Annual Action Committee Report Highlights Progress on Access to Justice and Justice Sector Responses to the Pandemic

The national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has released its annual progress report on the Justice Development Goals. The report offers insights on developments in nine areas deemed essential for better access to justice in Canada. The nine areas are based on the goals identified in the Action Committee’s 2013 “A Roadmap for Change” report which highlighted the need to:

  • Refocus the justice system to reflect and address everyday legal problems
  • Make essential legal services available to everyone
  • Make courts and tribunals fully accessible multi-service centres for public dispute resolution
  • Make coordinated and appropriate multidisciplinary family services easily accessible
  • Create local and national access to justice implementation mechanisms
  • Promote a sustainable, accessible and integrated justice agenda through legal education
  • Enhance the innovation capacity of the civil and family justice system
  • Support access to justice to promote evidence-based policy making
  • Promote coherent, integrated and sustained funding strategies

This year’s Action Committee report also includes a section on the justice sector’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canada’s Justice Development Goals 2020: Challenge and Change” is available in English here: http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/jdgreport2020challengechange.pdf.

Pour télécharger << Objectifs de développement en matière de justice du Canada de 2020 : Défis et changements >> cliquez ici : http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/odjrapport2020defichangements.pdf.

Canadian Judicial Council Publishes 3 New Handbooks for Self-Represented Litigants

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has announced the publication of a new Civil Law Handbook, Criminal Law Handbook and Family Law Handbook for self-represented litigants. According to a May 5th press release, “[t]he goal of the handbooks is to help those who are not represented by legal counsel to better prepare for court proceedings, and to provide judges with tools they can recommend to such persons to help them access the courts.”

The handbooks were developed in conjunction with the Judicial Education Society of British Columbia and provide useful information on how to obtain electronic access to statutes, regulations and forms.

The three new handbooks are available on the CJC website in English here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/en/what-we-do/initiatives/representing-yourself-court and in French here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/fr/ce-que-nous-faisons/initiatives/se-representer-soi-meme-devant-un-tribunal.

Law Commission of Ontario’s New Paper Explores the use of Artificial Intelligence, Automated Decision-Making and Algorithms in Canada’s Justice System

“Regulating AI: Critical Issues and Choices” is the second in a series of papers by the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) that seeks to examine the use of artificial intelligence (AI), automated decision-making (ADM) and algorithms in Canada’s justice system. The focus of this paper is on regulatory frameworks for AI and ADM systems that support decision-making. Understanding the implications of AI and ADM systems and how to regulate them has become increasingly important in Canada and throughout the world. This paper contemplates a range of important questions surrounding the regulation of these systems, including: how AI and ADM should be defined for regulatory purposes; how and when governments should be required to disclose their use of AI and ADM; what role “ethical AI” might play in government regulation of AI and ADM; and whether government regulation of AI and ADM should promote innovation and/or human rights.

“Regulating AI: Critical Issues and Choices” by Nye Thomas, Erin Chochla and Susie Lindsay is available on the Law Commission of Ontario’s website here: https://www.lco-cdo.org/en/the-lco-releases-a-new-report-regulating-ai-critical-issues-and-choices/.

New Discussion Paper Highlights the Importance of People-Centered Justice Data

A recently published paper is drawing attention to the need for more people-centered justice data in order to support decision-making by policymakers, funders, innovators and other justice stakeholders. Weak data can serve to undermine progress. Making the shift to more effective justice innovations and facilitating better justice investment strategies requires an understanding of the types of justice problems that people commonly face as well as the ways that these justice problems impact people’s lives. Available justice data does not yet meet these standards. “Grasping the Justice Gap” discusses these and other key messages and offers insights on failing justice data ecosystems and how to build effect data ecosystems for people-centered justice.

Grasping the Justice Gap: Opportunities and Challenges for People-Centered Justice Data by Peter Chapman and published by the World Justice Project and Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies is available online here: https://530cfd94-d934-468b-a1c7-c67a84734064.filesusr.com/ugd/6c192f_33364b9803b645b8a4fa17433edcb13d.pdf.

Social Security Tribunal of Canada Publishes Evaluation on Plain Language Decision-Writing

The Social Security Tribunal of Canada (SST) has published an evaluation on their progress in writing decisions in plain language. The evaluation was spurred by a 2017 external program review that found that many SST clients faced significant obstacles to “receiving administrative justice in a simple, clear and timely manner”. The recently published evaluation is the result of a 3-year effort to shift to a more people-centred model that sees decisions written with less legal jargon and that are easier to understand by people who read at a grade 9 reading level or higher.

The evaluation, published on the Government of Canada website, includes details on the methodology used for the evaluation, the impact of training on different aspects of decision-writing, the readability scorecard for decisions in both English and French, and other information. “An Evaluation of How Easy it is to Read Decisions of the Social Security Tribunal” is available online here: https://www1.canada.ca/en/sst/plainlanguagereport.html.

CBA Report Examines Justice Issues Resulting from the COVID-19 Pandemic

A new report by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) examines various impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the delivery of legal services in Canada. The report is the result of consultations and research carried out by the specially formed CBA Task Force on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19.

The “No Turning Back” report includes a discussion of the ways that Canada and other countries are meeting the justice challenges presented by the pandemic through modified processes and other justice system changes. The report also presents a discussion of ways to mitigate risks that might be associated with the adoption of new measures aimed at delivering justice in the midst of the pandemic.

No Turning Back: CBA Task Force Report on Justice Issues Arising from COVID-19 is available online here: https://www.cba.org/CBAMediaLibrary/cba_na/PDFs/Publications%20And%20Resources/2021/CBATaskForce.pdf.

New CBABC Report Outlines Ways to Improve BC’s Justice System

The Canadian Bar Association, British Columbia Branch (CBABC) has published Agenda for Justice 2021, a plain language report that outlines recommendations for more timely, effective, accessible and impartial justice for all British Columbians. The report includes more than 40 recommendations and is organized into the following sections:

(1) Access to Justice for Families
(2) Meaningful Change for Indigenous Peoples
(3) Modernizing BC’s Justice and Legal Systems
(4) Ensuring Fairness for Everyone

The CBABC’s Agenda for Justice 2021 roadmap for action report is available online here: https://www.cbabc.org/Our-Work/Agenda-for-Justice.

New American Academy of Arts & Sciences Report Examines Data Collection in the Civil Justice Sector

A new report published by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences explores data collection and civil justice. The Measuring Civil Justice for All – What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Know? How Can We Know It? report is an output from the Data Collection and Legal Services for Low-income Americans sub-project. It is one of several publications by the American Academy of Arts & Sciences aimed at making justice accessible. The discussion on acquiring much-needed information about access to civil justice is organized into four topics:

(1) Liberating Civil Justice Data
(2) Data Use Agreements
(3) Alternative Strategies for Accessing Data
(4) Moving toward a Civil Justice Data Commons.

The final Measuring Civil Justice for All – What Do We Know? What Do We Need to Know? How Can We Know It? report is available online here: https://www.amacad.org/publication/measuring-civil-justice-all.

For other publications from the Making Justice Accessible Initiative, visit: https://www.amacad.org/topic/democracy-justice.

Rise Women’s Legal Centre Publishes New Report on Family Violence in B.C.

A new report by B.C. based Rise Women’s Legal Centre examines the province’s family law system and its responsiveness to family violence matters. Research was carried out over 3 years and includes both consultations with experts, and focus group interviews with women across more than 20 communities in B.C. who had lived experience of violence and the legal system.

The report makes several recommendations for improvements that will contribute to dispelling myths and stereotypes. The report also discusses the need for a better understanding of the seriousness of both physical and non-physical violence.

Why Can’t Everyone Just Get Along? How BC’s Family Law System Puts Survivors in Danger by Haley Hrymak and Kim Hawkins, and published by Rise Women’s Legal Centre is available online here: https://www.citynews1130.com/2021/02/05/b-c-s-family-law-system-fails-abused-women-puts-survivors-in-danger-report/.

American Academy of Arts & Sciences Publishes Civil Justice for All Report

A new report from the American Academy of Arts & Sciences urges making access to civil justice a priority and offers recommendations to close the civil justice gap. The report, which was launched on 24 September 2020, is part of an extensive, multi-year project to examine the extent and consequences of the inability of Americans to access legal help for civil justice matters.

The newly published Civil Justice for All report offers seven recommendations:

  1. Significant financial and human resources investments to close the civil justice gap
  2. More lawyers who work to address the needs of low-income earners
  3. More lawyers who offer pro bono and other volunteer assistance
  4. Open legal marketplaces to allow non-lawyers to help resolve civil justice problems
  5. More collaboration between legal service providers and professionals in other sectors to address the non-legal dimensions of problems
  6. Make legal processes, legal information, forms and other resources easier for the public to understand and access
  7. Create a central body to coordinate and promote the recommendations above and to gather much-needed civil justice data

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the forefront many of the weaknesses in American civil society. It has also brought new challenges and worsened the civil justice gap. A major initiative to ensure access to civil justice is urgently needed to help address this growing problem.

Civil Justice for All: A Report and Recommendations from the Making Justice Accessible Initiative is available online here: https://www.amacad.org/publication/civil-justice-for-all.