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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

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

Leaks to Media May Decrease After Vice Media Decision

The two biggest political scandals in the news right now – the Mark Norman trial, and the Trudeau/SNC-Lavalin controversy – were exposed by a reliable source who secretly shared information with a journalist. Increasingly this is only viable way that scandals are brought to the public’s attention in this country.

More traditional methods of uncovering corruption – access to information laws, and whistleblower protections that are supposed to encourage employees to disclose wrongdoing – are increasingly irrelevant. As to the former, we know that much information is categorically off limits, delayed, destroyed, not recorded, or access . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics, Legal Information

“The Most Significant Access to Justice Gathering in a Decade”

David Steven, the head of the secretariat of the Task Force on Justice, wrapped up three days of meetings in the Peace Palace on the challenge of delivering on Sustainable Development Goal 16.3. He looked at a fulfilled and tired audience at the end of the 9th edition of the Innovating Justice Forum, the Justice Partnership Forum, and a ministerial meeting.

The gathering produced an important political document that can now be invoked and used to guide strategy making and implementation: the Hague Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

When the Badly-Behaved Party Is Opposing Counsel

We are hearing more and more often from SRLs about “sharp practice” when they face a lawyer on the other side of their case.

There are many common elements to these reports, which I find to be largely credible. SRLs believe that their unfamiliarity with the legal system, combined with the tendency of some judges to assume the worst of them – that their cases are without merit, or that they are “vexatious” and abusing the process when they make honest mistakes and misjudgments – is being exploited by counsel on the other side as a matter of strategy.

The . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

We Should Start Making a Business Case for Legal Aid in Canada

In countries that were early adopters of legal aid governments became major funders of legal services. This remains the case in many countries today. Funding programs that facilitate access to legal services for low-income populations was established in these years as a responsibility of the government. In nations in which the state does not accept access to justice as a government responsibility or simply cannot afford to do so, organizations with global reach, among other groups and bodies, have often stepped in to support initiatives that promote access to legal help, information, empowerment and other forms of dispute resolution. Whether . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Testing Our Assumption: Challenging Fossil Fuel Companies Helps Solve Climate Change

A growing number of communities, and lawyers, around the world are focusing their attention on global fossil fuel companies, arguing that they are legally liable for their products’ contribution to climate change and at least partially responsible for resulting climate-related costs. Other legal investigations and cases emphasize that the companies misled the public and their shareholders about the global risks of fossil fuel use, and that these actions have slowed progress on climate policies around the world.

Broadly, communities are asking:

  • Do oil, gas and coal companies bear some legal responsibility for selling products that they have known for decades
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues

Justice Pas-À-Pas: Bringing Key Perspectives to Bear on the Common Legal Problems of Franco-Ontarians

Last week, several access to justice champions involved in delivering legal aid services in the province participated in a panel on TVO’s The Agenda. In this segment, panelists discussed how critical Ontario’s legal aid system is to access to justice, not only for those who are marginalized but also, fundamentally, to a fair and participatory justice system. Julie Mathews, Community Legal Education Ontario’s (CLEO) executive director and a featured panelist, highlighted the importance of ensuring that people – particularly those who are marginalized – are able to understand and exercise their legal rights. Good legal aid includes understandable, accessible, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues