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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Protecting Human Rights Defenders Globally: Does Canada Mean Business?

Businesses are deeply implicated in abuses of human rights defenders worldwide. In 2021 more than “a quarter of lethal attacks were linked to resource exploitation,” according to Global Witness. Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately attacked. Over 40 percent of fatal attacks targeted Indigenous people who make up only 5 percent of the world’s population. One in ten defenders killed were women, two-thirds of whom were Indigenous.

Canada’s record of business abuses of human rights increasingly attracts international criticism. Canada is home to about half the world’s extractive companies operating in nearly 100 countries. When Indigenous land rights defenders protest business . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

From Need to Vulnerability

Need to Vulnerability: A Global View

In a summary of recent global developments in access to justice delivered by Professor Avrom Sherr, Director of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in London at the International Legal Aid Group Meeting in Boston in June 2023, Professor Sherr observed that there is a movement in service delivery evident in many places recasting the idea of need to include vulnerability. The innovative work being done by the Mobile Rural Law Van in Wellington County and North Halton illustrates this development.

The greater attention to vulnerability is a is part of a wider re-focusing . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

True Access to Justice Means Effective and Consistent Access to Services

The search for legal information and assistance

The current design of our legal services delivery system makes Ontario’s access to justice crisis worse. Far too many Ontarians who cannot afford a lawyer struggle to find help from a disjointed cluster of private and public legal service providers. Rather than participating in an integrated intake and referral process that could direct people to the appropriate resource based on the type of problem they are experiencing, their eligibility, and the level of intervention they require, front-line agencies (struggling to keep-up with rising demand) waste thousands of precious hours each year interacting with . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Torts and Family Violence: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia

By: Jennifer Koshan and Deanne Sowter, cross-posted to

Case Commented On: Ahluwalia v Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303 (Can LII); 2023 ONCA 476 (CanLII)

Intimate partner violence (IPV) takes many forms, all of which cause harm to survivors (who are disproportionately women and children). In August, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada declared that gender-based violence is an epidemic. However, only certain forms of IPV were subject to legal sanction historically – primarily physical and sexual abuse, although sexual assault against a spouse was only criminalized in 1983 (see Criminal Code, RSC 1985, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

Unforgotten on the Day of the Disappeared: Missing Human Rights Advocates

On August 30th each year, the world is reminded that hundreds of thousands of people in at least 85 countries don’t know where their loved ones are, or even whether they are alive or dead. For the victims of enforced disappearance and their families, every day is the Day of the Disappeared.

The unrelenting uncertainty and anguish of not knowing the truth of what has happened to their family member is a recognized form of torture for both the disappeared and their families. The crime of enforced disappearance cuts off the disappeared from any access to legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Measuring Matters

Some forms of legal research routinely take place in the legal profession. For example, research into the facts of a dispute, prior rulings, relevant regulations, and precedent often informs legal strategy, and generally precedes the presentation of a case or position. Legal research databases that facilitate everyday access to primary and secondary sources of law are staples of today’s law libraries. Legal departments the world over invest—often heavily—in knowledge management systems and legal software expressly to aid in research and curating information. In these ways, and in these spaces, the legal profession embraces research as integral to accessing the law; . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Voices and Visions of the Future: What IPV Survivors Have to Say About the Ontario Court System

To be a victim is one thing. To be a survivor is quite another. In a world where violence against women and intimate partner violence (IPV) runs rampant and unabated, victims are everywhere, seen and unseen. But survivors — those who have endured, who continue to endure, who persevere against adversity — they are everywhere too. They too are unseen, their stories and lives hidden beneath the scars they carry and the pain in their hearts. Their voices, their words, and their lives have informed everything I am about to tell you. These survivors are those who have survived intimate . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada Stakes Out Its Bid for Election to the UN Human Rights Council

Canada has announced its candidacy for a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council to begin in 2028. According to Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly, Canada wants to reaffirm its “leadership in championing human rights around the world” given that human rights are under attack globally.

When setting up the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, the UN General Assembly decided that all Council members would be required to live up to “the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.” Canada has a vaunted international reputation for human rights, but closer examination reveals . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

How Well Is Chief Justice Morawetz Overseeing Ontario Superior Court Operations?

As Chief Justice Morawetz enters his 5th year as head of the Ontario Superior Court, it is both appropriate and necessary (given the court’s acknowledged culture of complacency) to ask “how well is he overseeing court operations?” Answering this question with the tools and data presently available is challenging, as Ontario lacks a history of accountability (or transparency) from either the judiciary or the court itself. Yet as the old truism goes, “you can’t improve what you don’t measure.”

i) The Role and Importance of the Superior Court

Canada’s system of parliamentary democracy has three branches, . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Technology Is Changing, and So Should Our Approach to the Self-Representation Problem: Artificial Intelligence for SRLs

By David Lundgren, University of Toronto student Researcher in partnership with the NSRLP

In Canada, self-represented litigants (SRLs) are generally disadvantaged from the onset of their case and throughout the legal process. Litigants are often driven to self-representation by financial constraints or a lack of available resources. Cultural and linguistic barriers, mistrust of the justice system, and negative socioeconomic factors also influence their decision to self-represent. These considerations manifest negatively in SRL experiences and persist throughout cases. In court, self-represented litigants tend to fare worse; they are misperceived as vexatious and misinformed, or simply made to feel they do not . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Sustainability, It’s Not Just About Money: Reflections on Sustainability From the Rural Mobile Law Van

The rural mobile law van began operating in rural Wellington County, Ontario in the summer of 2019 and is now at the mid-point of a three-year extension from 2021 to 2024 in Wellington County and in adjacent Halton Region.[1] Several articles about this project have been published on The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) web site and on Slaw. This article discusses the sustainability of the Law Van project.[2]

When people think about the sustainability of a legal services project they tend to think first in terms of financial sustainability. Does it cost more than the amount . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Letter From the Daughter of an Over-Stimulated Immigrant

“What does it say? I don’t understand”. Children of immigrants are no stranger to this expression. Especially in circumstances where their parents are scrunching their foreheads to understand legal documents laced with technical complexities. Often, these children are the primary point of contact between their parents and professionals, which ultimately makes them responsible for translating and relaying technical information on behalf of their parents who lack native fluency. It is not uncommon to hear of children as early as six years old reading and translating demand letters, financial statements and court documents for their parents who do not understand the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Law Student Week, Practice of Law