New Inventory of Digital Tools To Help Canadian Public Address Their Legal Needs

A new inventory containing information on 88 legal digital tools aims to offer the Canadian public a way to conveniently access information on digital tools to address their legal needs. The inventory, which is currently in draft form, includes information from various areas of law including family, criminal, employment, and immigration. For each tool included in the inventory, information is provided on the cost (including if the tool is free to use), the intended user of the tool, the function, the type of law that it relates to and the developer of the tool. A brief description is also provided for each tool.

The Inventory of Digital Tools was created by Professor Amy Salyzyn (University of Ottawa) and JD students, William Burke and Angela Lee. The development of this inventory builds on previous research by Professors Jena McGill, Suzanne Bouclin, and Amy Salyzyn on the potential use of mobile and web-based applications to improve access to justice. For more information on the Inventory of Digital Tools or to provide feedback, visit the following webpage:

Access to Justice Triple Aim Initiative Launches in BC

Leaders from more than 50 justice organizations in British Columbia have signed on to support the newly launched Access to Justice Triple Aim initiative. Endorsing Triple Aim signifies a commitment to working to improve access to civil and family justice in BC in three important ways:

  • Improving access to justice at the population (or sub-population) level
  • Improving the experience of users who need access to justice
  • Improving costs, which includes reducing costs in other sectors because of the benefits of improved access to justice

Access to Justice Triple Aim was convened by Access to Justice BC, a network of justice sector organizations and stakeholders and members of the public connected by a shared vision to advance access to justice in BC. The Triple Aim concept originates from the healthcare sector where improvements in the US healthcare system have similarly been coordinated around three goals – health, cost and care.

The press release for the Access to Justice Triple Aim initiative is available on the Access to Justice BC website here: Additional information is also available here: and in a Slaw blog published here:

National Action Committee Publishes New Report on Canada’s Progress on Justice Development Goals

A recently released report by the national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters (Action Committee) offers insights into new developments, research, initiatives and other efforts that are contributing to improvements in access to justice in Canada. This report represents the most recent review by the Action Committee of Canada’s progress on nine goals that are deemed essential for better access to justice. The report tracks achievements during 2018 using the Justice Development Goals as a common framework for coordinating efforts, sharing innovations, and measuring progress on access to justice.

Canada’s nine Justice Development Goals are to:

  • Address Everyday Legal Problems
  • Meet Legal Needs
  • Make Courts Work Better
  • Improve Family Justice
  • Work Together
  • Build Capacity
  • Innovate
  • Analyze and Learn
  • Improve Funding Strategies

The new Action Committee report, “Working Toward Accessible Justice: Tracking Progress on the JDGs in 2018” is available online in English here:

Vous pouvez télécharger << Travaillent pour une justice accessible : Suivi des progrès réalisés sur les objectifs de développement en matière de justice au Canada en 2018 >> ici :

Learn more about the Justice Development Goals here:

Pour plus d’informations sur les objectifs de développement en matière de justice, cliquez ici :

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:

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:

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:

Access to Justice Week Begins Soon in Saskatchewan and Ontario

Saskatchewan’s second annual Access to Justice Week will run from October 20 – 26, 2018. The week will include discussions and activities that will engage different actors in the access to justice conversation as well as highlight projects and programs that aim to improve access to justice for all Saskatchewan residents. The week-long events will build on themes from the University of Saskatchewan College of Law’s 2017 Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice and Dispute Resolution and will include:

  • Legal information, Legal Advice, and Access to Justice; and
  • Expanding Engagement: Creating Connections

Learn more about Access to Justice Week in Saskatchewan here: For a list of events scheduled for the 2018 Saskatchewan Access to Justice Week, visit:

Monday, October 22, 2018 marks the start of the third annual Access to Justice Week in Ontario, hosted by The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG). The week will include a range of sessions including:

  • Mental Health – Access and Ethics
  • Indigenous Language Speakers and the Canadian Justice System
  • Addressing the Access to Legal Representation Gap in Family Law; and
  • Justice, Innovation and Community

Visit the TAG Access to Justice Week webpage for information on the sessions and to register to attend events by webcast or in person:

BC to Hold its First Access to Justice Week

British Columbia will be holding its inaugural Access to Justice Week from September 29 to October 5, 2018. The week’s events have been organized and are being led by the province’s three law schools – Allard Law School at the University of British Columbia, Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law, and the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.  BC’s A2J Week will include:

  • Tech events
    This will include a weekend hackathon, as well as a panel on artificial initelligence (AI) innovation and the justice sector.
  • Law school events
    Events to be held at BC’s three law schools include a presentation on “What would A2J look like for victims of sexual violence?” and a panel on “Lawyering with Heart: Violence informed and solution-focused lawyering for Indigenous youth and families”. The 7th Annual National Pro Bono Conference in Vancouver on October 4 – 5, which will coincide with BC’s A2J Week, will bring together lawyers, paralegals, law students, judges and other stakeholders to discuss ideas and best practices for increasing access to justice.
  • Victoria events
    Students at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law will be holding an Access to Justice Fair to share information on opportunities to increase A2J. Later in the week, there will also be a presentation by Dr. Julie Macfarlane on the challenges that self-represented litigants face.
  • Kamloops events
    Thompson Rivers University (TRU) law school students and staff from the TRU Community Legal Clinic will be offering information and intake referrals at the Farmers’ Market on September 29. The Community Legal Clinic will also be offering information (and free coffee)  later in the week and Dr. Macfarlane will speak to law students and to members of the legal community on October 3. There will also be a talk on legal tech and access to justice as well as activities to teach attendees about the challenges of self-representation.

For more information on BC’s inaugural Access to Justice Week, visit:

New Report Examines Alberta’s Mandatory Early Intervention Case Conferencing Pilot Project

The early intervention case conferences (EICCs) is a pilot project that was implemented by Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench in September, 2017 in an effort to address the increasing delays until family law cases can be tried, increasing numbers of litigants without counsel, and the short complement of the bench relative to the province’s population.

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) recently conducted an evaluation of the EICC in order to determine if the Early Intervention Case Conference project is meeting its stated goals. The evaluation provides insights into what is working and what could be improved in the pilot project, and explores whether the project should be implemented as a permanent part of the family law litigation process in the Court of Queen’s Bench.

An Evaluation of Alberta’s Mandatary Early Intervention Case Conference Pilot Project final report is available online here:

Access to Justice: Diana Lowe on support for families as they restructure

by Thomas Cromwell

Alberta has been engaged for several years in an ambitious family law reform effort. I spoke to Diana Lowe, co-lead of the Reforming the Family Justice System (RFJS) initiative, about what they have been doing and what’s ahead. Here is the second part of my interview with her.

TC: What main innovations have been introduced and how are they working?

DL: The most significant change that has taken place, is a shift in the mental model or culture in the family justice system, away from improving access to lawyers, law and adversarial processes, and instead to a focus on family well-being through services that support families as they experience the pressures of restructuring. We are encouraging awareness of this shift by all participants in the family justice system, including families, and encouraging alignment with the Theory of Change in policy and programs.

We are beginning to see shifts in systems, policy and practices including the Court of Queen’s Bench that has adopted the Theory of Change in its Strategic Plan and is beginning to take action to put this into effect. Resolution Services in the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General is developing a pilot to refocus the work of frontline staff as “justice system navigators.” These staff will be trained in brain science, and will develop maps of community services so they can assist families to obtain the supports they need for their social, relationship, parenting and financial needs.

This pilot is a collaboration with the County of Strathcona Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) and if successful, will be expanded to include FCSS organizations throughout the province.

Alberta has submitted a joint proposal (by the Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General, the Court of Queen’s Bench and the provincial court) to the federal minister of Justice, for the creation of an Alberta Unified Family Court. The proposal embedded the RFJS Theory of Change, supporting the use of services to assist Alberta families to access supports they need to help develop resilience, and to resolve disputes away from the adversarial processes of courts as much as possible.

TC: How is the experience of a family going through separation and divorce different from what it might have been five years ago?

DL: While the RFJS is still underway, there are many things that parents can do already to help them and their children thrive as they restructure. As co-convenor Justice Andrea Moen noted at our recent Collaborator Workshop, collaborative family professionals were out front in understanding that co-operation and collaboration between parents is essential for the health of the family and of the children. They led the way by creating teams of professionals to assist families.

The RFJS is aligned with the collaborative approach both to help families avoid adversarial court processes and to work out the restructuring of their family. Their approach is a model which ensures that families receive the kinds of relationship, parenting and financial supports that they need, and families can be guided by the model that collaborative professionals have created for supporting healthy families.

There are many different supports that are available to assist families, including collaborative family practitioners, co-parenting experts, wellness coaches, grief counsellors, financial advisers, step-parent supports, and of course mediators and lawyers. Examples of these supports are published regularly in Divorce Magazine. Families can use technology tools that encourage parents to work together to achieve better outcomes, including coParenter and Undo.

Supports for families are also available in most communities in the province through Family and Community Support Services partnerships between the provincial government and municipal governments; at Parent Link Centres; and through Triple-P Parenting Resources.

The RFJS is supporting the Ministry pilot in the County of Strathcona that will see families seek these supports, as part of our goal for better outcomes. As families are encouraged to seek out these supports early on in their decision to restructure, they are better able to deal with the emotional, parenting, relationship and financial challenges that commonly occur upon separation and divorce, and to avoid tangling these issues into legal processes.

TC: What’s next?

DL: Our Outcomes Framework identifies our key priorities for the coming year as:

  • Working with the legal profession to encourage brain science education by family lawyers, and identifying implications for shifts in ethical responsibilities and practices of family lawyers.
  • Working with the courts to ensure they are familiar with the Theory of Change, and are encouraged to align court processes with it.
  • Continued work with the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General on the pilot with FCSS, and other family justice initiatives.
  • Helping to enhance the public understanding that “parents fighting about their children causes harm,” and to provide information about supports to improve resilience and well-being of family members.
  • Working with frontline service providers and supports for families, to empower them to provide the social, relationship, parenting and financial supports that families need when they’re restructuring.
  • Working with other ministries (Health, Education, Community and Social Services, Children’s Services) to share the Theory of Change and seek alignment with it, and the integration of services for families, in order to help families thrive.

This is the second of a two-part series. Read part one here.

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on July 30, 2018. It is the tenth article in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and chairs 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.