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Access to Justice Blog

Analysis and opinions from the leading voices in access to justice research.

Kimberley Byers, CFCJ Student Researcher
Jun 24, 2014

The problems associated with a lack of access to justice are a serious concern here in Canada. These concerns have been deftly captured in two recent national reports – one from the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters and one from the Canadian Bar Association – and several recent studies,[1] and research projects.[2] These issues, however, are not unique to Canada. This spring, the Australia Productivity Commission – an independent research and advisory body of the Australia Government - released the Access to Justice Arrangements: Draft Report, which details the access to justice issues facing those in the land down under. 

The Draft Report is the first product of an in-depth 15-month inquiry into... Read More

Issue of the Month
by Hannah DeJong, CFCJ Student Researcher
May 29, 2014

Access to justice for children is emerging as a distinct sub-topic under the larger umbrella of child and youth rights. Kids are dragged into the justice system by custody battles, sexual or other abuse, exploitation, foster care, educational rights violations, or offending. It is important to understand that children who enter the justice system through committing an offence are just as vulnerable as children who enter the justice system without offending — and both should be given equal access to justice and safeguarding of their rights.

What is access to justice for children? The UN is careful to distinguish this issue from the related issue of juvenile justice, which is primarily concerned with penalizing minor offenders differently than adults. Access to justice for children means that violations of rights in national and international standards such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child must be resolved in a just and timely manner [1]. It also requires the “legal empowerment of all children”, where children have access to the information and services they need in order to claim their rights, through sources such as knowledgeable... Read More

Ab Currie, PhD, Senior Research Fellow, CFCJ
Apr 28, 2014

A recent article in the Toronto Star [1] reported on three law offices that have recently been opened in Walmart stores in the Toronto Area. These law offices, called “Access Law”, concentrate on transactional matters such as wills, real estate, powers of attorney and notary services. Complex legal matters are referred to other firms, although plans are in place to add uncontested divorces in the future. This is a welcome development — let’s call it an experiment at this point — in the provision of low cost and accessible legal services. Progressive thinking about how the public experiences legal problems and how to expand legal services to Canadians [2] encourage us to view legal issues as arising from the normal activities of everyday life, not only as the complex legal problems that must be settled in the courts. This view of legal problems as part of everyday life encourages people to seek advice and to deal with legal issues early, in a preventative way, thus avoiding costs and additional legal problems later on. It is, as is often said, better to build an inexpensive fence at the top of the cliff than to place a costly... Read More

John-Paul Boyd
Mar 28, 2014

I have had the good fortune of being involved in a number of groups and initiatives aimed at improving access to justice and reforming family law processes over the last few years – from pro bono advice clinics and rosters, to public legal information websites and Wikibooks, to the reconstruction of court rules and legislation – and have recently become plagued by the feeling we’re getting something wrong, that there’s something more fundamental at play I’m overlooking. Partly this stems from the observation in Beyond Wise Words that despite the innovations and overhauls to date, “reports and inquiries continue to call for further reform, saying that the changes to date, while welcome, are simply not enough.” Partly it comes from a concern that the main thrust of our service delivery just might be targeted at the wrong point in people’s interactions with the justice system, that perhaps we are shutting the barn door a bit too late.

At present, the bulk of public services are delivered at one of three points in people’s involvement with the law: general public legal information delivered through seminars, workshops and pamphlets to people who are idly grazing for legal... Read More

Colin Lachance, President and CEO, The Canadian Legal Information Institute
Mar 16, 2014

Many Canadians now search online for information when they have a legal problem.  Because of this, organizations facilitating access to civil justice have recognized the value of having a website, especially because it is cost-effective.  But how much attention are website viewers paying to content? Does good quality content matter?

It is well known that promotion of a website requires an active social media presence.  Without a social media presence on networks such as Facebook and Twitter, fewer people will know about, let alone access, the organization’s website.  CanLII is a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. CanLII's goal is to make Canadian law accessible for free on the Internet. This website provides access to nearly 1.3 million court judgments, tribunal decisions, statutes and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions.  Based on an analysis of social media engagement with CanLII, I have tried to better understand the three-fold relationship between visiting... Read More