This year, Access to Justice Week in British Columbia will take place from Saturday, February 4 to Friday, February 10. The theme of this year’s event is “Access to Justice – Whose Job is it Anyway?” Events scheduled for Access to Justice Week BC include:
- Youth Leaders in Law: National Conference 2023 (Saturday, February 4)
During this event, high school and undergraduate students interested in law school will hear from a panel of law school professors and legal counsel. Attendees will also have an opportunity to meet and speak with panelists and law students. This event will be available via Zoom.
- Access to Justice Issues in BC’s Family Law System (Monday, February 6)
This panel will highlight recent research on access to justice issues in BC’s family law system and explore the importance of people-centred design.
There will be two events on Tuesday, February 7: Understanding and Creating Access to Justice (in-person session) and Access to Justice: Whose Job is it Anyway?
Other events include:
Wednesday, February 8
Event 1: Neurodiversity in Law
Event 2: Youth Leaders in law Virtual Speed Networking
Thursday, February 9
Event 1: Justice for Everyone: Developing New Lawyers in the Public Interest
Event 2: Friends of the Court and Access to Justice
Friday, February 10
Event 1: Innovating to Create Market-Based Solutions
Event 2: Drug Treatment Court – Specialized Approaches
For information on whether events can be attended remotely or in-person, and for the full description of Access to Justice Week BC events, including information on panelists, visit the Access to Justice Week BC website: https://accesstojusticebc.ca/a2jweekbc/.
JUSTICE, a reform and human rights organisation in the UK working to improve the justice system, has published a new report on Improving Access to Justice for Separating Families. While the report notes that there are serious access to justice challenges being experienced by families accessing the justice system, the focus of the report is on private family disputes in England and Wales involving children. The report applies an ‘access to justice’ lens to examine the rights of children and families and makes 43 recommendations related to child arrangements problems and their resolution in England and Wales. The key principles that guided this work by the JUSTICE organisation are:
i) The rule of law requires access to forms of dispute resolution – including access to the court system.
ii) The family justice system must be designed around the needs of families, not the expertise of legal professionals; and
iii) The child’s perspective must be at the heart of every stage of dispute resolution in the family justice system.
Improving Access to Justice for Separating Families, A Report by JUSTICE is available online here: https://bit.ly/ImproveFamilyJusticeUK.
RISE, a community legal information organization that offers support for victims of sexual and intimate partner violence and workplace sexual harassment, has published a series of reports aimed at offering guidance to victims of sexual assault on PEI who are over the age of 18. “Reporting Sexual Assault: A Guide for Victims on PEI” offers information on where to access support services and the types of supports that are available, what constitutes sexual assault and consent, sexual assault evidence kits, among other important information. The “Sexual Assault Prosecution: A Guide for Victims on PEI” report discusses prosecution of sexual assault and offers an overview of the process, the parties involved, and addresses questions that might arise for persons going through the process.
“Reporting Sexual Assault: A Guide for Victims on PEI” and “Sexual Assault Prosecution: A Guide for Victims on PEI” are available on the RISE website in French and English here: https://www.risepei.com/en/downloads. The publications are not a substitute for guidance from a lawyer.
The Access to Justice Centre for Excellence at the University of Victoria (UVic ACE) has published new research that examines the pathways that people in British Columbia take to solve their civil justice problems. Understanding what people do when they experience a serious civil justice problem and the pathways that are accessible to them to resolve those problems offers important insights into people’s legal awareness and the impact of public legal education and information for the public. It also provides understandings on how people engage with the justice system. In addition, the increased use of technology in the legal sector is transforming how people interact with the legal system and requires further study to understand the impacts for existing pathways and the new pathways that will become available.
The “Navigating Access to Justice Pathways” report includes findings from an exploratory study of experiences with civil and family law problems in British Columbia that aims to:
- Develop a more robust understanding of how people define the civil and family law justice problems they experience
- Map common pathways used to resolve civil and family justice problems
- Identify the barriers people face when they try to access certain pathways and the impact of those barriers on their decisions
- Understand how people prioritize and manage multiple legal problems
Navigating Access to Justice Pathways: Problem Resolution Routes for People Experiencing Civil and Family Law Problems in British Columbia by Yvon Dandurand, Jessica Jahn, Cathy Tait, and Megan Capp is available online here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2022/06/5876c-navigatingaccesstojusticepathways_ace_april20_2022.pdf.
On average, it costs users of local, paralegal services in Sierra Leone US $8.44 to access the service, far below what it costs to access the formal justice system. According to a new report on the Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone, without these community-based justice services, the government would spend approximately US $23.3M to support access to justice services through the formal justice system. This compares with approximately US $18.3M to access community-based justice services. This is among several important findings from a first-of-its-kind study by the Center for Alternative Policy Research & Innovation on The Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone.
The report makes 10 recommendations for scaling up paralegal-based justice services, including:
- Establishing a National Legal Empowerment Fund;
- Funding exploratory research;
- Further reducing out-of-pocket costs to access community-based justice services;
- Meaningfully integrating community-based justice services in the broader justice sector; and
- Building robust and efficient monitoring and evaluation systems.
The Costs and Benefits of Community-Based Justice in Sierra Leone by Felix Marco Conteh, Yakama Manty Jones, Sonkita Conteh, Henry Mbawa and Aisha Fofana Ibrahim (CAPRI) is available online here: https://www.caprisl.org/post/the-costs-and-benefits-of-community-based-justice-in-sierra-leone.
This project was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and is one of the final research outputs from a multi-country research initiative on Community-Based Justice Research.
The Department of Justice of Canada has released a call for projects under the Canadian Family Justice Fund (CFJF). The CFJF “facilitates access to the family justice system for families experiencing separation and divorce through the provision of various services, programs and information resources”.
Project proposals are being sought that focus on the following priority areas:
- Supporting the well-being of family members
- Reaching diverse and underserved populations
- Supporting alternatives to court
- Improving and streamlining family justice system links/processes
Individuals, non-profit organizations and non-profit professional organizations, societies or associations, educational institutions, and private sector organizations sponsoring non-profit projects in partnership with federal, provincial, or territorial governments are invited to apply. Information on the Canadian Family Justice Fund is available in English at https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/fund-fina/famil/index.html et en français à : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/fina-fund/famil/index.html.
On the heels of the recent announcement by federal Minister of Justice, David Lametti, and Attorney General for BC, David Eby regarding the signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding to support the implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, and funding to support Indigenous Justice Centres in British Columbia, the BC First Nations Justice Council has announced a virtual grand opening to celebrate the launch of four new Indigenous Justice Centres.
The BC First Nations Justice Council, which seeks to support the well-being of future generations by upholding self-determination, reclaiming Indigenous legal traditions, and addressing systemic injustice invites the public to attend the grand opening on Wednesday, January 26 to learn about the new Indigenous Justice Centres. The event will take place at 11:00 am PST / 2:00 pm EST.
To register, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/bc-first-nations-justice-council-tickets-208242969327.
Justice Canada has published a series of reports examining experiences with serious legal problems in Canada’s provinces. The Canadian Legal Problems Survey (CLPS) joins other Canadian legal problems surveys (in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2014) in providing important insights into Canadian’s experiences with serious legal problems and the impacts of these experiences.
Experiences of serious problems or disputes in the Canadian provinces, 2021 is published in English here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220118/dq220118c-eng.htm.
Expériences de conflits ou de problèmes graves dans les provinces canadiennes, 2021 est disponible en français ici : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220118/dq220118c-fra.htm.
Justice Canada has also published a series of qualitative legal problems reports from studies carried out with different populations in different parts of Canada. Each report details experiences of these populations with serious legal problems. The collection of reports includes:
Serious Legal Problems faced by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Other Sexual-Minority People in Western Canada: A Qualitative Study: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/lgbtq/index.html.
Les graves problèmes juridiques rencontrés par les personnes lesbiennes, gaies, bisexuelles et autres membres de minorités sexuelles dans l’Ouest canadien : Une étude qualitative : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/lgbtq/index.html.
A Qualitative Look at Serious Legal Problems Faced by Immigrants in Greater Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/ivvbc/index.html.
Un examen qualitatif des problèmes d’ordre juridique graves auxquels se heurtent les immigrants dans les agglomérations de Victoria et de Vancouver (Colombie-Britannique) : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/ivvbc/index.html.
A Qualitative Look at Serious Legal Problems Facing Immigrants in London and Toronto, Ontario: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/ilto/index.html.
Un examen qualitatif des problèmes d’ordre juridique graves auxquels font face les immigrants à London et à Toronto (Ontario) : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/ilto/index.html.
Serious Problems Experienced by People with Disabilities Living in Atlantic Canada: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/pwdac-phca/index.html.
Problèmes graves rencontrés par les personnes handicapées au Canada atlantique : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/phca-pwdac/index.html.
A Qualitative Look at Serious Legal Problems for People with Disabilities in Central Canada: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/pwdcc-phcc/index.html.
Un examen qualitatif des problèmes d’ordre juridique graves touchant les personnes handicapées dans le centre du Canada : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/phcc-pwdcc/index.html.
Serious Problems Experienced by Diverse People with Disabilities: Western Canada: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/pwdwc-phcw/index.html.
Problèmes graves rencontrés par diverses personnes en situation de handicap – Ouest du Canada : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/phcw-pwdwc/index.html.
The Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project (ULSRP) is an initiative by the Access to Justice BC Unbundling Working Group, Family Justice Innovation Lab Society, and Standpoint Decisions Inc. which seeks to examine the effectiveness of family unbundled legal services. The project also aims to “facilitate access to justice by enhancing the working relationships between the existing community of [unbundled legal services] providers and BC citizens most in need of unbundled-type services.”
The project is being conducted in two phases, with the focus of Phase 1 to test and demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of a proposed model for ongoing feedback from unbundled legal services clients. Data collected from this project will help service providers, innovators and policy-makers to assess the effectiveness of unbundled family legal services and better understand the user/client experience. The final report from Phase 1 of the Family Law Unbundled Legal Services Research Project is available here: https://www.bcfamilyinnovationlab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/ULSRP-Phase-1-Report-2021-12-08-File-No-2020-LLR-3552-no-financials.pdf.
Data from the recently published 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey reveals a 7% year-over-year decline in family law cases in Canada. This decrease represents the largest decline in family law cases in 5 years. The data is for the period from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 and, in large part, does not reflect the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the justice system, including from court closures and stay-at-home orders. It is anticipated that there will be an even greater decline in family law cases in the 2020-2021 Civil Court Survey.
Of the more than 228,000 active family law cases during the 2019-2020 period, 47% were divorce cases. Of this number, almost three quarters involved requests for a divorce judgement to legally end a marriage; the remainder involved matters related to custody, access, and support. Notably, the data also shows that custody and access family law court cases during this period reported more activity than non-family cases, which the report on the data suggests may be “an indication of the amount of time and court resources they require”.
The Juristat report on family law cases in civil courts for 2019-2020 and the 2019-2020 Civil Court Survey data are available on the Statistics Canada website here: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-eng.htm.
« Profil des causes de droit de la famille au Canada, 2019-2020 » est disponible en français ici : https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/210628/dq210628d-fra.htm.