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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

School for Family Litigants Proves SRLs Desperate for Information and Support

Here at the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, we have spent the past 10 years trying (along with our other research and advocacy work) to provide support and information to litigants who find themselves self-representing in the family and civil justice systems. We have, among other efforts, published a growing collection of “Primers” (plain language guides) for self-represented litigants (SRLs), compiled a list of other organizations and resources that might be helpful to them, and maintained a Directory of lawyers (and other legal service providers) who offer lower-cost and alternative options such as unbundling and coaching. But for a long time . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Going Grey and Facing Age Discrimination: Moving Towards an International Treaty on the Rights of Older Persons

Concerns for the wellbeing of older persons are rarely framed as human rights issues entrenched in age discrimination. This may now be changing after the shocking revelations of maltreatment and excess deaths of older persons in Canadian care homes in 2020.

The abuses exposed in 2020 were predictable consequences of Canada’s longstanding neglect of older persons’ fundamental rights. Decades of efforts by Canadian civil society organizations (CSOs) along with international CSOs, and UN human rights bodies may now be gaining traction in a drive for a United Nations (UN) treaty to spell out and guarantee the fundamental human rights of . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency: What Are the Implications for Canada?

From across the border, Canadians have been watching the fallout from recent decisions from the United States Supreme Court. In its 6-3 decision in West Virginia v. EPA (West Virginia), released this past summer, the U.S. Supreme Court significantly limited the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

In this post, we examine the implications of the West Virginia decision: What are the effects of this decision during a global climate crisis? How does the U.S. Supreme Court decision compare to Canadian courts’ treatment of regulatory authority? And more importantly, how do we respond when a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Navigating the Apprehension of Bias as a Self-Represented Litigant in Canada and Nigeria

In 2019, a case came before the Magistrate’s court in Lagos state, Nigeria involving a micro-lending company looking to recover a loan from a borrower. A lawyer represented the micro-lender. The borrower represented himself because he could not afford to retain the services of a lawyer. The lawyer filed an application for summary judgment for the entire loan sum. The borrower responded through an affidavit and a written memorandum. He argued that judgment could not be summarily given to the micro-lender because he had repaid part of the loan.

However, all the material aspects of the borrower’s affidavit were arguments . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Sorry, I Don’t Make the Rules: Taking Seriously Chief Justice Morawetz’s Call to Overhaul the Rules of Civil Procedure

Rules that cry out for amendment. The need for simplicity and clarity. The desire to develop “innovative measures to ensure that the procedure in civil litigation is understandable by members of the public, the steps necessary to finalize a dispute are minimal and the cost of such procedure is reasonable.”

Those who watched the opening of the courts earlier this week would be forgiven for thinking that these are the words of Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz. In fact, they are taken from a report of the Civil Procedure Revision Committee authored almost half a century ago. In the last . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Making Justice Available to Everyone: The Rural Mobile Law Van in North Halton and Wellington County, Ontario

Justice is fair when it is available to everyone. While everyone agrees that access to justice is important, our system struggles to meet this expectation. However, there are innovative projects underway that are having some success in meeting this daunting task. The Rural Mobile Law Van is one such innovative project that is successfully tackling the problem of identifying undiscovered legal need and bringing assistance to people who would otherwise not receive help with their legal problems. This goes beyond what the formal justice system can do. This project is contributing to a broader concept of what justice and access . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Personal Reflection on National Truth and Reconciliation Day

I feel honoured to have had the chance to participate in commemorative events today at Parliament Hill and Lebreton Flats and to have shared that moment with family. I am grateful to the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation for their warm welcome on to their traditional, unceded territory. If you were not able to watch the events, please do via APTN National News.

While there are many moments from today’s solemn events that will stay with me; I was particularly struck watching a fifty-meter-long banner stroll past me adorned with forty-one hundred plus names of little ones who never made it home. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Toughest Job in the UN: The High Commissioner for Human Rights

The role of the United Nations (UN) human rights chief is under intense international scrutiny after the long-awaited release of a strong report on grave human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. On 8 September, a new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Volker Türk, was appointed to assume the role after Ms. Bachelet’s four-year term ended at midnight on 31 August 2022.

The transition to the new High Commissioner offers an opportunity to reflect on what has been described as the UN’s toughest job, some even wondering if it is impossible. The High Commissioner is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Public Trust, Legitimacy, and the Rule of Law

I’d like to bring to the attention of Canada’s law societies — and courts, Attorneys-General, and everyone else who wields power in the legal system — five reports from each of the past five months about declining trust in government competence and institutional legitimacy, in Canada and elsewhere.

  • In March 2022, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan assessed the national economic impact of the trucker convoy occupation of Ottawa the previous month, finding that “in the absence of effective and forward-thinking action by government, there will be less business investment, less foreign investment,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The Failure of Unbundled Legal Services to Meet the Crisis in Access to Justice

In the past decade, various law societies, bar associations, and members of the judiciary have allowed and tacitly endorsed the provision of unbundled legal services. For law schools, members of the profession and judiciary, and professional regulators who recognize the crisis in access to justice, these unbundled services or limited scope retainers (and legal coaching) ought to be a vital addition to the access to justice landscape: they provide people with the kind of supports that are needed to resolve their legal issues.

The case for unbundling

Unbundled legal services provide limited help from a lawyer or paralegal while the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Advancing People-Centered Justice: New Research on Community-Based Justice

Access to justice and research innovation were important topics at the recent World Justice Forum 2022 and the Annual Summit of Canada’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. In this article, as part of a growing body of access to justice opportunities and initiatives, we discuss some exciting new developments in community-based justice research.

Global Access to Justice Crisis

The global lack of access to justice has reached a critical point. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated legal service barriers and contributed to an increase in most types of justice problems, legal research and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Guns of Summer in the US and Canada: Whose Rights Count?


It takes four days for the public to turn away from news of a mass shooting in the United States (US). Within those four days, there will be up to eight more mass shootings and hundreds more gun-related deaths with little news coverage. Meanwhile, lack of effective laws and poor enforcement allow “crime guns” to filter through porous US borders to neighbouring countries.

After each mass shooting, gun control advocates demand that governments “do something.” US and Canadian legislators take piecemeal measures as they twist in hot winds of polarized uproar that pits “gun rights” against “gun control.” Strikingly . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues