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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Reforming Ontario’s Family Law Justice System

Despite the best efforts of our dedicated and tireless Family Court judges, they are becoming overwhelmed. There are many reasons for this phenomenon I am sure including the fact that governments across Canada spend roughly only 1% of their annual budgets on the justice system[1]. One of them is what has been termed the rise of the “self represented” litigant. Self represented litigants are not necessarily a problem despite what you might hear in the media and read in studies[2] undertaken to try understand the reasons behind their “rise” and to offer to solutions to deal with . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

How Can We Talk About It?

We urgently need to figure out how to talk about justice systems at the highest political level. As I have said before in this column: globally, justice systems are not delivering. Read the report of the Task Force on Justice. We need to make them better. That requires a new type of justice leadership and a new way of talking.

On 19 and 20 June the ministers of justice of the G7+ met for two days in The Hague. The fact that they met made me rejoice. You can’t have enough ministers of justice sharing experiences and getting . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The T-Shaped Factor: An Exposure to Tech in Law School

For this month’s CFCJ Slaw blog, we asked Saba Samanian, a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School to provide her perspective on a topic related to the future of the legal profession. Read on to learn what she has to say about law, technology, access justice and how she is thinking about her responsibility to be technically competent as she enters the profession.

As a recent graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School, and as someone who has an interest in technology and innovation, I often find myself thinking about how the two can intersect. While I have been looking . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Strategy: Why More Restrictions on Self-Represented Litigants Won’t Work, and Aren’t Justified

Our daily interactions with self-represented litigants (SRLs) from across Canada, along with our continuous tracking of the developing jurisprudence around SRLs, disclose the emergence of a judicial strategy that amounts to a war on self-represented parties in some courts and jurisdictions. The resulting mistrust and anger among many reasonable members of the public should be a cause for alarm among members of the profession.

Not only does this strategy undermine our commitment to a right of access to the courts, and ignore the Supreme Court of Canada’s clear statement in Pintea v John that SRLs cannot and should not be . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Senate Playing With Fire on Environmental Bills

At Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald famously referred to Canada’s Senate as a chamber of sober second thought. One, he said, that “will never set itself in opposition against the deliberate and understood wishes of the people.”

Sir John A. should be turning in his grave.

Say what you will about Canada’s first Prime Minister, he was right about our Senate: it should provide checks and balances on the elected House, while respecting the will of both that House and the electorate. Our democracy – and public trust in the Upper Chamber – depends in large part on that respect. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Alberta’s Whistleblower Legislation

In 2018, Alberta amended its whistleblower protection legislation. It is a modest improvement over previous legislation, and relative to the federal Act. However, in a number of respects, the legislation does not go far enough.

First, a little bit of context. Whistleblowing legislation serves two inter-related purposes: upholding the public interest in exposing serious wrongdoing, while protecting employees who blow the whistle on that wrongdoing. On this last point, the legislation is remedial by protecting the employee from dismissal or reprisal that might otherwise be permitted at common law. In Canada, whistleblowing legislation (which exists in most provinces) . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property, Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Chipping Away at Access to Justice Barriers – One Innovation at a Time

How can we find ways to connect lawyers and paralegals to those who do not have access to legal services? How can we reduce linguistic, geographical, socio-economic and other barriers that make it harder for people in need of legal services to get them? What innovations might help address these challenges?

One area for innovation to facilitate access to justice is regulatory innovation. To make lawyer and paralegal services more accessible to the province’s most vulnerable, the Law Society of Ontario recently implemented a new regulatory framework that enables lawyers and paralegals employed by civil society organizations (CSOs), such as . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice and the Need for Direct Funding of PBO

28,872. That is how many clients Pro Bono Ontario (“PBO”) served across the province in 2018 through services like its Free Legal Advice Hotline, 3 Law Help Centres, 6 medical-legal partnerships, 2 children’s programs and projects serving low-income start-ups and non-profits. In the past decade, demand for PBO’s services has increased by 272%. Yet the same year that PBO helped a record number of people, the charity narrowly avoided closing its court-based centres because the resources afforded PBO to meet these growing needs have barely budged. This is simply not good enough. It is not good enough because the private . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Some Legal Aid Can Never Be Costed

The recent release of the provincial budget in Ontario has many lawyers livid over the proposed cuts to Legal Aid, which amount to almost 30% of its funding. The cuts relate to broader reductions to the justice sector of approximately 2%, from $5.0 billion in 2018–19 to $4.7 billion in 2021–22.

These cuts may appear to stem from what appears to be higher figures for actual “Other Non-Tax Revenue,” which includes legal aid, from the interim projections for the 2018-2019 year, suggesting some concern that these expenses have been growing unsustainably. But a closer look at these figures suggests there . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Substantive Law: Judicial Decisions

The Rule of Law Is Declining Globally, Canada Is Not Entirely Without Room for Improvement

An annual highlight in the growing calendar of access to justice activities is the release of the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index. The 2019 Rule of Law Index, which was released in February of this year, provides a comprehensive look at the state of the rule of law in 126 countries around the world. [1] The Index makes an important contribution in the assessment and advancement of the rule of law. In the words of the report, effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small. For many . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

“Outsiders” and “Insiders” Can Change the Justice System Together

In the last five years, the engagement, skill and experience of individuals representing themselves in the justice system has changed in a number of very important ways. NSRLP has a number of data points to reinforce this observation, including the 2015/16 Intake Report and the 2017 Intake Report which noted:

“Last year we were struck by the growing sophistication and nuance of the tips offered by SRLs to others who face similar circumstances. In 2017, we continue to see very detailed advice offered to other SRLs. Respondents offered personal experiences with preparing court documents, preparing for appearances, how to research,

. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Improving Access to Family Justice by Promoting Alternatives to Full Representation

Lack of access to family justice and the increase in self-representation in family proceedings are growing concerns. According to the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Family Legal Services Review (the Bonkalo Report) in 2016, in over half of all family cases in Canadian courts, one or both parties are not represented by counsel. The report made several recommendations to the Ministry and the Law Society of Ontario, including the need to support the expanded use of legal coaching and other unbundled legal services, and the need to address liability concerns for counsel who are willing to act under . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues