Access to Justice Blog
Analysis and opinions from the leading voices in access to justice research.
In December 2008, the Law Foundation of Ontario tasked Karen Cohl and George Thomson with the responsibility of finding durable solutions for individuals facing linguistic and rural barriers to accessing justice. In response to their findings, a pilot project funded by the Law Foundation and Connecting Ottawa was born. I had the opportunity to intern with the organization this past winter. Having always thought of myself as a social justice law student, I naturally gravitated towards Connecting Ottawa for its simple but powerful mandate: to break down all linguistic barriers to accessing justice.
Armed with a firm (and somewhat naive) resolve to combat social injustice, I arrived to my first day of training with Natalie Drolet, senior counsel in charge of the day-to-day operations for the project. I quickly discovered that my idea of social justice needed revamping. I had always thought of access to justice issues as being purely legal problems, to be solved by lawyers and law-makers alone. Connecting Ottawa changed my perception of this by introducing me to one of the most powerful access to justice tools: collaboration between legal and non-legal service... Read More
In an effort to overcome the realties of unmet legal needs in South Western Ontario, the Halton Community Legal Services (HCLS) has created the Legal Health Check-Up project. Primarily funded by Legal Aid Ontario’s Fund to Strengthen Capacity of Community and Legal Clinics, this initiative maintains that the key to effective resolution of legal problems lies in early and holistic intervention.
The Legal Health Check-Up project combines two main components. The first is a series of partnerships between intermediaries and the clinic which are facilitated by HCLS standing within Ontario’s community clinic system. The second element is a tool to assist the intermediaries in carrying out two “gateway” roles of problem spotting and making legal referrals. This component is crucial given that people often do not recognize the legal aspects of the problems they face in their day-to-day lives. They typically do not know where to go for help and do not think anything can be done. Consequently, many people will not seek help until the... Read More
Reforming the Family Justice System
The Reforming the Family Justice System initiative is a collaboration between government, the Courts, and a number of organizations, academics and professionals that work within the family justice system in Alberta. The initiative is founded on the reports of the Family Working Group and the Prevention, Triage and Referral Working Group of the national Action Committee on Access to Justice and aligns with the six guiding principles of the Action Committee:
- put the public first;
- collaborate and coordinate;
- prevent and educate;
- simplify, make coherent, proportional and sustainable;
- take action;
- focus on outcomes.
The first objective of the initiative is to improve awareness, coordination and availability of a wide range of services that support children and families, including information resources, legal resources, related health and social services, prevention assistance and resolution services. In April and May 2014, two workshops were held in Edmonton, bringing together key representatives from ten sectors... Read More
In January, the Action Committee held a two day Colloquium with a cross-section of stakeholders in the access to justice community. This meeting provided a platform from which to transform key access to justice recommendations into actionable strategies. The Colloquium featured breakout groups and keynote speakers that engaged both the innovation and institutional and structural goals identified in the Final Report - A Roadmap for Change. Seeking to capture the collaborative discussions and related recommendations that emerged at this meeting, the Action Committee released the Colloquium Report in June. Functioning as a guide and idea bank, the Colloquium Report offers readers strategies for implementation, examples of “best practices”, and insights into the multiplicity of initiatives currently being piloted by access to justice stakeholders across Canada.
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, and research projects. 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