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Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

Giving Peace a Chance: Pushing Back on a Chilling Russian Censorship Law

Russia is using the law as a weapon against its own citizens to silence all criticism of its unlawful war of aggression against Ukraine. International attention has been focused on Russia’s high-profile criminal prosecutions of independent journalists and opposition politicians. Comparatively little attention is being paid to thousands of dissenters punished with hefty fines under a new censorship law that forbids the “discrediting” of Russia’s armed forces.

One Russian human rights organization, OVD-Info, is pushing back against the law by facilitating the submission of a battery of complaints to the Russian Constitutional Court. The complainants argue that the law against . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Canada Made a Splash With Legal and Policy Announcements at Marine Protected Areas Congress

Recently, delegates from around the world visited xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations’ territory in Vancouver to attend the fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress (“IMPAC5”). Three thousand attendees took part in the week-long event after it was postponed for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada is committed to protecting 30% of land and ocean by 2030 (known as “30 by 30”) – a goal reaffirmed through the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity Agreement, which Canada signed in December 2022. Currently though, only about 14% of marine areas have been protected under Canadian law. To meet that goal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Teaching Access to Justice: Some Early Initiatives

The world of legal services is changing. Whether everyone is onboard or not, it is no longer possible to deny the need for non-traditional delivery of services; a different attitude toward clients and justice-system users more broadly is needed.

Given the reality that the vast majority of litigants are no longer able to afford traditional services, there is a growing expectation that clients will be able to access alternative, lower-cost services. As well, changing social norms about the relationships between clients and service providers means that the public expects more collaboration, more respect for their knowledge, skills, and experience, and . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Don’t Just Change the Rules, Change the Game: The Rules Overhaul and Ontario’s Legal Ecosystem

It has been nearly six months since Chief Justice Morawetz called for an overhaul to Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure. One hopes that the delay in starting the process means that change will be more fundamental than a simple rewriting of the Rules. As I wrote shortly after the Chief Justice’s speech at the opening of the courts in October 2022, tinkering with the Rules will not address the access to justice crisis that has been staring us in the face for decades.

Since the changes to the Rules in 2010, cost and delay have simply increased. The principle . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

Tribunal Rules in Plain Language…Why Bother?

A user-centred tribunal process is a necessary condition of improved access to justice. But it is not a sufficient one. You also need the process codified in rules that ordinary people can understand.

Tribunal rules of procedure are meant to guide users through the process the tribunal has designed to resolve the disputes before it. If the tribunal has an adjudicative mandate, then the dispute often involves two parties, and the process is usually adversarial.

The conventional approach does not work for users

Although they are intended to guide users, the rules are not typically written for the parties involved . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

The Disappeared: Indigenous Peoples and the International Crime of Enforced Disappearance

Disproportionate violence against Indigenous persons in Canada includes uncounted disappearances of Indigenous children, women, and men. Canada’s decades of failure to prevent and halt disappearances forms part of a long litany of grave international human rights violations against Indigenous Peoples. Continued reports of officially hushed-up violence lead to increasingly clarion allegations of genocide.

An unknown number of children remain unaccounted for after going missing from Canada’s notorious “Indian Residential Schools.” Hundreds – possibly thousands – of Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit, and others with diverse gender identities (2SLGBTQQIA) have disappeared without adequate investigation. Police have forcibly taken Indigenous persons . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

A Brave New Virtual World?

In Access to Justice research, there is now a recognition that innovation and reform require input from a variety of stakeholders. This includes not only the justice system’s insiders, but its users as well. This acknowledgment has, in turn, shaped research initiatives aimed at tackling the crisis in Access to Justice. Essentially, to fix the problem, it is important to understand how the problem is experienced by actual users and what would help those experiencing the problem.

For a very long time, this was not the case. And while great strides have been made over the last several years among . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Raising the Stakes: Gitxaała Nation’s Legal Challenge Catalyzes Momentum for Mineral Tenure Reform in BC

Between 2018 and 2020, the Province of British Columbia granted multiple mineral claims on Banks Island, in the heart of Gitxaała Nation’s territory, without consulting Gitxaała. Under BC’s current Mineral Tenure Act, virtually anyone can become a “free miner” and acquire mineral rights online for a nominal fee through an automated system – with no requirement for Indigenous consultation or consent, or even notification.

The problematic practice of granting mineral tenures without consent is not new. In fact, it’s very old – with roots that date back to the Gold Rush era in BC, when colonial laws were first . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Serving the Needs of the Many

The primary objective of the Mobile Rural Law Van has been to expand service in underserved rural areas, first to rural Wellington County in the summer 2019 pilot project and then, in the second three-year phase of the project from 2021 to 2024, to Wellington County and to the adjacent North Halton area as well. The mobile summer Law Van operates between May and the end of October. During the fall and winter when Canadian weather becomes too inclement for an outdoor service the winter “law van” moves to various indoor venues in the same towns where the mobile Law . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Are Vital for Biodiversity, and Much More

From December 7-19, the 15th meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP15) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was held in Montreal. Among the discussions abuzz was how Canada, and the over 100 other nations who formally supported the call to protect 30% of the world’s lands and oceans by 2030 in order to prevent catastrophic biodiversity loss, would make this happen.

Canada has not only supported this call, but has pledged to meet this target in the G7 Nature Compact. Having the second largest land mass in the world, Canada has a large role to play . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Dollars and ‘Sense’: Accessibility and Affordability in Community-Based Justice

The annual World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index provides independent global insights on factors considered fundamental to the concept of the rule of law. It includes eight factors, which are each assessed based on four or more sub-factors. Factor 7, Civil Justice includes 7 sub-factors of which accessibility and affordability tops the list as sub-factor 7.1. In evaluating accessibility and affordability, the WJP measures people’s ability to afford legal advice and representation, access courts, and whether pathways to civil legal resolution are impeded by excessive fees, unreasonable delays, physical obstacles, language barriers or procedural hurdles.[1] The accessibility . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

School for Family Litigants Proves SRLs Desperate for Information and Support

Here at the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, we have spent the past 10 years trying (along with our other research and advocacy work) to provide support and information to litigants who find themselves self-representing in the family and civil justice systems. We have, among other efforts, published a growing collection of “Primers” (plain language guides) for self-represented litigants (SRLs), compiled a list of other organizations and resources that might be helpful to them, and maintained a Directory of lawyers (and other legal service providers) who offer lower-cost and alternative options such as unbundling and coaching. But for a long time . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues