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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Paddling Together for Reconciliation and Legal Transformation

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Using Social Media to Advance Access to Justice

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Open Justice?

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beyond Outreach: Evolving Legal Aid at Halton Community Legal Service

In an interview for a recent Law Times article[1] 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[2] 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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Path to Inclusive Technology

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Cost of Justice (Research)

At the end of Rules for a Flat World[1], 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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Lawyers Behaving ‘Badly’: Should Lawyers Be Breaking the Rules?

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.[1] 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”.[2] I have not been disappointed in this respect. However as my time as a . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week

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 opportunity is perhaps most pronounced in the reviews of federal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Belt Challenge and the Need for a Think

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Beyond the Binary

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]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Chevron’s Fair Share of Responsibility for Climate Change and Why It Matters

Wildfires. Drought. Flooding. Rising sea levels. Climate change is already reshaping and impacting BC communities in profound and frightening ways. As unchecked fossil fuel pollution continues to push global temperatures ever higher, we are frightened for our communities, for communities around the world, and for the world we leave our children. – Letter to BC local governments from community groups, 25 January 2017

On January 25, 2017, we, along with dozens of organizations from across British Columbia, sent a letter to each and every local government in the province – asking the Mayors and Councils to take action to demand . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What’s Happening in Canada’s Civil Courts?

According to Statistics Canada data from the annual Civil Court Survey[1] over the most recent five years for which data are available, between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the number of civil cases has fallen. The total number of cases initiated between 2010-11 and 2014-15 declined by 4.7% from 493,785 to 470,622. The total number of active cases declined by 1.5% from 921,328 to 907,206 and the number of active cases with a disposition within the fiscal year declined by 2.8%from 553,597 to 537.909.

The number of general civil cases has declined by 10.0% over the five-year period. Cases involving bankruptcy . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues