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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Access to Justice Is More Than Just Access to Courts: Youth Justice and the New Toronto Courthouse

Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General is building a new courthouse in Toronto that will combine most of the city’s criminal courts, including all three youth courts, in one location downtown. Designed by a world-renowned architect and filled with technological innovation, it is being celebrated as a step forward for access to justice in the city. But access to justice is not just about access to a courtroom. It is about access to outcomes—outcomes that provide the most vulnerable groups, such as youth in conflict with the law, with the support they need to work towards more positive futures.

As . . . [more]

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Upholding the Law of the Land

When it comes to implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, lawyers have unique responsibilities; Calls to Action 27, 28, 29 and 50 are particularly instructive. Today, my colleague Maxine Hayman Matilpi and I reflect on what this means for us as legally trained individuals, our public interest law organization and legal pluralism in Canada.

Trish Monture asserts in Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks:

Every oppression that has been foisted upon Aboriginal people in the history of Canada has been implemented through [colonial law] . . . This includes child welfare apprehension, residential schools,

. . . [more]
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The Legal Aid Effect on Health Outcomes

A study recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) showed that every dollar spent on social programs is associated with a 0.1% decrease in potentially avoidable mortality and a 0.1% increase in life expectancy. Both results were statistically significant. This analysis of social and health care spending in 9 provinces from 1981 to 2002 concludes that population health outcomes would be improved if government spending were reallocated from health to social spending (“Effect of provincial spending on social services and health care on health outcomes in Canada: an observational longitudinal study”, Daniel J. Dutton et al, . . . [more]

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Trending: The Digital Justice Filter Bubble

Attend any conference on digital justice and you’ll hear about smart systems, expert systems and solution explorers, you’ll be told that eBay’s automated dispute resolution program resolves over 65 million cases each year. Access to justice, 24/7, in your pyjamas. Modern and efficient, it gives people what they want.

The future’s so bright, you better wear shades.

Then come the Q and A’s, and someone asks about individuals who don’t have computers, who aren’t computer literate, who won’t be able to effectively represent themselves no matter the amount of online information. “Of course” comes the standard response, “we will need . . . [more]

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Reputational Harm of Legal Blogging

No, not the author’s reputation. The subject’s.

In early December, the Americans celebrated legal blogging with the ABA Journal Web 100, and on December 31st, Canada did likewise with the 2017 Clawbies. In between, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPCC) posted a summary of submissions received in its ongoing study into the privacy issues surrounding Online Reputation. Legal blogging wasn’t explicitly mentioned, but it’s hard to see how the subject can be avoided.

The original consultation document notes that “dating sites, sites that re-post court and tribunal decisions, and, overwhelmingly, the so-called . . . [more]

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Learning From BC’s Troubling Experiments With “Professional Reliance” in Environmental (De)Regulation

Asking questions about professional reliance in BC

BC’s new NDP government recently announced a wide-ranging review of “professional reliance.” Environment and Climate Change Minister, George Heyman, was accompanied at the announcement by Green MLA Sonia Furstenau, who has been on the forefront of pressing for this review after her own experience (prior to her election) in opposing contaminated soil disposal in her own community.

West Coast Environmental Law welcomes this review, which has the potential to improve legal protection for human health and the environment by addressing a major approach to deregulation that has been implemented in BC over the . . . [more]

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To Build Public Support for Access to Civil Justice We Have to Let the Public Know That Access to Justice Is for Them Too

The results of two recent studies in the U.S. have used public opinion data to suggest that increasing public support for access to civil justice is a promising way to increase government funding.[1] The argument is that if the civil legal aid system[2] is viewed by the middle class as a program that could benefit them if they encounter trouble, rather than being only for the poor, a wider segment of the public will have a stake in access to justice and they will support higher levels of public funding. The question of how much public pressure would . . . [more]

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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]

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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]
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“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]

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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]

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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