Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Struggling for Accommodation

Written by Silvia Battaglia and Shannon Meikle, law students and NSRLP Research Assistants

The NSRLP receives a great deal of mail from our community, and every week we receive emails from people sharing their experiences as self-represented litigants (SRLs). Last year, we began receiving a lot of emails from SRLs who had requested accommodations in the legal process, needing courts to recognize and adapt to their cognitive disabilities (requesting, for example, more time to respond, frequent breaks in hearings, etc.). In a nutshell: they were not being accommodated. We read their stories with concern and became aware of the need . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Overcoming Access Hesitancy With the Legal Health Check-Up

Access hesitancy is a widely acknowledged and persistent barrier to providing access to justice services. The people-centered approach that is integral to the Legal Health Check-up (LHC) can identify disadvantaged people with problems and provide them with help, in a manner that they will hopefully perceive as providing fair and just resolutions to the problems with which they are struggling. In that way, the LHC model offers a one good solution to the problem of access hesitancy.

The original Legal Heath Check-up project, carried out by Halton Community Legal Services (HCLS) began with the objective of recruiting community organizations . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The “Two Michaels” and Celil: Windows Into China’s Legal Gulag

The “two Michaels,” Kovrig and Spavor, are not the only Canadians who have been unjustly imprisoned in China. Another Canadian, Huseyin Celil, has been jailed in China since 2006 on specious “terrorism” charges for peacefully advocating the rights of Uyghur people.

These cases provide windows into the morass of everyday violations against Chinese human rights advocates ensnared within China’s legal system. They also provide glimpses into some of the ways China flexes its international muscles to sustain its impunity for rights violations, including atrocity crimes.

China’s opaque legal system and international human rights law

China has no independent legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Memoirs of an Unwitting SRL

[Jeff Rose-Martland is a writer and SRL from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and member of NSRLP’s Advisory Board.]

Envision a self-represented litigant. Did you get a picture of someone in court, poorly dressed, who doesn’t know what they are doing? I see that, and I am an SRL. The more-accurate mental image of a person at their dining table struggling with legal documents until the wee hours rarely comes to mind. Possibly because it’s draining to even consider, let alone do. In point of fact, a courtroom may not even be involved; there are a variety of circumstances that will turn . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Aid Reaches a Milestone Providing 1.2 Million Duty Counsel Services in Canada

The most recent edition of Legal Aid in Canada by the federal Department of Justice reports that legal aid plans in Canada provided 1.2 million free duty counsel services; to people in-court and in-custody accused in criminal courts, appearing unrepresented in civil courts primarily in family court and at immigration hearings during 2019-2020.[1] The majority of duty counsel services were for criminal matters (86%), with 14% of services provided in civil matters. Duty counsel is an important part of legal aid in Canada and 1.2 million duty counsel services is an important milestone. The achievement of this milestone is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Baltimore Aerial Surveillance: What Canada Can Take From the Recent Decision

On June 24, 2021, in Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle v Baltimore Police Department,[1] the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit On Rehearing En Blanc decided that Baltimore’s use of an aerial surveillance pilot program violated the Fourth Amendment.[2] The court remanded the matter for further proceedings consistent with the opinion. In this article, I describe the technology that was used in Baltimore, review what transpired leading up to the decision, explain the decision, and suggest insights that Canada may take from the decision.

The Program

In March, 2020, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) decided . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Technology

Protect Afghanistan’s Truth-Tellers: Human Rights Defenders in a World of Diplomatic Doublespeak

In 2021 the world has witnessed the abject failure of international organizations to curtail even the most grave human rights violations, including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide (“atrocity crimes”). The situation in Afghanistan is one case in point.

In countries around the globe, international human rights law is routinely violated with impunity. Many are wondering what “human rights” mean when politicians and diplomats toss out the term with ease while remaining reckless or complicit in the face of human rights violations and atrocities.

Canada must act urgently to match words with actions

There increasingly grave concerns . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Can We Get There From Here?

One of my favorite jokes involves a visitor lost in rural Scotland. The tourist comes upon a farmer and asks the farmer for directions to Edinburgh. The farmer pauses, appears deep in thought, and then says[1] “I don’t think that I would start from here”.

Challenges to reform

I’ve been listening to an interesting podcast series called Revolutions that discusses the English, American, French, Haitian, 1848 European, Spanish American, Mexican, and Russian revolutions[2]. The series is interesting in its consideration of the transition from feudal to industrial economies and the parallel development of liberal and socialist thought. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why I Am Still Constantly Shocked by the Way the Justice System Works

As I approach my fifth anniversary working for the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) I find myself feeling reflective.

I could not have anticipated ending up working in the legal sphere, in the world of “access to justice.” Until 5 years ago I’d never heard that phrase, or had any real understanding of the justice system. My background is in libraries, among other things, and I’d never been involved in any kind of legal proceeding. So although I was well-educated and informed in general, and aware of many social justice issues, my knowledge of the legal world was (like the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A New BC Law for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Health

From proteststo scientific analysis, old growth forests have been much in the news in British Columbia in recent months. What does a legal lens bring to this debate?

Past analyses undertaken by West Coast Environmental Law have laid bare the multifaceted ways in which BC’s laws are “hardwired for failure” when it comes to safeguarding the resilience of ecological systems and human communities in the face of cumulative impacts from resource development and climate change. Legal barriers identified include:

  • Historic legal or policy caps on how much land may be protected and/or how great an impact on resource
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Buying Silence With a Bluff: How NDAs Exploit Litigants, With and Without Counsel

The ever-growing use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) prevents those who sign from being able to “disclose” their experiences of reprehensible workplace discrimination. NDAs routinely silence the victims of sexual harassment, racism, bullying, and discrimination (among many other examples: for being pregnant, or requiring mental health leave, etc.).

Of questionable legality, NDAs are routinely demanded by defence lawyers in settlement negotiations. A gag on the victim is an obvious, albeit immoral, “ask” for legal representatives of alleged or actual perpetrators. They don’t want their reputation as a racist or a sexual harasser or a bully following them around, do they?

If . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

PRIDE in the Courts: Judge Deborah A. Batts

Let me tell you about someone I met a couple of years ago. Her name was Judge Deborah A. Batts. In 1994, the Honorable Judge Batts became the first openly gay person to be appointed as an Article III federal judge in the United States. She held this position for over 25 years in the Southern District of New York. As part of the library team in my previous position, we commemorated her 25 years of service with a candid interview during the 2019 Pride month with her fellow openly gay judges also at the U.S. Courts for the Second . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information