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Access to Justice Blog

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

Issue of the Month
Hannah DeJong
Jan 24, 2014

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

Issue of the Month
Noel Semple, PhD
Dec 18, 2013

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. [1] 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. [2] 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. [3]

The increasing prevalence of self-representation and continued public sector austerity are forcing governments to rethink the family justice system. [4] Recently, the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts asked and... Read More

Ab Currie
Dec 06, 2013

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.[1] Further, 62% of respondents said that the problem was somewhat to extremely disruptive to their daily lives.[2]  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

Issue of the Month
David Wiseman
Nov 19, 2013

Amidst a generally perceived crisis in access to justice, increasing emphasis is being placed on the potential of paralegals to offer affordable, efficient and effective legal assistance to people with unmet legal needs. In other words, paralegals may provide a means for re-configuring the costs of justice and thereby improving access to justice. This case study aims to identify the role of paralegals in the Ontario residential tenancy dispute resolution system and to analyze their impact on the costs of justice and access to justice, especially for low-income tenants. The impetus for this study is a concern, anecdotally expressed by participants in the “Housing Justice Program”, that paralegals are playing an important role in improving access to justice, but more for landlords than for tenants. This concern suggests that paralegals can play a role in improving the general cost and accessibility of justice, but that those improvements may not be sufficient to produce access to justice for low-income tenants.

This study has two parts, one quantitative and the other qualitative. The... Read More

Jan Archbold, Legal Aid Alberta
Oct 29, 2013

Each year, Legal Aid Alberta hosts the Access to Justice Awards Gala to recognize individuals nominated by their peers for their significant contribution to the community, as well as reflect on the important role each of us plays within the realm of access to justice. 

“Remember, the concept of access to quality justice is not simply a function of finances and judicial delays.  Rather, it is about public confidence.  Above all, the survival of our democracy depends upon maintaining the credibility of the judiciary and the legal profession in the minds of litigants and the public at large.  Every citizen must feel that they are able to enforce their rights under fair and reasonable conditions.”  

- The Honourable Richard Wagner, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada,  Legal Aid Alberta Access to Justice Awards Gala, 2013.


One of the key reasons Legal Aid Alberta hosts the... Read More