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.

New Book Examines What is Working and Not Working to Improve Access to Civil and Family Justice

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law edited by Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs is a newly published book that provides an in-depth look at what is working and not working to improve access to civil and family justice in Canada.

The Justice Crisis uses new empirical research to explore the value associated with the provision of an effective justice system and the costs – individual and collective – of not providing accessible justice. The national and international importance of and the need for this kind of research is widely acknowledged.

Contributors to The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law include: Carolyn Carter, Thomas A. Cromwell, Ab Currie, Matthew Dylag, Trevor C.W. Farrow, Heather Heavin, Lesley A. Jacobs, Devon Kapoor, Michaela Keet, Jennifer Koshan, Herbert M. Kritzer, Moktar Lamari, Marylène Leduc, M. Jerry McHale, Lisa Moore, Janet Mosher, Pierre Noreau, Mitchell Perlmutter, Catherine Piché, Noel Semple, Lorne Sossin, Michael Trebilcock, Wanda Wiegers and David Wiseman.

The book’s foreword is written by The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell, CC.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law is part of the 7-year Cost of Justice project led by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice. The Cost of Justice project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law was published by UBC Press and is available here: www.ubcpress.ca/the-justice-crisis.

View the press release for The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law online here: https://news.yorku.ca/2020/09/02/new-evidence-on-the-justice-crisis-making-the-case-for-reform/.

New Report Highlights Importance of Community-Based Access to Justice

Community Justice Help: Advancing Community-Based Access to Justice” is a discussion paper by Julie Matthews (Executive Director of Community Legal Education Ontario) and Professor David Wiseman (University of Ottawa Faculty of Law) that explores the role of community justice workers in improving access to justice. The paper also discusses support mechanisms and tools that could further advance the contributions of community justice helpers.

“Community Justice Help: Advancing Community-Based Access to Justice” offers a framework that describes important elements of good quality community justice help. These include:

  • Community justice helpers have the knowledge, skills and experience they need;
  • Community justice helpers work within a not-for-profit organization and an ethical infrastructure; and,
  • Community justice helpers provide holistic support to meet clients’ multi-dimensional needs.

The framework is intended to support the recognition of the following, important elements for improving community-based access to justice:

  • That community justice help is an important and valid component of the broader ecosystem of access to justice services
  • That all components of the ecosystem must be adequately supported through public funding and other means; and
  • That community justice help already aligns with the regulatory framework overseen by the LSO for the practice of law and the provision of legal services.

The Community Justice Help paper is informed by a literature review, discussions with members of the justice, not-for-profit and academic communities, and interviews with key staff working in community-based organizations.

“Community Justice Help: Advancing Community-Based Access to Justice”, a discussion paper by Julie Matthews and David Wiseman is available online here: https://cleoconnect.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Community-Justice-Help-Advancing-Community-Based-Access-to-Justice_discussion-paper-July-2020.pdf.