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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

The Millennial Influence

The access to justice discourse is increasingly focused on modernization. This involves drawing on technology as well as new methods to guide the development of justice system improvements. The user experience (UX) figures prominently in modernization efforts. It underscores what Usability.gov – the leading authority on UX best practices for both the public and private sector – describes as, “a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.”

As a generation, Millennials are squarely at the modernization and user-experience intersection. Their comfort with change and technology is disrupting industries by reshaping work . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Letters in BC, Lawsuits in California, Demand That Fossil Fuel Companies Pay for Climate Costs

The past year has seen communities around the world dealing with major weather events. Here in Canada flooding in Quebec and unprecedented wildfires in BC displaced tens of thousands, while the southern U.S. and South East Asia suffered from intense storms. Forget about polar bears – these communities are the new face of climate change.

And it’s going to be costly. The Insurance Board of Canada has repeatedly warned that climate change is driving the costs of weather-related disasters ever upward, including after record breaking losses in 2016.

​”Severe weather due to climate change is already costing Canadians

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

“Legal Advice” vs. “Legal Information”: Clearing Up the Murky Water

The distinction between what constitutes “legal information” versus “legal advice” has always been a source of confusion and substantial anxiety for legal practitioners and service providers. Given the importance of the distinction and its implications vis-à-vis the authorized practice of law, it is shocking that the term “legal information” is nowhere defined in any of the relevant statutes or regulations governing the provision of legal services. Across the provinces, the governing regulation tends to focus on defining “legal advice,” “legal services,” or “practice of law” without providing an accompanying definition for “legal information” as a point of contrast. That being . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice Through Community

Recent reports have underscored that access to justice is everyone’s problem yet the issue fails to resonate with the public – they indicate low confidence and a sense of alienation. In response, many justice sector organizations are looking at different ways to enhance public engagement. The logic being that a better link with the public will inform more meaningful and innovative solutions to access to justice challenges. This approach puts the user at the centre and considers how justice services can be sensitive to lived experience and community-specific needs.

Community Justice Centres (CJCs) are among the most user and community . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Paddling Together for Reconciliation and Legal Transformation

On July 14, 2017, the Government of Canada released a set of Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples. These principles are intended to guide an ongoing review of Canada’s laws, policies and operational practices designed:

[T]o help ensure the Crown is meeting its constitutional obligations with respect to Aboriginal and treaty rights; adhering to international human rights standards including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, and supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

A Working Group of Ministers chaired by Justice Minister Wilson-Raybould has been tasked . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Using Social Media to Advance Access to Justice

According to worldwide statistics,[i] there are over 1.5 billion people on Facebook, 400 million people on Instagram and 320 million people on Twitter. In 2016, 71% of Canadians logged on to Facebook weekly, 49% of us watched videos on YouTube at least once per week and 27% of us used Twitter at least once per week[ii].

In terms of age breakdown, American statistics reveal that 88% of Americans between the age of 18-29 are active on Facebook, 59% use Instagram and 36% of individuals in the same age group are on Twitter and Pinterest[iii]. Many . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Open Justice?

Last year The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) released a report that examined public perceptions of access to justice in Ontario. For those of us who work in the legal and justice sectors, the results were dismal. Here’s what we heard: 40 per cent of Ontarians do not believe that they have fair and equal access to the justice system. In addition, members of the public chose these descriptors of the justice system: old fashioned, intimidating, broken.

These results seem discouraging, particularly for those of us working to build supports and establish resources that enhance access to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beyond Outreach: Evolving Legal Aid at Halton Community Legal Service

In an interview for a recent Law Times article[1] I expressed the view that one of the main objectives of the legal health check-up (LHC) approach is to establish outreach in order to identify people with unexpressed legal need and to provide pathways along which people can travel to obtain help with legal problems. I have written about this in previous reports[2] The intermediary – clinic partnerships and the legal health check-up questionnaire are the means of identifying unmet legal need and the working relationships between the legal clinic and community groups are the pathways to justice. The . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Path to Inclusive Technology

Advanced technology is considered the new panacea for improving access to the legal system. It’s great that many people find advanced technology helpful, but no matter how helpful technology may be, it cannot help everyone. Last October 18th, TAG facilitated a day-long symposium that introduced draft guidelines with the goal of encouraging providers to ensure that their technology is inclusive.

Using technology in the legal system is hardly new (especially if we recognize that the telephone is a form of technology), but the proliferation now seems a daily event. There is no doubt that advanced technology can . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Cost of Justice (Research)

At the end of Rules for a Flat World[1], Gillian Hadfield offers five steps to improve how legal systems operate. In this post, I want to elaborate a little on the fourth of her recommendations: catalyze and fund research.

Hadfield describes the state of knowledge about legal infrastructure as “abysmal”. She notes the lack of data about how legal systems work and about who has access to them. She exhorts governments to collect more data about legal institutions and make this data available to researchers, making the case that more and better research is necessary to improve our . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Lawyers Behaving ‘Badly’: Should Lawyers Be Breaking the Rules?

The Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa is known for its expertise in social justice and in my experience many of my colleagues decided to attend this institution for this reason.[1] When I applied and accepted my offer of admission to the University of Ottawa I did so because I hoped that my professors would provide me with the knowledge and skills that I will need to practice law within a system of laws that is not “always a system of justice”.[2] I have not been disappointed in this respect. However as my time as a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week

Wresting Authority From the Regulators: The Proper Role of the National Energy Board in Environmental Assessments

It is not every day that we have an opportunity to effect transformative legal change. It is natural, then, that when last summer a number of cabinet ministers announced the review of four key federal environmental laws, West Coast Environmental Law – along with other lawyers, academics, environmental groups, Indigenous peoples and the general public – took a keen interest. Through these reviews we have an opportunity to not only strengthen environmental processes and substantive legal protections, but to also transform the governance of environmental planning and decision-making.

This opportunity is perhaps most pronounced in the reviews of federal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues