Access to Justice

Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

The seventh meeting of the Dean’s Forum on Dispute Resolution and Access to Justice (the Dean’s Forum) was held on March 13, 2019. The Dean’s Forum is an initiative that engages justice community stakeholders in Saskatchewan, including the Law Society, in a dialogue about access to justice and the future of the justice system.

The associated Dean’s Forum course, unique to the College of Law, offers law students a rare experiential learning opportunity to contribute to justice policy alongside these stakeholders, who are leading members of the legal profession.

Students presented on and forum participants addressed two topics: “Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession” and “Meeting Saskatchewan’s Justice Needs with Technology”.

  1. Diversity and Inclusion in the Legal Profession

Participants were divided into groups to engage in a breakout session focused on diversity and inclusion at private law firms in Saskatchewan The common themes that emerged from discussion included:

  • the role of education for law students and lawyers on themes including bias, leadership, and cultural competence;
  • that diversity and inclusion must be seen as core components of professionalism;
  • that leaders must create an environment in which people are safe and can flourish;
  • the importance of having support groups that are championed by the leadership of the organization;
  • that baseline data is necessary to estimate where the legal profession in Saskatchewan is headed; and
  • that celebrating positive steps taken by organizations and individuals is an important way to build momentum moving forward.

In response to these themes, the students created a syllabus on diversity and inclusion containing modules which could be extracted and incorporated into law courses, as well as educational sessions for lawyers. Here are the reports:

  1. Meeting Saskatchewan’s Justice Needs With Technology

This session was structured so that the Dean’s Forum attendees were part of a hypothetical ‘think tank’, tasked with ideating how to use technology to improve the legal empowerment of the public. The attendees were introduced to the ‘think tank’ by being asked to consider how to strengthen the public’s access to credible and centralized legal information online in a matter that would improve the public’s capacity to exercise their legal rights and responsibilities. The think tank was asked to identify any ‘pain points’ that a user might experience in trying to resolve their legal issue. Following this breakout session, the think tank once again broke out into groups to develop solutions or “ideate” surrounding these pain points. The below follow-up report outlines the important insights drawn from the discussions. The think tank found that it is in the public interest that the legal community embrace technology and in order for the legal community to do this effectively, the community needs to adopt a “start-up” mentality. This involves embracing the client-centred approach to creative problem solving and empathizing with the client. For more information, read these reports:

Congratulations to the Dean’s Forum for being this year’s recipient of the Provost’s Prize for Collaborative Teaching & Learning!

For more information, please visit the Dean’s Forum webpage.

Saskatchewan Legal Coaching and Unbundling Services Pilot Project

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As we posted on February 27, 2019, a small Working Group has been established in Saskatchewan to support, enhance, and advance legal coaching and the use of limited scope retainers through the “Saskatchewan Legal Coaching and Unbundled Services Pilot Project”. The purpose of the project is to support, enhance, and advance legal coaching and the use of limited scope retainers. The Working Group intends to engage in a number of actions to advance this topic in Saskatchewan, such as posting a list of lawyers who are interested in engaging in legal coaching and unbundling to improve the public’s access to such services, continuing to deliver Continuing Professional Development seminars for lawyers on the topic, developing related practice resources, and evaluating, reporting, and conducting research related to the project. A webpage has been developed devoted to practice resources for lawyers and information for the public about unbundled services and legal coaching.

Saskatchewan lawyers – we are interested in hearing from you. We invite you to contact us to express your interest in the following.

  1. If you would like your name added to the public list as a lawyer who offers unbundled services and/or legal coaching, please email Kim Newsham, Crown Counsel, Family Justice Services Branch, Ministry of Justice and Attorney General at
  2. If you are a lawyer interested in helping “Saskatchewanize” unbundling practice resources, please email Melanie Hodges Neufeld at
  3. SAVE THE DATE: A one-day legal coaching workshop will be held in each of Saskatoon and Regina during the October 2019 Saskatchewan Access to Justice week. If you would like to be notified about new practice resources and training events related to unbundled services and legal coaching as they become available, please email Kim Newsham at

SALI Project – Detecting Legal Problems Videos

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

The Law Society is a proud partner of the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI) and launched a public campaign for this project in October 2018. The objective of the SALI Project is to increase access to legal information for Saskatchewan residents through collaboration between justice stakeholders and trusted intermediaries –  we have focused on partnering with library stakeholders.

By way of background, the SALI Project partners hosted a conference on October 20-21, 2017, during the Second Annual Saskatchewan Access to Justice Week. The primary purpose for the event was to bring together a large number of public library representatives from rural, remote, and small urban centres in Saskatchewan as well as experts in the topic area, to further address how greater access to legal information can be achieved through partnering with libraries.

Since October 2017, the project partners have been collaborating to implement the ideas for next steps that were identified during the conference. Some of the next steps have involved collaborating to establish a “Detecting Legal Problems” webinar and resources that were distributed to all public library staff, a data collection project, and an advertising campaign, to make the public more aware of public libraries as an ‘access to justice entry point’ (i.e. an accessible place to find legal information).

Part of the public campaign includes videos on detecting legal issues regarding consumer law, power of attorney and guardianship, and family law.  Please see our website for more information.

Family Law Self-Help Kits

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The Family Law Information Centre of the Ministry of Justice has prepared Self-Help Kits containing a package of court forms and instructions to assist you with family matters. The kits are used by parties who intend to represent themselves in court on several different types of proceedings. Please see their website to access the kits and for more information.

