Law Society Initiatives

Gladue Rights Research Database Free and Open

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The Gladue Rights Research Database provides lawyers, researchers and others with instant access to the insights and conclusions of more than 500 academic works related to the history of settler colonialism in Saskatchewan. It also includes a large and growing body of oral history resources and key archival documents.

The database, which was officially launched last May and was supported by the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan, is the product of a partnership between Legal Aid Saskatchewan, the Community-Engaged History Collaboratorium (U of S Department of History) and the U of S Humanities and Fine Arts Digital Research Centre. While originally offered on a subscription basis, open access to the database has been made possible through the generosity of the Law Society of Saskatchewan, Legal Aid Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections and Policing, and the Community-engaged History Collaboratorium, Department of History, at the University of Saskatchewan.

Gladue reports are pre-sentencing or bail hearing reports stemming from a landmark 1999 Supreme Court of Canada decision, based on a section of the Criminal Code, advising lower courts to consider Indigenous offenders’ backgrounds during sentencing. The reports can contain recommendations to a court on an appropriate sentence and provide details about the impacts of settler colonialism on an Indigenous person’s background, such as residential school history, physical or sexual abuse, interactions with the child welfare system, addictions and other health issues.

The database will contribute to the goals articulated by Canada’s Supreme Court, including reducing the number of Indigenous people sentenced to serve time in correctional facilities. It will accomplish this in several ways, such as by making Gladue reports—which can cost between $6,000 and $8,000 each in British Columbia—easier to prepare and less expensive for Indigenous people and their legal counsel in Saskatchewan.

The database is a robust and growing resource that has been built by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students at the U of S, working under faculty mentorship. It builds capacity within the justice system toward meeting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action regarding education about the history of colonialism as it relates to Indigenous people in Canada.

The database is the first of its kind in Canada and other jurisdictions may replicate this innovative tool in the future. The stakeholders involved in the development and continued maintenance of the database are proud to support such a worthwhile and beneficial project.

Call to Action: Trusted Intermediary – Legal Information Network (TI-LI) at CALL Conference

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

One thing I have discovered over the last few years is if you want to develop an innovative project, enlist librarians. I have had the privilege of working with extremely knowledgeable library staff at the Law Society and through the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information Project (SALI). Librarians play a key role in access to legal information, as I recently highlighted in my post about the presentation I delivered at the University of North Texas Open Access Symposium 2019. They are trusted intermediaries that can help navigate the plethora of legal information for the public and direct them to reliable sources.

 I have also gained knowledge and experience from the BC LawMatters program and we recently began sharing our own experiences with a new emerging program in Ontario, the National Self Represented Litigants Project’s Family Law at the Library Project. Our three projects have realized that together we are stronger. That is, we can more efficiently create resources and training if we work together.

 At the Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference (CALL) held May 27-29, 2019 in Edmonton, our three programs presented the following:

Part 1: The Role of Legal Information Providers and Public Libraries in Promoting Access to Justice: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges Presented by: Brea Lowenberger, CREATE Justice and  Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Law Society of Saskatchewan

In part 1 of this session, Melanie and Brea facilitated a macro discussion to set the stage for conversation about establishing a “National Trusted Intermediaries – Legal Information Network” (TI-LI Network). They drew on their experience in co-establishing the Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information (SALI) Project to share their observations on the need for a establishing a national network, and invited participants’ feedback on this emerging development.

Part 2: The Role of Legal Information Providers and Public Libraries in Promoting Access to Justice: Exploring Opportunities and Challenges Presented by: Dayna Cornwall, NSRLP and  Megan Smiley, LawMatters

In part 2 of this session, Dayna and Megan facilitated a micro discussion on lessons learned in establishing, like the SALI Project, library and legal information projects in Ontario and British Columbia. Dayna shared initial lessons learned in establishing the “Family Law at the Library”, a new project that involves partnering with libraries in the Windsor area, and Megan shared how Courthouse Libraries BC has worked since 2007 with public libraries to enhance public access to legal information in all communities throughout British Columbia. 

We issued a call to action to participants to create a national network of similar programs. The Trusted Intermediary – Legal Information Network (TI-LI) will facilitate knowledge and resource exchange, and provide an opportunity for new programs to learn from the experiences of more established programs.

 Pease contact me at melanie.hodgesneufeld@lawsociety.sk.ca if you have interest in joining the TI-LI Network and/or have any questions.

University of North Texas Open Access Symposium 2019

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By Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications 

The tenth annual University of North Texas (UNT) Open Access Symposium was held May 17-18 at UNT Dallas College of Law. The theme this year was “Is Open Access an Answer for Access to Justice?” and featured presentations and interactive sessions led by legal scholars and practitioners from Harvard, Duke, and UNT and representatives from our very own Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information project (SALI).

I was proud to present “The Role of Library Staff in Improving Access to Legal Information” with my SALI partners Brea Lowenberger, Access to Justice Coordinator and Director of CREATE Justice, University of Saskatchewan and Kim Hebig, Library Director, Wheatland Regional Library.

The Saskatchewan Access to Legal Information (SALI) partnership was formed to highlight the role of libraries as vehicles for access to legal information, and the role of library staff as intermediaries in the provision of legal information in their communities. SALI emerged in 2016 out of the Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice, a collaboration among Saskatchewan justice stakeholders based in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. Dean’s Forum participants identified limited access to legal information as one of the barriers to full and equitable public participation in the justice system.

Since 2016, the SALI partnership has undertaken activities to meet the objective of improving access to legal information, specifically through engaging public library staff as mediators of resources to best serve their communities. SALI partners include representatives from the provincial Public Legal Education Association, Law Society libraries, University Library, College of Law, Ministries of Justice and Education, Pro Bono Law, and public libraries across Saskatchewan.

This presentation focused on the opportunities available and challenges faced in pursuing the goal of increasing public access to information in a jurisdiction with a small, widely-dispersed population, including a high proportion of Indigenous people and many newcomers to Canada. Topics included SALI activities such as a public engagement campaign; capacity-building opportunities for public librarians; a collections list; data collection and analysis projects; and writing projects that engage law students and faculty in increasing the amount of legal material produced with the public in mind.

We were pleased to share our experiences and learn from the other participants. Please see the UNT Open Access website for more information about the sessions and the Law Society website for more information about the SALI project.

SALI project partners
From L-R: Kim Hebig, Library Director, Wheatland Regional Library; Melanie Hodges Neufeld, Director of Legal Resources and Communications, Law Society of Saskatchewan; and Brea Lowenberger, Access to Justice Coordinator and Director of CREATE Justice, University of Saskatchewan.

Bill 163, The Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2018

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On April 2, 2019, Bill 163, The Legal Profession Amendment Act, 2018, passed third reading. The Law Society is excited to move towards a more modern approach to regulation, and Bill 163 helps us do that. The amendments to the Act pursuant to Bill 163 are multifaceted and will positively impact the regulation of the practice of law and delivery of legal services in Saskatchewan.

The amendments enable the Law Society to implement several good governance measures which provide greater flexibility to control our own processes. Flexibility will allow us to respond more effectively and in a more timely fashion in order to ensure that regulation remains relevant to the provision of legal services as it evolves over time. This includes allowing Benchers to establish any committees they consider necessary, and to develop the supporting practices and procedures of those committees. As well, the regulatory processes relating to a member’s professional responsibility have appropriately shifted from the Act into the Rules. The amendments have also granted us the ability to develop Rules relating to our Board composition and our electoral process. Again, this provides the flexibility to ensure that we are effective, efficient and able to consider the adoption of any governance practices that, from time to time, the Benchers may determine will make us more effective, efficient or reflective to ensure the necessary skills or perspectives exist on the Board.

The Benchers will be discussing governance initiatives at our annual retreat in June. Following that, we will be consulting with the membership to receive feedback on ideas generated during that session.

Finally, as we reported in our January 2019 post, Bill 163 , enables the Law Society to implement the recommendations of the Legal Services Task Team. The Task Team released its final report in August, 2018 and included a number of recommendations on how to improve the regulation and provision of legal services in the province. The recommendations include:

  • providing greater clarity to service providers about what legal services are regulated;
  • expanding the list of exceptions to the prohibition against practicing law to recognize existing service providers;
  • providing the Law Society with licensing authority to allow service providers to practice law with a limited license on a case-by-case basis;
  • modernizing the legislation regulating legal services to provide more flexibility for future developments in this area;
  • creating guidelines to help educate the public about legal services; and
  • conducting pilot projects to help develop and test the recommendations.

The Law Society will implement the recommendations on a principled and incremental basis over time, first beginning with consultation and pilot projects to better inform the development of the regulatory framework that will serve the profession and, ultimately, the public interest.

The amended Act will not be proclaimed until we have completed this process and overhauled the Law Society Rules in accordance with the amendments. We expect this to be completed by the end of 2019.

We will update you as matters progress.

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 kim.newsham@gov.sk.ca.
  2. If you are a lawyer interested in helping “Saskatchewanize” unbundling practice resources, please email Melanie Hodges Neufeld at melanie.hodgesneufeld@lawsociety.sk.ca.
  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 kim.newsham@gov.sk.ca.

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.