Access to Justice
By Alan Kilpatrick
The rate of newcomers and immigrants settling in Saskatchewan has skyrocketed in recent years. The past decade saw more than 100,000 immigrants arrive in the province. Over ten percent of Saskatchewan’s population, according to the 2016 census, are immigrants.
Newcomers face a variety of unique challenges accessing legal information, understanding their rights, and making sense of Canadian law. According to this previous blog post on Legal Sourcery, Saskatchewan Chief Justice Richards identified these challenges and encouraged Saskatchewan’s Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) to create a legal information resource specifically for newcomers:
“Saskatchewan, like many other parts of the country, is enjoying a significant influx of new immigrants. Many of them come from countries or places where the law, police, lawyers, government and the courts function much differently than they do in Canada. We need to ensure that all of our citizens understand the basic roles of the legal profession, the police and the courts. As well, they need to understand that these institutions are beyond the reach of corruption and bribery and that they can be used with confidence to vindicate rights, and ensure fairness.”
PLEA, as you may know, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing Saskatchewan citizens with high-quality plain language legal information, education, and publications on common legal topics. PLEA launched its NewLi website in late 2016 as a “Saskatchewan newcomer’s guide to the law.” It features accessible information about the law, government, and justice at newli.plea.org.
The Law Society Library team is excited to see more plain language legal information being made available in Saskatchewan as a result of PLEA’s outstanding efforts. Most Saskatchewanians have a difficult time understanding formal legal language and legalese. Access to understandable legal information is an access to justice issue. For example, the British Columbia Provincial Court explains that “by using plain language we … contribute to improved understanding of court processes, legal issues, and decisions. We shorten court lists. And we give people effective, real access to justice.”
We encourage you to check out NewLi and call on Saskatchewan’s legal profession to step up, write plainly, and produce more plain language legal content.
British Columbia Provincial Court. (2017, July 18). Plain language – essential for real access to justice. Retrieved from http://provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-18-07-2017
Gagne, J. (2018, October 21). Access to justice week highlight – A2J for Newcomers. Retrieved from https://lsslib.wordpress.com/2016/10/21/access-to-justice-week-highlight-a2j-for-newcomers/
Latimer, K. (2017, October 25). Share of new immigrants in Sask. climbs upward: StatsCan.
Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/sask-recent-immigrants-numbers-climb-1.4371285
Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan. (n.d.) NewLi: about. Retrieved from
Shepherd, A. (2018, September 18). Saskatchewan marks 20 years of immigrant nominee program. Retrieved from https://www.cjme.com/2018/09/18/saskatchewan-marks-20-years-of-immigrant-nominee-program/
By Carly Romanow, PBLS Executive Director & Staff Lawyer
Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan (“PBLS”) has partnered with the Regina Public Library to pilot a Family Law Free Legal Clinic to address the growing demand for family legal services. PBLS is the provincial pro bono organization in Saskatchewan. We operate 11 Free Legal Clinics across the province and provide further services through our Panel Programs, which match meritorious legal matters with volunteer lawyers for limited or full representation services. Through the Free Legal Clinics, clients are booked an appointment to meet with a volunteer lawyer to receive up to an hour of free legal advice. In 2017, we booked over 1700 appointments, 41% of those appointments dealt with family law matters. In Regina, the Free Legal Clinic runs every Saturday morning (except on long weekends) at the Salvation Army Haven of Hope. Due to the high demand for our services, clients may wait up to 8 weeks to get a family law appointment at the Regina Free Legal Clinic.
To address this long wait period, we are partnering with the Regina Public Library to pilot an additional Free Legal Clinic which would specifically deal with family law matters. The Family Law Free Legal Clinic will operate 1-2 evenings per month at the downtown location of the Regina Public Library starting January 2019. Volunteer lawyers will see up to six clients in 30 minute appointments from 5:30-8:30pm on Monday evenings. Volunteer lawyers would not have an obligation to assist the client outside of the appointment time. The time commitment would be 3-6 clinic shifts throughout the year.
By volunteering with PBLS, you are able to provide quality legal services to those most in need. All clients are screened to ensure they meet our income eligibility. Clients are served on a first come, first serve basis with no prior appointments being booked. Our organization assists Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable populations, including domestic violence survivors, and low-income families. If you are interested in assisting with this program or have any questions about any of our other programs, please contact Carly Romanow at firstname.lastname@example.org or my direct line 306-569-6233.
The Third Annual Saskatchewan Access to Justice Week was held October 20 to 26. Thank you to the week’s contributors and participants. View highlights and announcements from the week below.
Justice and health stakeholders gather for Medical-Legal Partnerships Conference (October 17, a pre-week event).
College of Law Small Urban and Rural Committee organizes Rural Firm Tour (October 19, a pre-week event).
Run for Justice Fundraiser held in support of CLASSIC (October 20).
Pro Bono Students Canada hosts Volunteer Appreciation Event (October 22).
Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science and Justice Studies host public forum on Restorative Action Program (October 22).
A call to action to end stigma surrounding mental illness in the legal profession during Saskatchewan Law Review Lecture (October 23).
Benefits of Diversity CPD sessions hosted (October 23 and 24).
Free Legal Resources Fair held at Saskatoon Public Library (October 25).
Reconciliation, Decolonization, Indigenization discussed during week.
SALI Project Advertising Campaign launched.
Announcement released by CLASSIC and International Women of Saskatoon on improved access to language and literacy placement testing.
Dress Like a Pro Bono Lawyer Friday launched in support of PBLS.