CREATE Justice Bulletin: March 2019

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From Centre for Research, Evaluation, and Action Towards Equal Justice (CREATE Justice)

“The Most Significant Access to Justice Gathering in a Decade”.

Saskatchewan legal information project aims to increase access to justice using public libraries.

Empirical tool on Legal Needs Surveys and Access to Justice intends to advance understanding of people’s everyday legal problems and experience with the justice system.

B.C. turning to online tribunal to deal with some vehicle accident claims.

Free help with wills and estates.

Free help with family law problems.

NEW – Free help with family law problems in Prince Albert.

ADR Institute of Saskatchewan sponsoring an Introductory Mediation training from April 22–26.

Spotlight on Inmates Panel Program, providing legal advice and representation to inmates facing institutional legal issues.

UsaskLaw student Shelby Fitzgerald partners with CREATE Justice to promote dialogue on Access to Justice crisis by asking students and faculty “Why do we need Access to Justice?”.

Applications for CBA Young Lawyers International Program, serving justice needs of marginalized communities, being accepted for 2019-2020 cycle until April 30.

CREATE Justice and the College of Law held Third Annual Research Poster Competition, promoting access to legal information and research.


FASD in the Justice System—Addressing Critical Issue in Canada

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By Dr. Michelle Stewart

Last week cases were heard in Manitoba’s new Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) court. A first of its kind in Canada, the court will work collaboratively with partners inside and outside the courts to better meet the needs of individuals with FASD. In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, Judge Mary Kate Harvie explained, “because FASD is often, not always… a hidden disability and is sometimes masked by other behaviour, it’s really critical for us to know whether or not that is a contributing factor to their offending behaviour and whether or not there are supports out there that might assist in ensuring they don’t get into trouble again.”

FASD is a complex and lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD are understood to have negative contact with the justice system for a number of reasons not least of which can be a lack of connection to appropriate community supports and services. Specialized dockets including the Mental Health Disposition Courts in Regina and Saskatoon Mental Health Strategy also dedicate special attention to the unique needs of these individuals.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada addressed the issue of FASD being over-represented in the justice system in TRC Call to Action #34 which includes the following:

We call upon the governments of Canada, the provinces, and territories to undertake reforms to the criminal justice system to better address the needs of offenders with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), including:

Providing increased community resources and powers for courts to ensure that FASD is properly diagnosed, and that appropriate community supports are in place for those with FASD.

The recently opened FASD Court in Manitoba (and other dedicated dockets that take time to work with clients that have FASD) speaks to the Call to Action by offering a tangible alternative justice practice that seeks to “better address the needs of offenders” while also seeking to find more “appropriate community supports” for those with FASD.

In Fall 2018 a Framework for Action focus on TRC Call #34 released 12 actionable items for frontline justice professionals including the need for further education on FASD as well as expanding alternative and therapeutic justice practices. As supports and services expand in the courtrooms to meet the needs of those with FASD, there remains the ongoing challenge to offer support and education to frontline justice professionals who are delivering services to clients with complex needs.

Last month an international training was held for frontline justice professionals focused on FASD that featured Saskatchewan’s own Judge Clifford Toth who discussed the inception and outcomes of Regina’s Mental Health Disposition Court. While not focused exclusively on FASD, these types of therapeutic and alternative justice practices are critical in changing current practices to better address the needs of those with FASD. Included in the presentations was information about the need to modify practices to address the complex needs of clients that can range from physical impairments to sensory and processing challenges. The following quick tips were shared at the conference:

  1. Use clear and concise language.
  2. Offer instructions one step at a time.
  3. Check for understanding and don’t assume understanding.
  4. Use all forms of reminders that are available (electronic, phone calls, notes etc.).
  5. Identify and work closely with mentors if they are available.
  6. With sensory processing issues, change the space to meet the needs of the person.
  7. Routine is critical.
  8. Relationships can be challenging to develop so foster and nurture them.
  9. Supports inside and outside the court are important.
  10. If you think someone has FASD, modifying your practices to meet their needs is a good idea.

For more information about FASD visit: and for information for justice professionals visit:

CREATE Justice Bulletin — February 2019

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From Centre for Research, Evaluation, and Action Towards Equal Justice (CREATE Justice)

Declaration on Equal Access to Justice for All by 2030 made by Ministers and high-level representatives from countries and international organizations during meeting in the Hague on February 7.

CLASSIC Karaoke and Lip Sync Battle 2019 on March 1.

Register in one or all of the three remaining one-hour access to justice National Action Committee on Access to Justice Pop-Up Community of Practice teleconferences.

Regina library fair connects people with free legal resources.

Family justice in Canada is at a breaking point.

Recognizing trusted intermediaries as a systematic part of the legal system.

Pro bono law clinics for French speaking clients now offered by Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan and the Centre d’information juridique de la Saskatchewan. For more information, call 1-855-924-8543 or visit their website.

New Access to Justice and Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia aims to ‘put the public first’.

ADR Institute of Saskatchewan sponsoring an Introductory Mediation training from April 22–26.

Saskatchewan’s first Cree-speaking judge reflects on legacy of Cree court as he retires.

Stay up-to-date with the National Action Committee on Access to Justice, chaired by the Honourable Beverley McLachlin, by subscribing for committee newsletter.

Law Society Initiatives: Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information.

AI at heart of Microsoft’s Legal Navigator complete, will connect people with legal resources.