Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Justice Issues’ Columns

We Have Lost the Self-Regulation Argument: With or Without Us, the Public Is Moving On

My inbox fills up each day with messages from members of the public (NSRLP has an active public email, answered by dedicated NSRLP research assistants, but many SRLs write me directly).

It is still not well understood that the vast majority of SRLs are still looking for and extremely desirous of legal help. In my 2013 study, this figure was 86%. Similar results are reported by studies in the US, England and Wales, Australia, New Zealand, and Northern Ireland. All these studies also found that by far the most significant reason for self-representation is . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Discovering the Power of Social Media in the Guelph WellCoMs Mobile Legal Service Project

The Legal Clinic of Guelph and Wellington County has just completed what appears, based on a preliminary analysis of the data, to have been a highly successful pilot project to expand legal aid services to rural Wellington County in Southwestern Ontario. The project is being funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario. The project involved using a van to provide outreach services to 12 small communities spread throughout the 2,657 square kilometers of the county, visiting each community 10 or more times on a regular schedule between May and October. The van, staffed by two outreach workers, would park . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Supporting Community Justice Help and Advancing Access to Justice

The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) has collaborated with Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) on a number of initiatives to help develop awareness and implement programs that reflect community-specific needs. Julie Mathews, the recipient of the Law Foundation of Ontario’s fellowship grant, will be presenting her research during Ontario’s Access to Justice Week with Professor David Wiseman at the uOttawa Faculty of Law who is supporting this research. Offering us a sneak peek, Julie shares her thoughts and findings on the community justice help below.

The importance of drawing a clear line between giving legal information and legal . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Ontario’s Fourth Annual Access to Justice Week Begins on Monday, October 28

Ontarians across the province require access to justice in different ways. Extraordinary developments in technology, access to legal information and the diverse society we live in all demand that we be open to changes in how communities engage with the justice system and exercise their rights.

While lawyers and paralegals play a critical role, they are not alone in facilitating access to justice. Professionals, academics, community workers, support staff and the public all play important roles in the system. Together, these justice stakeholders can create a more coordinated and collaborative approach to address challenges relating to access to justice.

From . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Celebrating 30 Years of Environmental Legal Aid in BC

When concerned individuals, community groups and First Nations are seeking justice on behalf of the environment, they need someone to turn to. That’s where programs like West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (EDRF) come in – ensuring that people in BC have access to affordable legal services to address environmental issues in the public interest.

The EDRF program, which is funded by The Law Foundation of British Columbia, is unique in British Columbia and one of the very few of its kind in Canada. This year, as the EDRF celebrates its 30th anniversary, we’re reflecting on our . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

The Federal Election and Stakeholder Culture

Elections remind us that in a democracy, voters are “stakeholders” who can evaluate the potential of government platforms.

We might not share or even understand other people’s use of their vote in an election, but we all appreciate that it is a legitimate right and a critical part of being Canadian. The right to vote is a value that supersedes how any one individual might use their vote, as non-partisan voter registration organizations have recognized.

We are committed to the idea that we are all stakeholders in governance, whether we might disagree about how an individual vote is used, or . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

#LegalAidMatters – What Are You Going to Do About It?

In a pro bono clinic that I started in Saint John, N.B., I came across Robert. Robert had worked in a flooring warehouse for eight years, and to his surprise, was suddenly fired, out the door with two weeks’ severance pay. He was worried he’d lose his apartment because that wasn’t enough to cover his expenses while he found another job, but he couldn’t afford a lawyer to find out about his rights. Robert came to the clinic and learned that he was entitled to quite a bit more, which we were able to easily get for him because the . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Legal Aid Expenditures Over Time in Canada: A Complex Story

Although legal aid funding remains a challenge, and in many jurisdictions is under threat, a global interest in access to justice has gained momentum in recent years. In part, this interest is built around United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 with the involvement of new and influential players in access to justice such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies. Some countries in which legal aid is a recent development have introduced national legal aid legislation and are making progress toward national systems. On . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

What the Law Society Should Be Doing: Standing Up to Tyranny

In the Law Times article “Diversity and inclusion fundamental to the OBA” (July 3, 2019), Law Society of Ontario Treasurer Malcolm Mercer said that the Statement of Principles “genuinely divides” people in the profession. The statement suggests that the legal and paralegal professions, numbering over 52,000 lawyers and 9000 paralegals, are aboil with conflict over the Statement. In fact, in 2017, the first year the Statement was required, Law Society statistics (evidence) show that 98% of lawyer members indicated in their annual reports that they have such a statement. The Ontario Bar Association, comprising more than 10,000 members, supports it. . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Practice of Law

SNC-Lavalin Report Reveals Limitations of the Ethics Office

By all accounts, last week’s Ethics Commissioner Report on the SNC-Lavalin controversy was a bombshell, condemning as it did Mr. Trudeau’s improper attempts to infringe the prosecutorial independence of the Attorney-General’s office.

But other than revealing the extraordinary access of SNC-Lavalin to the highest ranks of government and the magnitude of the combined efforts to obtain a deferred prosecution agreement that would dismiss foreign corruption charges against the company, we learned very little we did not know before.

Indeed, the most striking part of Mr. Dion’s report is that he was denied access to important information that would bring all . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues, Legal Ethics

Canada’s New Impact Assessment Act Is Only as Good as the Extent to Which It Will Apply

In June, the federal government passed Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Along with its companion Bill C-68, C-69 seeks to make good on a number of federal government commitments to restore lost protections and introduce modern safeguards under the Fisheries Act and Navigation Protection Act, modernize the National Energy Board, and restore credibility and public trust in federal environmental assessments.

However, regulations proposed under the new Impact Assessment Act . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues

Fixing a Problem That We Don’t Fully Understand

Evidence-based research in law is necessary. Without it we rely on assumptions and anecdotes which, however practical or logical they may seem, can lead to egregious and unanticipated outcomes. At best, this might mean misunderstandings about the effectiveness of legal services; at worst the result could be misspent resources that make legal services even more inaccessible than they are now. Take the following as an example. One of the main arguments in favor of expanding the types of legal services that paralegals are authorized to provide is the lower cost of paralegal services relative to the cost of legal services . . . [more]

Posted in: Justice Issues