Announcement on Child Support Recalculation Service.
New volunteer opportunity with PBLS announced.
Have ideas for the next Access to Justice Week? Contact email@example.com.
PASS IT ON! SUBMIT YOUR BITE-SIZED ACCESS TO JUSTICE NEWS TO BE INCLUDED IN THE BULLETIN TO firstname.lastname@example.org AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE BULLETIN.
By Alan Kilpatrick
The Saskatoon Public Library’s Frances Morrison branch hosted a free Legal Resources Fair during Saskatchewan’s Third Access to Justice Week. The fair featured a tradeshow, legal assistance clinics, and presentations on legal topics.
The fair’s bustling trade show included representatives from non-profit, government, and community organizations. It gave members of the public a chance to connect with Saskatoon’s legal service providers.
Volunteer lawyers and law students from the Ministry of Justice, Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan, and Pro Bono Students Canada hosted a free walk-in family law information clinic. Lawyers from CJC & Co. LLP volunteered to host a free walk-in wills and estates information clinic
Law Society Librarian’s Ken Fox and Alan Kilpatrick were proud to attend the trade show and to connect with members of the public who had questions about legal information.
Hosting a fair like this aligns naturally with the mission of public libraries. CREATE Justice explains further on its website:
Saskatoon Public Library’s mission includes providing free and open access to resources as well as providing community spaces where people and ideas meet. Through the Legal Resource Fair, we are able to help meet the legal needs of Saskatoon citizens with the tradeshow of service providers, a walk-in family law information clinic, and a walk-in wills & estates information clinic.
The Law Society Library is looking forward to participating in the Regina Public Library’s annual Legal Resources Fair in Winter 2019.
Create Justice. (2018, October). Saskatchewan access to justice week. Retrieved from https://law.usask.ca/createjustice/saskatchewan-access-to-justice-week.php
Legal Sourcery. (2018, October 24). Free Legal Resources Fair – Saskatoon. Retrieved from https://lsslib.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/free-legal-resources-fair-saskatoon/
By the Students of the Small Urban and Rural Committee
On October 19, 2018, the Small Urban and Rural Committee (SURC) hosted its annual Small Urban and Rural Firm Tour, this year choosing to visit Prince Albert. The tour offered an opportunity for students to meet with hosts and hear what opportunities in law are available and what they entail in a small urban setting.
Our tour began with stops at Novus Law Group and Parchomchuk Sherdahl Hunter Barristers and Solicitors, where students were given the opportunity to meet with lawyers and were given tours of the firms. At both firms students were informed of the diverse areas of law in which the firms practice, the opportunities that exist for lawyers in Prince Albert and similar small urban settings and any questions students may have had were answered.
After our firm visits, we were hosted by Administrative Judge Earl Kalenith, Regional Crown Prosecutor Cam Scott, Senior Crown Prosecutor Cynthia Alexander and received a tour of the Provincial Court house in Prince Albert followed by a tour of the offices of the crown prosecutor. During our time with Honorable Judge Kalenith, Mr. Scott, and Ms. Alexander, each spoke to the nature of their careers, the roles they entail and gave information on pursuing careers in their respective fields. Following the discussion, students were then invited to have coffee with our hosts and other members of the crown prosecutor’s office where they could ask any questions they may have had for any of our hosts.
SURC seeks to provide an opportunity or students to have exposure to careers in law in small urban and rural settings. This is achieved by connecting the students with the firms from these communities and SURC would like to extend a special thank you to all the firms and hosts from this year’s trip that welcomed us into their offices and gave time out of their schedules to make this year’s trip possible. We would also like to thank Shari Thompson, from the College of Law, for the time and effort she contributed behind the scenes in the planning of the trip and the CBA Saskatchewan Branch for their financial contribution, both of which made this trip possible.
By Cheryl Giesbrecht, CLASSIC Student Manager
Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) started out Access to Justice Week with a Volunteer Appreciation Event! As one of PBSC’s community partners, the Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City Inc (CLASSIC) teamed up with them to present a vital question for consideration by volunteers and others at the College as they enjoyed their coffee and candy: What do the words Decolonization, Reconciliation, and Indigenization mean to you, both professionally and in your personal life? The posterboard also travelled up to Professor Sarah Buhler’s Access to Justice class, and spent some time in the hallways and lawby of the College throughout the week. It was understandably difficult for many students to reduce their thoughts to the size of a stickie note, and so many interesting conversations took place around the board as well. We hope that these important conversations continue well beyond Access to Justice Week 2018.
By Alan Kilpatrick, Reference Librarian
It is widely recognized that access to justice is inadequate and legal services are becoming increasingly inaccessible. Fortunately, libraries across Canada are working together to improve access to legal information and create solutions to the barriers self-represented litigants face.
What are we doing at the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library? In the past four years, the Law Society Library has participated in a multitude of innovative access to legal information partnerships with justice, community, and library stakeholders. As an accessible source of legal information and an access to justice entry point, we:
- Are a founding partner of the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project
- Provide the public with legal information assistance
- Host weekly family law clinics
- Provide Pro Bono Law and CLASSIC lawyers with free legal research assistance
- Teach public librarians in Saskatchewan how to provide legal information
- Teach self represented litigants about legal research at the Regina Public Library’s Legal Resource Fair
- Have doubled the coverage of Saskatchewan case law on CanLII
Click here to learn more about what the Law Society Library is actively doing to improve access to legal information and justice in Saskatchewan:
- Legal Information Innovation in Saskatchewan
- The Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI)