The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice guides diverse stakeholders towards a civil justice system that is accessible, fair and efficient.
The civil justice system enables citizens to manage individual, non-criminal, legal disagreements. Examples of civil action include divorces, adoptions, claims for debt and damages arising from motor vehicle accidents. The issues that hinder the effectiveness of our civil justice system include delays and costs associated with civil court proceedings as well as a general lack of understanding amongst citizens about how to navigate the civil justice system.
In response, the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice engages diverse stakeholders from the public, courts, legal profession, academia and government in the development of evidence-based policies and effective programs that improve access to legal services and resources for Canadians.
Canadian Judicial Council Project on Self- Represented Litigants and Accused Persons
The Canadian Judicial Council Project on Self-Represented Litigants and Accused Persons assessed the nature and extent of challenges presented to trial and appeal courts across Canada by self-represented litigants and the unrepresented accused. This project prepared a set of practical resources for Canadian judges and, with their input, court administrators.
- Canadian Judicial Council Statement of Principles
- Annotated bibliography on self-represented litigants
Alberta Legal Services Mapping Project
To achieve access to justice for all Canadians, legal services must be delivered as part of a coordinated and holistic response to local social conditions and needs.
The Alberta Legal Services Mapping Project (ALSMP) was designed to gain a better understanding of what legal needs Albertans have, the extent to which these needs are currently being met and how access to legal services can be improved. The ALSMP created a province-wide “map” of legal services including information, education, legal advice, legal representation and/or other supports or assistance related to legal problems. Unmet service needs were engaged on two levels:
1) what can be done to enhance delivery of currently available services; and
2) what service gaps need to be filled and how this might be achieved.
Special attention is paid to the role a self-help centre or kiosk could play in achieving improved self-represented litigant services.
The research team for this project was made up of 20 senior representatives from governmental, non-profit and legal professional organizations. Funding was provided by the Alberta Law Foundation and Alberta Justice.
Alberta Self-Represented Litigants Access to Justice Mapping Project
The Alberta Self-Represented Litigants Access to Justice Mapping Project was designed to document the range of government and non-government services and supports currently available to self-represented litigants (SRLs) in Alberta. The mapping process revealed issues surrounding current service delivery, including gaps in present services and possible ways of bringing existing services more closely in-line with the needs of SRLs. This research was undertaken in collaboration with Alberta Justice and non-governmental organizations concerned with services related to access to justice.
Civil Justice System and the Public
The Civil Justice System and the Public research project was focused on improving communication within the civil justice system and between the civil justice system and the public. The research team was made up of leading academics and senior representatives involved in the administration of justice in Canada.
This project was funded by the Alberta Law Foundation and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
- Some Facts and Figures from the Civil Justice System and the Public
- Creating Collaborative Alliances for Change: A Dynamic Resource for the Justice Community
- Civil Justice System and the Public: Learning from Experiences to Find Practices that Work
- Balancing the Scales: Understanding Aboriginal Perspectives on Civil Justice
- Social, Economic and Health Problems Associated with a Lack of Access to the Courts
Developing Networks for Evidence Based Socio-Legal Research
There is a lack of socio-legal research capacity, both within Canada and internationally, especially in the many areas of non-criminal social research. In recognition of this need, the Law Foundation of British Columbia provided funding for a pilot project aimed at developing networks for evidence-based social research about systems of justice and related legal issues. Ultimately this project supported our Research in Action program by developing a national network of socio-legal researchers.
- Research Priorities and Potentials
- Research in Action: Report on the “Understanding Civil Justice in the Everyday World: Developing Networks for Evidence Based Socio-legal Research” Workshops
Mapping as a Research Tool
Emerging international research demonstrates that high economic and social costs accrue when individuals cannot access timely and effective resolutions to legal problems. Canadian research also shows that most people lack knowledge and understanding of legal rights, legal processes and services, and experience significant barriers when attempting to seek legal information and assistance. This project discusses how community-based mapping research can facilitate such engagement in compiling evidence that informs the development of legal processes and services that are more accessible, effective, efficient and fair.
- Community-Based Mapping: A Research Tool for Justice System Research
- Reaching out with Research: Engaging Community in Mapping Legal Service Accessibility, Effectiveness and Unmet Needs
Into the Future
Part I of the Into the Future Conference concentrated on the current state of Canada’s civil justice systems. Part II of the Conference led to consensus on the need for a national initiative to promote civil justice reform. Every jurisdiction in Canada was represented by lawyers, judges, government policy makers, politicians, legal service organizations and members of the public, in some combination at both parts of the conference.