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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Sharenthood: Turning Childhood Into Lucrative Content

In the 1920s, Jackie Coogan became one of Hollywood’s first child stars after playing the titular role of “The Kid” alongside Charlie Chaplin. Having starred in several box office successes, Coogan’s childhood career had earned him an estimated $4 million (roughly $62 million today). When Coogan tried to access his earnings in his 20’s, however, he discovered that his mother had spent nearly his entire fortune. In response to public outcry, California passed the Coogan Act, which aimed to safeguard a portion of child actors’ earnings until they reached adulthood and to protect them from abuse and exploitation. The Coogan . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information, Legal Publishing

Democratizing Justice, Whose Problem Is It?

Democratization means making something, usually a public good, accessible to everyone. The democratization of technology related to the internet or the democratization of health care are examples. As digital technologies become more widely adopted in areas touching peoples’ daily lives such as making appointments, applications for employment, being informed about changes in conditions of services or bargains available in the marketplace the reasons for making enabling technologies accessible to everyone become increasingly obvious. In a nation with a long-standing system of publicly funded health care the reasons are obvious although the realization seems to be falling short. In justice democratization . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What if Access to Justice Was Never Going to Lead to Poverty Alleviation?

I recently read that when legal aid was first developed in the United States in the 1960s, its primary goal was alleviation of poverty rather than access to counsel. However, over time, some stakeholders, mostly on the conservative side of the political spectrum, expressed concern that this was an inappropriate goal for public policy. This led people working in the legal aid sector to rebrand their initiatives as access to justice.[1] The primary difference between framing initiatives as “access to justice” as opposed to “alleviation of poverty” being that access to justice has a goal of improving the legal system . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Can Self-Represented Litigants Access Justice? NSRLP’s New Intake Report

Since 2013, the NSRLP has gathered data from self-represented litigants (SRLs) across Canada through our SRL Intake Form. After the publication of Julie Macfarlane’s original study on self-representation in 2013, SRLs wished to continue sharing their stories and experiences with the legal system, so the Intake Form was developed as a means to continue collecting this data, as it was clear there was a significant gap in existing organizations and systems and that SRLs’ contributions and experiences were going unheard. Every 1-2 years the NSRLP analyzes the Intake Form data for the previous period, and writes an updated report . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Russia’s Rule of Law(lessness) Threatens Advocates Worldwide: A Canadian Case Study

Russia’s persecution of thousands of independent journalists, human rights defenders, anti-war dissenters, and opposition politicians in Russia is well known, especially the arbitrary detention and death of Alexei Navalny. Less well known are Russia’s threats and judicial harassment of people living in other countries – including Canada – for sharing views that dissent from official Russian narratives.

For a seven-month period during 2023 and 2024, a permanent resident of Canada, Maria Kartasheva, found herself in fear of lengthy imprisonment in Russia. A Russian court tried and sentenced her in absentia for her peaceful online advocacy exposing Russia’s war crimes in . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Can the Charter Protect Canadians Against Climate Change?

Floods and wildfires have displaced thousands. BC’s heat dome killed 600. It is not an exaggeration to say that climate change is having a profound impact on the rights of Canadians. At the same time, climate cases currently moving through Canadian courts are raising questions regarding whether and how citizens can hold governments to account for authorizing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that violate their Charter rights.

The common law has long said that for any right, there is a legal remedy. Increasingly, people facing climate change threats are turning to the courts, in a wave of climate litigation that has . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Thinking Like a Non-Lawyer: When Plain Language Is Not Enough

The plain language movement in law has been in full swing for many years now. A plain language approach to legal drafting is taught in most law schools, and members of the judiciary are urged to generate decisions for parties in plain and ordinary language. This contrasts with the historically legalistic and complex language of law understood exclusively by lawyers, judges, and the academics who study law. Underlining the plain language movement is the belief that law, including the articulation of submissions made to court, the decisions rendered by judges, and even the legislation drafted by legislators, ought to be . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Justice on the Front Line: Bringing Legal Help to People Where They Are At

The Mobile Rural Law Van and Indoor Winter Venues

This brief article is another report on the mobile rural law van and the fixed-location winter locations, referred to together as the “law van’, as the project goes through the process from pilot project to implementation as an on-going part of the delivery model. The story of the law van is one of effective innovation. It illustrates how, at its best, innovation is an on-going process. The successes and challenges, the lessons learned of an innovation are building blocks in an on-going process of helping people bring troubling problems closer to . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Buried Under the Rubble: Haunted Reflections at the Turn of the Year

The buried children have been haunting me. It’s difficult to celebrate the turning of the year while thousands of children remain lost in the rubble of humanitarian catastrophes caused by disasters, political turmoil, and armed conflicts around the world.

In 2023, apocalyptic stories of children and families lost through earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, atrocities, and war crimes filled the news. The Middle East and Ukraine dominated headlines while Afghanistan, Myanmar, and other places were pushed from attention.

An insistent question began to intrude. “What if it was your kids under the rubble?” In late November 2023 this . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Ripple or a Wave? the Supreme Court’s Opinion on the Impact Assessment Act

This is a brief summary of the Impact Assessment Act reference case by Anna Johnston, counsel for the intervenors West Coast Environmental Law Association and Nature Canada on the file. You can find a more detailed analysis here.

On October 13, 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada released its opinion on the constitutionality of the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA), with a 5-2 majority, led by Chief Justice Wagner, finding that the main scheme of the Act is unconstitutional.

West Coast intervened in the case along with Nature Canada, so we had a front-row seat to the arguments. In . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Access to Justice and the Promise of Virtual Proceedings

The Canadian justice system experienced an unprecedented transformation during the Covid pandemic, when court and administrative proceedings across the country moved from in-person to remote hearings. Much discussion ensued on the implications of this transformation for the judiciary, the legal profession and their clients, as well as access to justice more broadly. However, self-represented litigants were not directly engaged in most of these discussions and as such, their perspectives and experiences respecting remote proceedings did not form part of the access to justice assessment. Early on in this process shift the NSRLP started hearing from SRLs anecdotally about their experiences . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Tribunals: A “People-Centered” Framework

As Noel Semple, wrote earlier this year here on Slaw, each year, over 100,000 Ontarians seek justice from Tribunals Ontario which, as he points out, is far more people than will start civil lawsuits in the Superior Court of Justice each year.

In Ontario, adjudicative tribunals have jurisdiction over matters ranging from housing and tenancy disputes to employment law matters, social benefits disputes, and other types of legal matters, so when we talk about everyday legal problems – increasingly captured in legal needs surveys such as the recent Statistics Canada Legal Needs Survey and the CFCJ’s Cost of Justice Project . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues