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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

When the Badly-Behaved Party Is Opposing Counsel

We are hearing more and more often from SRLs about “sharp practice” when they face a lawyer on the other side of their case.

There are many common elements to these reports, which I find to be largely credible. SRLs believe that their unfamiliarity with the legal system, combined with the tendency of some judges to assume the worst of them – that their cases are without merit, or that they are “vexatious” and abusing the process when they make honest mistakes and misjudgments – is being exploited by counsel on the other side as a matter of strategy.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

We Should Start Making a Business Case for Legal Aid in Canada

In countries that were early adopters of legal aid governments became major funders of legal services. This remains the case in many countries today. Funding programs that facilitate access to legal services for low-income populations was established in these years as a responsibility of the government. In nations in which the state does not accept access to justice as a government responsibility or simply cannot afford to do so, organizations with global reach, among other groups and bodies, have often stepped in to support initiatives that promote access to legal help, information, empowerment and other forms of dispute resolution. Whether . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Testing Our Assumption: Challenging Fossil Fuel Companies Helps Solve Climate Change

A growing number of communities, and lawyers, around the world are focusing their attention on global fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are legally liable for their products’ contribution to climate change and at least partially responsible for resulting climate-related costs. Other legal investigations and cases emphasize that the companies misled the public and their shareholders about the global risks of fossil fuel use, and that these actions have slowed progress on climate policies around the world.

Broadly, communities are asking:

  • Do oil, gas and coal companies bear some legal responsibility for selling products that they have known for decades
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Justice Pas-À-Pas: Bringing Key Perspectives to Bear on the Common Legal Problems of Franco-Ontarians

Last week, several access to justice champions involved in delivering legal aid services in the province participated in a panel on TVO’s The Agenda. In this segment, panelists discussed how critical Ontario’s legal aid system is to access to justice, not only for those who are marginalized but also, fundamentally, to a fair and participatory justice system. Julie Mathews, Community Legal Education Ontario’s (CLEO) executive director and a featured panelist, highlighted the importance of ensuring that people – particularly those who are marginalized – are able to understand and exercise their legal rights. Good legal aid includes understandable, accessible, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Why BC’s New Environmental Assessment Act Is Worth Celebrating

Last month, BC’s Bill 51, the Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) received Royal Assent. The new EA Act will replace BC’s 2002 environmental assessment law and will likely come into force in late 2019, after consultation on key regulations.

At a time when the proposed new federal Impact Assessment Act – a relatively modest proposal still making its way through the Senate – is more likely to be in the news, BC’s innovative new environmental assessment law has largely flown under the radar.

Here’s why it is worth celebrating.

Advancing Reconciliation and Sustainability

BC’s new EA Act requires the Environmental . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Self-Represented Litigants in the Courts: How They Are Shaping the Jurisprudence

What happens to a system of expert legal adjudication when in some courts, up to three in four litigants are advocating for themselves without the assistance of counsel?

The influx of self-represented litigants (SRLs) into the family, civil and appellate courts (family: 50% across the country, up to 80% in some urban courts; civil between 30-50%; appellate around 30%) is transforming the justice system. And not, as many would say, in a good way.

Judges struggle to find a balance between appropriate assistance and explanation (as the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Pintea v Johns now requires,) and not . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Problems Canadians Experience in Key Areas of Life May Be Greater Than We Think

Millions of Canadians live with serious debt, persistent housing problems and face ongoing issues with unemployment. These problems have profound effects on their quality of life. They signal lives of adversity that are impacted by the economic and social constraints that these problems impose.

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s (CFCJ’s) 2014 national survey of Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice[1] asked over 3,000 adults in Canada about their experiences with these markers of adversity. Separate from experiences of civil justice problems within the three-year reference period of the survey, participants were asked:

  • Looking back over the
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Self-Represented Parties and Sharp Practice by Counsel – Should We Be Thinking Differently?

War is the means by which nation states have sometimes resolved their differences. Litigation is the means by which people in our society sometimes resolve their differences. In both cases, there is value in prescribing the rules of engagement.

As wars between sovereign states have become less common and wars between sovereign states and insurgencies have become more the norm, the traditional rules of war seem to have become less relevant. This is presumably because rules that work to govern combat between traditional armies don’t effectively address asymmetric disputes where conventional militaries face off against “guerrillas”, “terrorists” or “freedom fighters” . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

New Book: The Fundamentals of Statutory Interpretation

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my new book that will be published by LexisNexis on November 30. More information about this book can be found here.

There are times when judges interpret statutes in ways that defy common sense. A notorious example was raised during the Senate confirmation hearings of eventual U.S. Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch in which he was pressed by Democratic members to defend his dissent in Trans Am Trucking. In what is known as the “frozen trucker case”, he denied a trucker the benefit of protective legislation permitting an employee to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information

Ontario’s Third Annual Access to Justice Week Begins on Monday, October 22

Improving access to justice is about pushing boundaries in our understanding of key issues at the forefront of the justice sector. It’s about engaging in discussions to move the dial forward, to break down barriers and develop meaningful solutions. This cannot happen in the justice sector alone. It takes stakeholders and experts from a diverse range of backgrounds, each with their own unique relationship to the law, to bring their perspectives and experience forward.

How does a senior investigative correspondent for the CBC understand mental health challenges in the justice system? How can we close the gap in representation in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Speak to the Street

I was walking down the street with Nelson, one of the regional finalists of our 2018 Innovating Justice Award. He’s co-founder of Gavel (and, more visible: @citizen_gavel on Twitter). A social enterprise that calls itself “a civic tech organisation aimed at improving the pace of justice delivery through tech”. As part of the entrepreneurship training we give the finalists we ask the justice entrepreneurs to speak to the street. Find and talk to justice customers. Learn what they need. How they need it. When they need it. What they do when they need it. This was a busy street . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Building a Business Case for Investing in Community-Based Justice

There are examples all over the world of community-based efforts that facilitate dispute resolution. Community-based justice initiatives are local mechanisms that act in official and quasi-official ways to provide information, advice and services to people within communities who experience justiciable problems. Their scope, who they serve, how they connect with people within communities, where they work and how they provide assistance may vary based on a number of factors, including their location, staffing and other resources. The similarity of community-oriented justice services lies in their efforts to provide assistance to resolve legal problems, often in the face of geographical and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues