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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Precedent-Setting Advisory Opinion on Climate Change: An Urgent Call for Action

On May 21, 2024, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea delivered a groundbreaking advisory opinion on state parties’ climate change obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The unanimous opinion found that state parties have legal obligations to implement measures to prevent, reduce and control greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including by enacting laws and regulations. In developing those measures, states must consider the best available science and international treaties like the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

This is the first time an international court . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Case for Multi-Disciplinary Models

A growing number of initiatives in the healthcare sector in Canada and in other jurisdictions facilitate access to care beyond what might be considered a medical intervention. The Social Medicine Supportive Housing Project at Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN) stands out as a prominent example in the Canadian context. In 2019, UHN launched a housing project to build homes on its lands with a view to prescribing housing to dozens of patients for whom chronic homelessness and housing precarity translate into thousands of emergency room visits every year. A 2023 article in Maclean’s Magazine discusses the UHN project, which was . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Cheapening the Written Word

The last two years have seen excessive hype over the text generation functions that large language models facilitate, which doesn’t need to be remarked on here more than it already has. But, I do think it’s important to note that applications like word processors and email have been transformative for the practice of law and other knowledge work over the last 40 years, and this can be considered an expected continuation of this long term trend.

These types of tools all reduce the friction involved in creation of documents and mean that written material can be produced more quickly and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Technology

A Digital Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: How Artificial Intelligence Is Set to Worsen the Access to Justice Crisis

The increased presence of artificial intelligence (AI) in the legal sphere has been a controversial topic in discussions about access to justice. While some claim that AI will act as a great equalizer — ringing in a new age of AI-powered legal assistance for those who most need it — its rise to fame in the legal field instead seems to be catalyzing the opposite reality.[1] As private AI companies increasingly dominate the practice of law, we are beginning to enter an era of unchecked digital capitalism, where the legal field’s most underserved participants are increasingly falling behind the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Potential for Reducing Claims With Plain Language

The focus of my career has shifted from primarily creating legal information for those without legal representation to now include risk management and loss prevention for lawyers. This expanded focus has also broadened my view on the importance of plain language for our profession. The benefits of a plain language approach for self-represented litigants are clear, but it also offers the potential of reducing claims risk for lawyers and their clients.

As noted in the recent Slaw article by Jennifer Leitch, NSRLP Executive Director, “Thinking Like a Non-Lawyer: When Plain Language is Not Enough[i], there is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Information, Practice of Law

BC Court of Appeal Recognizes the Myth of False Allegations of Intimate Partner Violence

Case Commented On: KMN v SZM, 2024 BCCA 70 (CanLII), overturning 2023 BCSC 940 (CanLII)

We have both written previously on myths and stereotypes about intimate partner violence (IPV), one of the most common of which is that women make false or exaggerated claims of violence to gain an advantage in family law disputes (see here and here). In KMN v SZM, 2024 BCCA 70 (CanLII), the British Columbia Court of Appeal (BCCA) recognized the existence of this myth and the need for courts to avoid making assumptions that perpetuate it, holding that it is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

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