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]
Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns
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]
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]
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]
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]
In an interview for a recent Law Times article 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 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]
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]
At the end of Rules for a Flat World, 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]
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. 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”. I have not been disappointed in this respect. However as my time as a . . . [more]
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 will be a bit of an odd column: I’m going to talk international relations. Yes – I know I am a lawyer and not a foreign policy wonk. But I am worried about Europe. No, I don’t mean Brexit, Greek debts, or German, French and Dutch elections. A much bigger challenge lies more to the South, below Italy’s boot. I call that challenge the Belt. It’s a bit of a crude word, because it gives the impression that it’s a single challenge. It’s not. Justice is a large part of it.
Picture yourself on the top of the Mont . . . [more]
I work in the justice sector managing a collective impact initiative that facilitates collaboration with institutional, political and community stakeholders. Our goal is to develop meaningful, public-focused access to justice solutions for Ontario. The term “innovation” is one that I hear often, delivered with a sense of urgency to catch up, to be more like other sectors and to make better use of technology. This pressure – and the related jargon – can at times obscure what innovation is really about and inadvertently alienate. Of course, innovation is about change but it doesn’t have to entail a scorched earth approach . . . [more]