commercial law practice, Justin represents clients in defending against class proceedings, litigating contract and shareholder disputes, oppression remedy cases, employment law matters, commercial fraud cases and a wide range of other commercial disputes. He has taught courses on contract law and professional discipline at Wilfrid Laurier University’s business school, where he graduated with a BBA in 2006 (gold medalist).
Justin has developed a particular expertise in the area of civil forfeiture proceedings. In 2015, he was appointed by the Court to serve as amicus curiae in a case where the Crown was attempting to seize a sailboat. Since then, he has authored a primer on the Civil Remedies Act, and has been quoted on the subject in the Toronto Star, Law Times and CBA’s The National.
Justin holds a J.D. from the University of Toronto, where he received several academic awards. In 2009-2010, he served as law clerk to the Hon. Justices Laskin, Goudge and MacFarland of the Ontario Court of Appeal. He teaches administrative law, serves as the co-editor of the Stockwoods Administrative and Regulatory Law Case Review, and writes frequently on legal topics in academic, industry and mainstream publications. Justin sits on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Media Lawyers’ Association, on the Canadian Issues Committee of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and on the Board of Directors of East York Meals on Wheels.
- AG Ontario v. Information and Privacy Commissioner, 2020 ONSC 5085, aff’d 2022 ONCA 74. Lead counsel to the requester in successfully resisting this application for judicial review from the Commissioner’s decision to order the release of the provincial government’s mandate letters.
- Inquest into the Death of Devon Freeman. Counsel to the Freeman family in the coroner’s inquest into the Death of Devon Freeman, which resulted in groundbreaking jury recommendations involving Indigenous children in the child welfare system.
- Paul v. Madawaska Valley (Township), 2022 ONCA 444. Successfully represented respondent/plaintiff on an appeal from anti-SLAPP judgment.
- Democracy Watch v. Ontario Integrity Commissioner, 2021 ONSC 7383. Successfully moved to quash applications for judicial review on the basis of lack of standing.
- Mathur et al. v. Ontario, 2020 ONSC 6918, leave to appeal dismissed 2021 ONSC 1624. Representing applicants in novel constitutional challenge to Ontario’s greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Successfully resisted motion to strike brought by Ontario.
- Attorney General of Ontario v. 2192 Dufferin Street, 2019 ONSC 615. Appointed as amicus curiae in this civil forfeiture matter, to argue the constitutional implications of having property forfeited on the basis that it bore the logos of criminal organizations.
- R. v. Vice Media Canada Inc., 2018 SCC 53. Lead counsel for a coalition of interveners in this Supreme Court of Canada case on when media companies must disclose information relating to non-confidential sources to police.
- Hamlet of Clyde River et al. v. Petroleum Geo-Services Inc. et al., 2017 SCC 40. Successfully represented the Inuit appellants in this case dealing with the Crown’s constitutional duty to consult Aboriginal peoples in the context of a National Energy Board authorization process for seismic testing. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed that the NEB’s authorization should be quashed due to lack of adequate consultation.
- Google Inc. v. Equustek Solutions Inc., 2017 SCC 34. Lead counsel to a civil liberties organization in this groundbreaking decision, where the Supreme Court held that Canadian courts may order internet search engines to “de-index” certain websites globally.
- Graff v. New Democratic Party, 2017 ONSC 3578. Represented the applicant in this judicial review of a political party’s decision not to allow him to run in its leadership race. In one of the first decisions of its kind in Canada, the Court held that the leadership decisions of political parties are subject to judicial review, both for procedural fairness and on substantive grounds.
- Ktunaxa Nation Council et al. v. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations et al. (SCC File No. 36664; decision pending). Represented a group of interveners from different faiths in this appeal, which dealt with whether freedom of religion under s. 2(a) of the Charter protects aboriginal spiritual rights that depend on certain land remaining free from development and, if so, how those interests are to be weighed and balanced by administrative decision-makers when considering development projects.
- Canada (Attorney General) v. Chambre des notaires du Québec, 2016 SCC 20; Canada (Attorney General) v. Federation of Law Societies of Canada,  1 S.C.R. 401. Represented the Criminal Lawyers’ Association in these appeals, arguing that various provisions giving the government access to information and documents potentially subject to solicitor-client privilege were unconstitutional. In both cases, the Court’s reasoning was consistent with the positions advanced by the CLA.
- Williams v. Toronto (City), 2016 ONSC 42, aff’d 2016 ONCA 666. Acted for Parkdale tenants in this class action against the City of Toronto for a failure to send statutorily-required rent reduction notices, and successfully obtained summary judgment on the issues of whether the City owed class members a (novel) duty of care, and whether the City breached the standard of care.
- First Nations Child and Family Caring Society v. Attorney General of Canada, 2016 CHRT 2. Represented Amnesty International as an interested party in this groundbreaking human rights case, where the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that the government’s funding scheme for First Nations children living on reserves amounted to discrimination.
- Gixtaala Nation v. Canada, 2016 FCA 187. Acted for the intervener Amnesty International in this proceeding involving a series of challenges to the Northern Gateway pipeline project, where the Court of Appeal concluded that the Governor-in-Council’s approval of the project must be quashed due to lack of adequate consultation with affected Aboriginal peoples.
- Frank v. Canada, 2015 ONCA 356. Represented the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association in this appeal challenging the constitutionality of provisions limiting the Charter right to vote for non-resident Canadians.
- Ontario (Attorney General) v. Kittiwake Sailboat, 2015 ONSC 6106. Appointed amicus curiae in this Civil Remedies Act proceeding, where the arguments made by amicus against forfeiture were accepted by the Court. In his decision, Corbett J. noted that Mr. Safayeni’s “excellent submissions were of great assistance to the court.”
