UVic’s Access to Justice Centre for Excellence Publishes New Reports that Explore Key Learnings for Enhanced Empirical Justice Research

What can the province of British Columbia learn from initiatives in other jurisdictions about enhancing justice data quality and expanding empirical research, evaluation and measurement? The “Learning from Justice Metrics Models in Other Jurisdictions” report produced by Tim Roberts and Associates Consulting for the University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (UVic ACE) looks at initiatives that offer insight on conducting empirical justice research. The report includes findings from Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Canada on how different initiatives have enhanced data quality, driven data sharing, and facilitated an expanded research and evaluation agenda. “Learning from Justice Metrics Models in Other Jurisdictions” is available on the UVic ACE website here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/2a1cb-acejusticemetricsmodelsinotherjurisdictions-feb2019.pdf.


UVic ACE’s “A Supreme Lack of Information” report published in March, 2019 explores the lack of information available on civil cases initiated in B.C.’s Supreme Court. This study is a follow up to a 2015 study published by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) that found significant information gaps in court records in B.C.’s Supreme Court. The report identifies the purpose of this new study by UVic ACE as:

  • To identify the challenges encountered in conducting the CFCJ ‘Attrition Study’, and explore their significance
  • Consider what changes would need to be made to data collection processes in the B.C. Supreme Court in order to better answer the original study’s questions and meet the research objectives, and to provide a high level plan for such changes, and
  • Identify any legal, financial or administrative problems or complications that would be encountered in making such changes to the system

The “A Supreme Lack of Information” study was carried out by Tim Roberts and Associates Consulting for UVic ACE. It is available on the UVic ACE website here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/48fa3-attritionfollow-upreport-feb2019.pdf.

New Report Examines Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia

A new report that explores ways to improve legal aid service delivery in British Columbia is now available. The report is based on an external review and consultations with the public, carried out in Fall 2018. This recently published report examines ways to make service delivery more efficient and user-friendly for B.C. residents and includes 25 recommendations. Roads to Revival, An External Review of Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia was conducted for the Attorney General of B.C. by Jamie Maclaren, QC. It is available online here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Roads_to_Revival-Maclaren_Legal_Aid_Review-25FEB19.pdf.

2019 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index Now Available

The World Justice Project has published its annual report on adherence to rule of law worldwide. The 2019 World Justice Project Rule of Law Index includes data gathered through expert surveys carried out in more than 120 countries. The eight categories for rule of law performance for the countries included in the Index are:

  • Constraints on Government Powers
  • Absence of Corruption
  • Open Government
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Order and Security
  • Regulatory Enforcement
  • Civil Justice; and
  • Criminal Justice

Overall, the measure for “Constraints on Government Powers” showed a marked decline globally, signalling a troubling rise in authoritarianism. “Criminal Justice” also saw a significant decline over the past year followed by “Open Government” and “Fundamental Rights.” Highlights from the new World Justice Project Rule of Law Index are available in the Press Release here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/news/wjp-rule-law-index-2019-global-press-release. The 2019 Rule of Law Index can be downloaded from the World Justice Project website here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/our-work/publications/rule-law-index-reports/wjp-rule-law-index-2019.

Measuring Unmet Legal Need Across the World

A recently published “Measuring the Justice Gap” methodological paper by the World Justice Project and the Task Force on Justice highlights the urgency of addressing the global access to justice gap, a problem that currently sees an estimated 5 billion worldwide with unmet legal needs.  The paper discusses categories of justice need, presents the objectives and principles guiding the assessment of the justice gap, and offers details on question design, methods and definitions included in the justice gap measurement framework. “Measuring the Justice Gap” is available online here: https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/Measuring%20the%20Justice%20Gap_WJP%20Update_Feb2019_Final-updated_0.pdf.

New Report Highlights Role of Innovation in Bridging Justice Gap

The international Task Force on Justice is an initiative that launched in 2018 to help tackle the global access to justice crisis – a problem that currently sees more than four billion people around the world living outside the protection of the law. This week, the Task Force’s Innovation Working Group published “Innovating Justice: Needed & Possible”, a report that explores ways that innovation can help to address unmet legal needs, the investment possibilities that justice innovation provides, and parameters for increasing and improving justice innovation in support of UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16.3 – equal access to justice for all.  The report offers examples of new technologies as well as technological upgrades that can help to advance access to justice and also calls for financing justice innovation.

“Innovating Justice: Needed & Possible”, the report of the Innovation Working Group of the Task Force on Justice is available online here: https://www.hiil.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Report-of-the-Innovation-Working-Group-of-the-Task-Force-on-Justice.pdf.

UK Ministry of Justice Publishes Post-Implementation Reviews of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO)

The UK’s Ministry of Justice has published post-implementation reviews of Parts 1 and 2 of the the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).  Part 1 of LASPO, which came into effect in 2013, deals with reforms to the scope of, eligibility for, and fees that fall within the ambit of legal aid in England Wales. Part 2 is concerned with reducing the costs of civil litigation and rebalancing the costs liabilities between claimants and defendants while ensuring that parties with a valid case are still able to bring or defend a claim.

At the introduction of the reforms to LASPO, the Government at the time committed to conducting post-implementation reviews to determine the impact of the changes relative to their objectives. Though the reviews have come under criticism from the Bar Council, among others, the Ministry of Justice has indicated that they are content with reports’ findings and do not plan to recommend amendments to the legislation.

Post-Implementation Review of Part 1 of LASPO is available online here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/777038/post-implementation-review-of-part-1-of-laspo.pdf.

Post-Implementation Review of Part 2 of LASPO is available online here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/777039/post-implementation-review-of-part-2-of-laspo.pdf.

American Academy of Arts and Sciences Publishes Issue on Access to Justice Crisis

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ quarterly journal, Dædalus, recently dedicated an entire issue to America’s access to justice crisis. The issue, which is available online for free, was edited by Lincoln Caplan, Lance Malcolm Liebman, and Rebecca L. Sandefur. This first-of-its-kind open access issue on access to justice by the well-known U.S. journal includes twenty-four essays by researchers, professors, access to justice advocates and others. The essays examine a range of civil legal services issues being faced by low-income Americans, various barriers to creating a responsive justice system, and opportunities for improving access to justice through technology, innovation and new approaches. The Dædalus issue on access to justice is available here: https://www.amacad.org/daedalus/access-to-justice.

New Book Highlights Work of Community Paralegals in Facilitating Access to Justice

Namati, an international organization that works to help people exercise their legal rights, has published a book that examines the work that community paralegals do to empower people all over the world to engage in societies, access justice and resolve disputes. This recently published resource is entitled “Community Paralegals and The Pursuit of Justice” and was edited by Vivek Maru (Namati) and Varun Gauri (The World Bank). It is the result of 8 years of research and writing by more than a dozen authors across 6 countries. Community Paralegals and The Pursuit of Justice can be accessed online for free here: https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/community-paralegals-and-the-pursuit-of-justice/219EB6294721B11BB25B1C8A3A2ACE29.

Access to Justice: Next Year a Big One for the Action Committee / Accès à la justice : prochaine année occupée pour le Comité d’action

Thomas Cromwell and Beverly McLachlin

La version française suit.

There are big transitions occurring at the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has this month assumed the chair of the committee which she had convened a decade ago.

The Chief Justice of Canada, Richard Wagner, has agreed to take on the role of honorary chair, carrying on the practice of his predecessor. Justice Elizabeth Corte and Mark Benton are in place as vice-chairs. With the support of the Ontario and British Columbia Law Foundations, the action committee is preparing a transition plan, a strategic plan and a governance plan, all to be presented and discussed at the committee’s annual summit in the early spring of next year. And the work of promoting and reporting on Canada’s Justice Development Goals is in full swing.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with the former chief justice McLachlin about her hopes and plans for the committee under her leadership. Here is what she had to say.

Thomas Cromwell (TC): What were your expectations when you convened the action committee in the fall of 2008 and how does the committee’s work since then match those expectations?

