Access to Justice Blog
Analysis and opinions from the leading voices in access to justice research.
As the National Magazine noted in a recently published article: when it comes to increasing access to justice, providing people with information is only the beginning. The article quoted Sarah McCoubrey, director of the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), who said that subjective belief in the fairness of the system and faith in its problem-solving capacity is foundational to achieving access to justice. This may seem like a commonsensical, perhaps even an unremarkable, observation, but it’s worth pausing to consider what broader implications it carries for the way those in the legal profession understand access to justice.
Much innovative and groundbreaking work is being done on increasing the average Canadian’s ability to access the justice system. Indeed, the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice is proud to be part of a vibrant community of researchers who are committed to finding new ways of facilitating access to justice and removing some of the many barriers that impede this process. However, as encouraging as such research is, it also throws into sharp relief... Read More
A recent and exciting justice innovation in Canada is the creation of the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution. The Winkler Institute has an action-oriented three pillar mandate in the areas of teaching and learning, research and innovation and pilots and projects. Along with the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice and Osgoode Hall Law School, we are involved in a number of exciting Canadian projects, including the:
- Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters;
- Canadian Bar Association’s Reaching Equal Justice project;
- CFCJ’s Costs of Justice project; and
- Winkler Institute’s Law Foundation of Ontario-funded process needs assessment.
These are important law development and justice innovation initiatives in Canada – a country entering a new era of collaborative justice innovation and... Read More
How does access to justice play a role in eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development in the global south? How can countries address access to justice issues, and how should they prioritize them? Should access to justice be adopted as a new Millennium Development Goal (MDG) post-2015?
These questions and others concerning the access to justice and the rule of law in developing countries will form part of the discussion at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) high-level summit on the MDGs in 2015. A bit of background: The MDGs were adopted in 2000 by world leaders as a part of the United Nations Millennium Declaration which had the intent to significantly reduce in global poverty by 2015. A list of the eight goals and their indicators can be found here.
While significant progress has been made towards reaching these goals, there is still much that needs to be done to meet the remaining targets. In 2013, UN world leaders met to renew a commitment to the MDGs; they agreeed to decide on a new set of goals in 2015, when the current goals expire. This presents the perfect opportunity to address... Read More
Family courts are at the epicentre of Canada's access to justice problem. Every weekday over 700 new separation-related cases commence in this country.  These cases involve Canadians from all walks of life. Disputes over child custody and access and child support obligations are especially common, and they can have profound impacts on separating adults and on their children.
The cost of justice is often very high for separating families. The minority who have the benefit of counsel often confront five-figure legal bills.  Self-represented parties, who are now the majority of family court users, often struggle to navigate a system that is often perplexing and sometimes hostile. 
The increasing prevalence of self-representation and continued public sector austerity are forcing governments to rethink the family justice system.  Recently, the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts asked and... Read More
There is plenty of research evidence of the significant intangible costs of the lack of access to justice. Every legal problems study examining the issue has shown that physical health problems and stress-related illness are common consequences of experiencing legal problems. The Canadian research shows that about 23% of respondents with at least one justiciable problem experienced a physical health problem as a result of the legal problem or problems and 37% experienced a stress-related health problem. Further, 62% of respondents said that the problem was somewhat to extremely disruptive to their daily lives. The stress these problems cause may have consequences that are magnified far beyond the difficulties in dealing with a particular legal issue.
A recent book on the dynamics sustaining poverty by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shaffir argues that the stress involved in coping with money problems has a significant and debilitating effect that... Read More