2016 Law Day: Legal Services and Access to Justice

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LawDayLogoBy Kelly Laycock

In October 2013 the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters published their report entitled Access to Civil & Family Justice: A Roadmap for Change. The Executive Summary begins:

There is a serious access to justice problem in Canada. The civil and family justice system is too complex, too slow and too expensive. It is too often incapable of producing just outcomes that are proportional to the problems brought to it or reflective of the needs of the people it is meant to serve. While there are many dedicated people trying hard to make it work and there have been many reform efforts, the system continues to lack coherent leadership, institutional structures that can design and implement change, and appropriate coordination to ensure consistent and cost effective reform. Major change is needed.

The report offers itself up as an agent for change in the form of a roadmap for a more collaborative and coordinated national voice advocating for a shift in the culture of the current system, which, it says, is unsustainable. It suggests six guiding principles for change: 1) Put the Public First; 2) Collaborate and Coordinate; 3) Prevent and Educate; 4) Simplify, Make Coherent, Proportional and Sustainable; 5) Take Action; and 6) Focus on Outcomes. The report goes on to suggest ways to bridge the implementation gap between ideas and action.

Justice Cromwell wrote the introduction for the report, where he says that the structure of the system needs urgent attention. “The goal should be nothing less than to make our system of civil and family justice the most just and accessible in the world.” He hoped that the report would provide the impetus for meaningful change.

Since the publication of the paper, Justice Cromwell has travelled the country discussing the six principles for reform outlined above, including his keynote talk at the National Pro Bono Conference in Regina on September 24, 2014. He is back in Regina on April 6, 2016, for the Law Day Luncheon to further discuss access to legal services and the role of the profession in providing better service to more people.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016
11:30 am – 2:00 pm
Capitol Ballroom, Double Tree Hilton, 1975 Broad Street, Regina, SK

Tickets cost $40 (plus $2.00 GST) and are available for purchase online. Those interested in attending must purchase a ticket in advance of the event.

For more information on Access to Justice, here are a few resources:

Access to Justice Research Network (http://ajrn.org/) has a number of great resources about Access to Justice under a variety of categories, including provincial jurisdictions.

John-Paul Boyd, “The Rights and Responsibilities of Self-Represented Litigants” on Slaw, August 28, 2015: http://www.slaw.ca/2015/08/28/the-rights-and-responsibilities-of-self-represented-litigants-2/

Pro Bono Celia Chandler, “Access to justice crisis: 15 years too long to wait for solutions” on rabble.ca, March 26, 2015: http://rabble.ca/columnists/2015/03/access-to-justice-crisis-15-years-too-long-to-wait-solutions

Judge P.A. Demong and Jane Wootten, “Self-Represented Litigants: An Overview”, Continuing Professional Development, Law Society of Saskatchewan, November 28, 2013.

Self-Represented Litigation Network (http://www.srln.org/) has a Resources page with a topic called 100% Access to Justice. It is primarily American, but there is plenty of Canadian content, such as the SRLN Brief entitled Canadian Access to Justice Research.

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