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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

The Toughest Job in the UN: The High Commissioner for Human Rights

The role of the United Nations (UN) human rights chief is under intense international scrutiny after the long-awaited release of a strong report on grave human rights violations in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. On 8 September, a new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Volker Türk, was appointed to assume the role after Ms. Bachelet’s four-year term ended at midnight on 31 August 2022.

The transition to the new High Commissioner offers an opportunity to reflect on what has been described as the UN’s toughest job, some even wondering if it is impossible. The High Commissioner is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Public Trust, Legitimacy, and the Rule of Law

I’d like to bring to the attention of Canada’s law societies — and courts, Attorneys-General, and everyone else who wields power in the legal system — five reports from each of the past five months about declining trust in government competence and institutional legitimacy, in Canada and elsewhere.

  • In March 2022, the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan assessed the national economic impact of the trucker convoy occupation of Ottawa the previous month, finding that “in the absence of effective and forward-thinking action by government, there will be less business investment, less foreign investment,
. . . [more]
Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The Failure of Unbundled Legal Services to Meet the Crisis in Access to Justice

In the past decade, various law societies, bar associations, and members of the judiciary have allowed and tacitly endorsed the provision of unbundled legal services. For law schools, members of the profession and judiciary, and professional regulators who recognize the crisis in access to justice, these unbundled services or limited scope retainers (and legal coaching) ought to be a vital addition to the access to justice landscape: they provide people with the kind of supports that are needed to resolve their legal issues.

The case for unbundling

Unbundled legal services provide limited help from a lawyer or paralegal while the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Advancing People-Centered Justice: New Research on Community-Based Justice

Access to justice and research innovation were important topics at the recent World Justice Forum 2022 and the Annual Summit of Canada’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. In this article, as part of a growing body of access to justice opportunities and initiatives, we discuss some exciting new developments in community-based justice research.

Global Access to Justice Crisis

The global lack of access to justice has reached a critical point. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated legal service barriers and contributed to an increase in most types of justice problems, legal research and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Guns of Summer in the US and Canada: Whose Rights Count?


It takes four days for the public to turn away from news of a mass shooting in the United States (US). Within those four days, there will be up to eight more mass shootings and hundreds more gun-related deaths with little news coverage. Meanwhile, lack of effective laws and poor enforcement allow “crime guns” to filter through porous US borders to neighbouring countries.

After each mass shooting, gun control advocates demand that governments “do something.” US and Canadian legislators take piecemeal measures as they twist in hot winds of polarized uproar that pits “gun rights” against “gun control.” Strikingly . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Are BC Lawyers Climate Laggards? Climate Resolution Fails at Law Society of BC Meeting

Law societies and other professional regulatory bodies around the world have begun to recognize their professions’ roles in addressing and adapting to climate change. Unfortunately, the Law Society of British Columbia (the Law Society) missed an opportunity to do so last month. My West Coast Environmental Law colleagues Erin Gray, Staff Lawyer and Kaymi Yoon-Maxwell, Summer Law Student, report below on what happened and the worrying implications.

Climate resolution fails at Law Society meeting

On June 22, at its 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM), the Law Society membership – which is all lawyers in BC – failed to pass Resolution . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Expanding Online Access to Procedural Resources for Self-Represented Litigants

Procedural resources are vital for the prosecution of cases before courts and tribunals. These resources range from case-relevant legislation – including the legislation establishing the court or tribunal – to the rules of procedure and decided cases of the court or tribunal. They ground arguments, and guide and assist lawyers in making compelling cases. Claims can fail or succeed depending on the procedural resources available and accessible to litigants. Fairness dictates that these procedural resources be readily available to all litigants who need them, not just to lawyers.

Litigants represented by lawyers have little-to-no worries regarding these procedural tools. Their . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Community-Based Justice

Does finding help in your community when you are experiencing troubles produce a sense of wellbeing and security? Do feelings of well-being and security matter as outcomes?

The criminal law perspective has dominated the public and professional discourse about community security and wellbeing for decades. This has ranged along the political continuum from tougher crime control measures and mandatory sentences intended to remove criminals from our streets to community policing intended to make a police presence both a comfort and a protection for community residents. Let’s now turn our attention to the role of access to civil justice in community . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The UN’s Achilles Heel Mires International Action to Halt Aggression and Atrocities in Ukraine

Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine has led the international community to respond with unprecedented speed and intensity. Reactions to this European conflict are in stark contrast with the lack of effective international action to halt ongoing atrocities in Myanmar, Afghanistan, China, and other places. The crisis in Ukraine has also brought to the foreground the limitations of international law and mechanisms to halt aggression and atrocity crimes.

This article summarizes recent attempts within United Nations (UN) bodies to halt the war and atrocities in Ukraine. Also considered are actions in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Did the LSO Hold Back Court Modernization and Performance?

According to the meta description on its website, “[t]he Law Society’s Rules of Professional Conduct (“Rules”) express the high ethical ideals of lawyers, and specify the bases on which they may be disciplined.” To date, and unlike in other jurisdictions[1], this has not included any requirements for basic technological competence. Thus, the current Rules are entirely devoid of the terms ‘computer,’ ‘technology’ or ‘data.’ While the internet is mentioned, it appears only twice, and then, only in relation to advertising. Could this omission, or the failure of the Law Society to test new licensees on technological . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Technology

The Implications of J.N. v. C.G. for SRL’s, Anti-Vaxxers, and the Judicial Role

“When did it become illegal to ask questions? Especially in the courtroom?” This is the opening line to Justice A. Pazaratz’s decision in J.N. v. C.G., (2022). [1] This provocative line sets the tone for a decision delivered almost entirely through frank obiter. When reduced to its ratio, J.N. v. C.G. is a case about whether the court can require a parent to vaccinate their children, and whether a judge should rule on the appropriateness of these beliefs and decisions. What makes the decision notable is how Justice Pazaratz uses wide-sweeping comments to engage numerous societal issues, including free . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

But Now a Lawyer Comes to Them – the North Halton and Wellington County Rural Mobile Law Van and Winter Indoor Venues

Bringing people-centered justice to all will fail if we wait for people to come to the door of a law office asking for help. Justice must be made as accessible as possible by going out to where people live or spend much of their time. The rural mobile law van operating in the Wellington County and North Halton area just west of the City of Toronto is so far showing success in expanding access to justice in a rural area by extending that proactive offer of service, making legal assistance at least more accessible than before. A six-month pilot project . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues