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Canadian Judicial Council Statement of Principles on Self-represented Litigants and Accused Persons


Advisory principles for judges and the courts to promote access to justice for self-represented litigants.


Body Responsible:
Canadian Judicial Council

Canadian Judicial Council, Statement of principles on self-represented litigants and accused persons (Canadian Judicial Council, 2006).
Canadian Judicial Council 2006-2007 annual report: Access to justice – meeting the challenge = Rapport annuel 2006-2007 du Conseil canadien de la magistrature: L’accès à la justice – relever le défi (Canadian Judicial Council, 2007). [Annual Report]

The Canadian Judicial Council Administration of Justice Committee focused in 2006 on “ensuring that self-represented persons who appear in the court system have fair access and equal treatment in the courts.” (Annual Report at 4.)

After extensive work by the Committee, a statement of principles on self-represented persons was issued in December 2006. The Committee’s work began with a detailed examination of the issues facing self-represented persons in court. They concluded that self-represented persons are generally uninformed about their legal rights and about the consequences of the options they choose. They find court procedures complex, confusing, and intimidating and they generally do not have the knowledge to effectively participate in their own litigation (Annual Report at 4).

Description of Reforms:
The Statement is is advisory, and is not a code of conduct.

The principles expressed by the CJC include:

  • We must promote rights of access to justice for those who represent themselves. This means that all aspects of the court process must be open, simple, and accommodating. The court process should be supplemented by alternate dispute resolution procedures and self-help support.
  • We must promote equal justice. Judges and courts should do everything possible to prevent unfair disadvantage to self-represented persons.
  • Judges and court administrators have a responsibility to meet the needs of self-represented litigants for simple information and referrals.
  • Self-represented litigants are expected to prepare their own case and make themselves familiar with court practices and procedures. They must be respectful of the court process and its officials. Vexatious litigants cannot abuse the process.

In conjunction with the statement of principles, other helpful working tools were developed to help judges assist people who represent themselves in court. These tools provide:

  • information for judges about the needs of self-represented litigants;
  • case law and annotations on issues that have impacted on those representing themselves in court;
  • advice and suggested plain language words to explain legal procedures to self-represented litigants in family, civil, and criminal cases; and
  • references for local resources for self-represented litigants (Annual Report at 5).

Revision History:
This summary was last reviewed in Aug 10, 2012