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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Law’s Reverse Musical Chair Challenge

Despite recent years of decades-low law school application levels, law school seats are still heavily over-subscribed. Similarly, for those who graduate (which, to be honest, is nearly every single admitted student that manages to pay tuition), the opportunities to be called and to practice as a lawyer is case of too many grads and too few jobs. Yet when it comes to supporting the legal needs of the public, lawyers aren’t even close to filling the chairs that exist, much less the new ones added each day. Worse, we’re increasingly less interested in doing so.

Estimates and sources vary, but . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Human-Centered Design and the Justice System: Lessons From the Field

For the past two years, through my roles at the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution (Winkler Institute) and the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) I have been working on applying the principles of human-centered design to the justice system. For those who may be unfamiliar, human-centered design (HCD) is a design method used to develop products and services from the perspective of those who use them. It is an intentional process, but also a creative one. It involves immersing yourself in the problem you are trying to solve, working with the people experiencing the problem, experimenting with solutions, and, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Working Towards a Next-Generation Environmental Assessment Law for Canada

Environmental Assessment (EA) is a critical part of our repertoire of environmental law tools, designed to allow us to “look before we leap” into activities with potentially significant effects on the environment. A massive overhaul of Canada’s Canadian Environmental Assessment Act in 2012 resulted in the elimination of over three thousand assessments of proposed projects and activities, reduced public involvement in environmental decision-making and weakened environmental protection. EA processes and decisions have been increasingly subject to lawsuits, criticism and protests, with the target of dissent being either the project (say, Kinder Morgan’s controversial proposed oil sands pipeline) or the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

You Can’t Modernize the Courts on a Shoestring

With technology investments, approved budgets quickly become historical artifacts as changing project requirements and unexpected turns lay waste to the best laid plans. While the answer isn’t to close your eyes and keep your wallet open, it surely can’t be the opposite – to limit funding to such an extent that viable paths to improvement or success are foreclosed before the first dollar is spent. Yet in a 2016 federal budget that forecasts a $30 billion deficit, a mere $1 million has been allocated to investment “in information technology infrastructure upgrades to safeguard the efficiency of the federal court system”. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Revitalizing Environmental Governance in Canada

Massive shifts in Canadian environmental law occurred over the past four years, most notably through two omnibus budget bills in 2012 that repealed or amended most of Canada’s most significant environmental laws. The legal and practical impacts of federal deregulation, however, have had an important counterpoint in the dynamic revitalization process that another area of law has been undergoing in Canada today: the legal traditions of Indigenous peoples.

Stepping into the void of inaction or deregulation by other levels of government, in recent years First Nations have banned proposed heavy oil pipelines from their territories, denied consent to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Consumer Justice – What We Need to Know

One of the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice’s primary mandates is improving access to justice. How do consumer issues relate to access to justice? For consumers, access to justice is partly about holding retailers and suppliers accountable for the promises they make and for the safety of their products and services. In 2014, the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) conducted the “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada” survey with over 3000 participants across Canada. According to the CFCJ data, access to consumer justice is an issue. While formal justice mechanisms for . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Climate Change 2016

Canada entered 2015 internationally condemned as a climate laggard, and enters 2016 with a new government that received praise for its role in the Paris Climate negotiations. But the country’s work on climate change is far from done. The government has promised, within 90 days after the Paris talks, to sit down with the Premiers to develop a national framework on climate change.

In this post we review the Paris Agreement, its strengths and shortcomings, and what it means for Canada.

Evaluating the Paris Climate Agreement

In December the nations of the world gathered in Paris to negotiate a new . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice: After the Machines Take Over

“The traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems.” This is the central message of The Future of Professions, a new book from Richard and Daniel Susskind. Machines, they argue, will take over much professional work. Even when the machines cannot do so alone, the Susskinds expect that they will allow laypeople, paraprofessionals, and the clients themselves do the necessary work.

One way or the other, highly-trained and expensive human professionals will be mostly cut out of the value chain. The future of the professions, in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Law in the Age of Justin Trudeau

Whether you greeted the ascendancy of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals with rainbow-tinted visions of angels and unicorns or you prophesied Canada’s sulfuric descent into a pit of doom, all agree on one inviolable truth: change is coming.

Trudeau, and his newly appointed Justice Minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, face a ticking clock on a phalanx of legal challenges and legislative amendments many of which require immediate attention.

Marijuana

Whether it’s legalization or some form of decriminalization, this is a promise that Trudeau’s youthful fans – who turned out to vote for the party in record numbers – are not likely to sit quietly . . . [more]

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Attn. Fossil Fuel Companies – the Risk of Climate Lawsuits Is Getting Harder to Ignore

In a recent speech to the world’s insurance companies, Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England (and formerly of the Bank of Canada), warned of the risks of lawsuits “by parties who have suffered loss or damage from the effects of climate change [who] seek compensation from those they hold responsible.”

While not presenting such lawsuits as a sure thing, Mr. Carney alluded to multi-billion dollar lawsuits against the Asbestos industry and said that the risks of such litigation “will only increase as the science and evidence of climate change hardens.”

West Coast Environmental Law made a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice Reform and the Data Deficit- Some Lessons Learned

On September 15, 2015 the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) published Civil Non-Family Cases Filed in the Supreme Court of BC – Research Results and Lessons Learned. This study is one piece of a larger, five year “Cost of Justice research initiative being undertaken by CFCJ with the goal of defining the economic and social costs of justice on two fronts: the cost of delivering access to justice, and the cost of not delivering access to justice.

The study was conducted by Focus Consultants of Victoria, B.C. in 2014 and 2015 in the Supreme Court of . . . [more]

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Unaffordable Legal Services Is a Federal Election Issue: A Message to the Candidates

The following national problem should be part of every party’s federal election platform: the majority of the population cannot afford legal services at a reasonable cost—the legal advice of a lawyer is not affordable.

This is the most serious and damaging problem that Canada’s justice system and the legal profession have ever faced.

The abundant in-depth analytical literature provides this definition of the problem: “The majority of the population cannot obtain legal services at reasonable cost.” Or, the legal profession has priced itself beyond the majority of the population.

It is a problem caused by the obsolescence of the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues