Access to Justice Blog
Analysis and opinions from the leading voices in access to justice research.
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 . 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
A recent article in the Toronto Star  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  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
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
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
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