Beverly McLachlin (BM): My expectations were to start a conversation about access to justice that involved key players from all parts of the country and from all sectors — the legal profession, governments, courts, NGOs and academe — with a view to examining the roadblocks and coming up with insights on how to remove these barriers and improve people’s access to justice.

The committee’s accomplishments far surpassed my expectations. The broad cross-country conversation I hoped for has been engaged, and many new ideas on how to improve access to justice have emerged.

The level of engagement has far surpassed my expectations. As a result, new innovative ideas have actually been implemented — ideas that are improving Canadian’s access to justice “on the ground.” When we launched the committee in 2008, I had no idea that it would have produced such a rich dialogue, much less concrete results.

TC: What do you think are the most urgently needed changes to improve access to justice?

BM: I believe the most urgent change we need is a change in public and government attitudes. Instead of viewing justice as a frill or something lawyers and governments are grudgingly obliged to support, we should recognize (1) that access to justice in all its forms is a marker of a just society and (2) that supporting access to justice — providing people with legal help, counselling and more — will pay off in lower prison costs, lower court costs and enhancing the productivity of citizens. It is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

TC: Where do you hope to see the action committee go and what do you hope that it will accomplish under your leadership?

BM: The passionate women and men who have worked on the committee for the past decade have accomplished much and laid an excellent foundation for addressing the complex challenges that remain in achieving access to justice for everyone. I hope we will be able to establish a permanent umbrella organization to support innovative thinking, ensure that the accomplishments to date are not eroded and move on with new projects that will continue to enhance access to justice.

TC: As a final note, I am delighted that Beverley McLachlin has also agreed to take over this space. Beginning in January, she will be a regular contributor on access to justice. Next year is shaping up to be an exciting new phase of the ongoing efforts to improve access to justice in Canada.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and until recently chaired the Chief Justice’s Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. He retired from the Supreme Court of Canada in September of 2016 and is now senior counsel to the national litigation practice at Borden Ladner Gervais.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin served as chief justice of Canada from 2000 to mid-December 2017. She now works as an arbitrator and mediator in Canada and internationally and also sits as a justice of Singapore’s International Commercial Court and the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal. She chairs the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on December 19, 2018.


De grands changements s’opèrent au Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale (le Comité d’action). Ce mois-ci, l’ancienne juge en chef Beverly McLachlin est devenue présidente du Comité d’action, qu’elle avait créé il y a une dizaine d’années.

Le juge en chef du Canada, Richard Wagner, a accepté d’assumer le rôle de président honoraire, poursuivant ainsi l’usage instauré par sa prédécesseure. Les juges Elizabeth Corte et Mark Benton occupent les fonctions de vice-présidents. Avec l’aide de la Fondation du droit de l’Ontario et de la Law Foundation of British-Columbia, le Comité d’action prépare un plan de transition, un plan stratégique ainsi qu’un plan de gouvernance, qui seront tous présentés et débattus à l’occasion du sommet annuel du Comité d’action au début du printemps prochain. Par ailleurs, aucun effort n’est ménagé pour promouvoir les Objectifs de développement en matière de justice au Canada et produire des rapports à cet égard.

J’ai récemment eu l’occasion de m’entretenir avec l’ancienne juge en chef McLachlin au sujet de ses souhaits et de ses projets pour le Comité d’action sous sa présidence. Voici ce qu’elle avait à dire à ce propos :

Thomas Cromwell (TC) : Quelles étaient vos attentes lorsque vous avez créé le Comité d’action à l’automne 2008 et, depuis, comment ses travaux répondent-ils à ces attentes?

Beverly McLachlin (BM) : Je souhaitais entamer une discussion sur l’accès à la justice à laquelle participeraient les principaux intervenants de partout au pays et de tous les secteurs – de la communauté juridique, des gouvernements, des tribunaux, des organisations non gouvernementales et des universités – en vue d’examiner les obstacles et de trouver des moyens de les éliminer et d’améliorer l’accès à la justice pour la population.