- Siskinds LLP v. CIBC, 2014 ONSC 3211, aff’d 2015 ONCA 265. Obtained summary judgment based on interpretation of a complex commercial contract, and successfully resisted an appeal that raised issues relating to the law of contractual interpretation.
- Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia, 2 S.C.R. 257. Lead counsel for a coalition of interveners arguing that the test for aboriginal title must be consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and international law.
- R. v. Cake, 2014 ONCJ 126, aff’d 2014 ONSC 3413. Acted on behalf of two media organizations in successfully resisting efforts by the Crown and defence counsel to have certain evidence and information subject to a publication ban.
- 1654776 Ontario v. Stewart and The Globe and Mail, 2012 ONSC 1991, aff’d 2013 ONCA 184, leave to appeal to SCC dismissed. Resisted an application for a Norwich Pharmacal order that would have required the Globe to reveal confidential sources so that the plaintiff could add them as defendants to its Securities Act class action.
- Canada (Human Rights Commission) v. Canada (Attorney General), 2012 FC 445, aff’d 2013 FCA 75. Acted for the intervener Amnesty International and successfully argued on judicial review (upheld on appeal) that the tribunal adopted an unreasonably narrow interpretation of s. 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.
Awards and Recognition
- Recognized in Best Lawyers for work in Defamation/Media Law, Administrative and Public Law, and Appellate Practice (2021, 2022)
- Benchmark Litigation “Litigation Star” (2021, 2022)
- Benchmark Litigation’s 40 and Under Hotlist for Canada (2019-2022)
- Precedent Award winner (2017)
- Named as one of Wilfrid Laurier University’s “Leaders of Tomorrow” (2012)
- Macdonald Prize in Public International Law (2009)
- Alan Borovoy Prize for Civil Liberties (2009)
- Borden Ladner Gervais LLP Professional Excellence Award (2007)
- McCarthy Tétrault Prize for Academic Excellence in first year (2007)
- Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Gold Medal (2006)
- “Bad Ad(Vice): On the Supreme Court’s Approach to Press Freedom, Source Protection and State Interests in v. Vice Media Canada Inc.”, (2020) 94 S.C.L.R. (2d) 415 (co-written with Mannu Chowdhury)
- “Five Supreme Court Cases That Could Reshape Canadian Law”, The Walrus (online) (November 13, 2019).
- “The Doré Framework: Five Yours Later, Four Key Questions (and Some Suggested Answers)”, Canadian Journal of Administrative Law and Practice, Vol. 31, No. 1 (March 2018)
- “Judicial reviews of political party decisions”, Policy Options (online) (February 21, 2018)
- “Recent Trends and Issues in Doping: Assessing Athlete Intention and Fault” (co-author with Luisa Ritacca), In the Neutral Zone, June 2017
- “Improving the Effectiveness of the Constitutional Damages Remedy: Vancouver (City) v. Ward”, Advocates’ Quarterly (June 2017)
- “Ontario’s Anti-SLAPP law: Off to a Good Start, but Important Concerns Remain” (co-author with Andrea Gonsalves and Carlo di Carlo), Centre for Free Expression Blog, May 29, 2017
- “Anti-SLAPP law becoming a paper tiger?” (co-author with Andrea Gonsalves), Law Times, January 17, 2017
- “The role of media in our democracy deserves special protection” (co-author with Andrea Gonsalves), Globe and Mail (November 8, 2016)
- “Ban Russian athletes from Rio Olympics” (co-author with Luisa Ritacca), Toronto Star (July 24, 2016)
- “MacDonald v. Chicago Title Insurance Company of Canada and the Resurrection of Correctness Review in Contractual Interpretation Appeals”, Toronto Law Journal (February 2016)
- “Injunctive Relief and the Departing Employee” (co-author with Paul Le Vay and Owen Rees), LSUC Special Lectures 2012 – Employment Law and the New Workplace in the Social Media Age (Irwin Law: 2012)
- “Prematurity and Adequate Alternative Remedies in the Post-Dunsmuir Era” (co-author with Andrea Gonsalves), presented at the Osgoode Professional Development Administrative Law conference (2012)
- “Recent Developments of Importance: Corporate-Commercial Litigation” (co-author with Paul Le Vay and Brendan Van Niejenhuis), published in LEXPERT’s Guide to the Leading US/Canada Cross-Border Litigation Lawyers in Canada (2012)
Teaching & Speaking Engagements
- Instructor, Osgoode Hall Law School’s Professional LLM program, teaching Canadian Administrative Law (2015 to present)
- Chair and moderator, Advocates’ Society’s “Regulatory and Administrative Law: Top Cases” (January 14, 2020)
- Speaker (lightning round), Advocates’ Society’s “Fall Convention” (November 9, 2019)
- Speaker, Law Society of Ontario’s “Professionalism and Practice Management Issues in Administrative Law 2019” (September 11, 2019)
- Moderator (panel on anti-SLAPP cases), Ontario Bar Association’s “Defamation Law: A Practical Guide for Litigators” (May 14, 2019)
- Speaker (examination techniques), Ontario Regulatory Authorities’ conference (May 9, 2019)
- Chair and moderator, Osgoode Professional Development’s “Defamation Law 2019: Current Issues & Emerging Trends” (April 29, 2019)
- Speaker (panel on the protection of media sources), Osgoode Hall Law School’s “Constitutional Cases Conference” (April 5, 2019)
- Speaker (update on civil privacy law cases), Ontario Bar Association’s “Privacy Law Summit” (April 3, 2019)
- Member, The Advocates’ Society
- Member, Canadian Media Lawyers Association
- Member, Canadian Bar Association
- Member, Ontario Bar Association
- Member, Criminal Lawyers’ Association