Les réalisations du Comité d’action ont largement dépassé mes attentes. La vaste discussion nationale que j’espérais a été amorcée, et de nombreuses idées nouvelles sur la manière d’améliorer l’accès à la justice ont vu le jour.

Le niveau d’engagement a aussi grandement dépassé mes attentes. Par conséquent, de nouvelles idées novatrices ont été mises en œuvre – des idées qui améliorent concrètement l’accès des Canadiens à la justice. Lorsque nous avons formé le Comité d’action en 2008, je ne pensais pas qu’il donnerait lieu à un dialogue si fructueux, et encore moins à des résultats réels.

TC : Selon vous, quels sont les changements les plus urgents pour améliorer l’accès à la justice?

BM : Je crois que le plus urgent est de faire évoluer les mentalités chez le public et le gouvernement. Au lieu de considérer la justice comme une chose accessoire ou comme quelque chose que les avocats et les gouvernements sont obligés de soutenir à contrecœur, nous devrions reconnaître que 1) l’accès à la justice sous toutes ses formes constitue l’indicateur d’une société juste et 2) le fait de faciliter l’accès à la justice – fournir aux gens de l’aide juridique, des services de consultation juridique et plus – se traduira par une baisse des frais d’incarcération et de justice ainsi que par une hausse de la productivité des citoyens. Il s’agit d’une stratégie à la fois juste et sensée.

TC : Quel avenir espérez-vous pour le Comité d’action et que souhaitez-vous qu’il accomplisse sous votre présidence?

BM : Les femmes et les hommes passionnés qui ont travaillé au sein du Comité d’action au cours de la dernière décennie ont réalisé beaucoup de choses et jeté de solides bases pour faire face aux défis complexes qui restent à relever pour assurer l’accès à la justice pour tous. J’espère que nous serons en mesure d’établir une organisation-cadre permanente pour nourrir la réflexion novatrice, veiller à ce que les réalisations à ce jour ne soient pas menacées et aller de l’avant avec de nouveaux projets qui continueront d’améliorer l’accès à la justice.

TC : Pour conclure, je suis ravi que Beverley McLachlin ait également accepté de reprendre le flambeau. À compter de janvier, elle sera une collaboratrice régulière en matière d’accès à la justice. La prochaine année s’annonce comme une nouvelle étape emballante dans les efforts soutenus pour améliorer l’accès à la justice au Canada.

L’honorable Thomas Cromwell a été juge d’appel pendant 19 ans et, jusqu’à tout récemment, a présidé le Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale créé par la juge en chef. Il a pris sa retraite de la Cour suprême du Canada en septembre 2016 et agit désormais comme avocat-conseil principal au sein du groupe national des litiges chez Borden Ladner Gervais.

La très honorable Beverley McLachlin a été juge en chef du Canada de 2000 jusqu’à la mi‑décembre 2017. Elle travaille maintenant comme arbitre et médiatrice au Canada et à l’étranger. Elle siège également à la Cour commerciale internationale de Singapour et au Tribunal d’appel de dernière instance de Hong Kong. Elle préside le Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale.

Rise Women’s Legal Centre Publishes Evaluation Report

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is a community legal centre located in Vancouver, B.C. that helps self-identifying, low-income women access family law services and learn about their legal rights. Rise recently published an Evaluation Report that provides details on services they provided between September 2017 and August 2018. The report includes information on the populations they served, the legal needs of their clients, factors that led clients to seek out services at Rise, the extent to which Rise met their legal needs, among a range of other topics.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Most clients (almost 50%) needed legal services for family law matters affecting their children, including help with custody/access/ parenting time matters and child support matters.
  • A significant number of clients sought legal services for matters which would contribute to their financial self-sufficiency, including property division (30%) and spousal support (27%).
  • More than 20% had accessed legal services prior to contacting Rise. These included clients who had run out of money to pay for a lawyer or exhausted their legal aid coverage accessing prior services.

The Rise Women’s Legal Services One-Year Evaluation Report is available in full here: Rise Women’s Legal Services – One-Year Evaluation Report (Diana TIndall) 2018-10-14.