New Report Examines Pathways to Justice in British Columbia

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.

Justice Canada Publishes Call for Projects under the Canadian Family Justice Fund

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.

Access to Justice Week in BC to take place February 7-11, 2022

The next Access to Justice Week BC is February 7-11. BC’s Access to Justice Week is designed to “offer information and learning opportunities about access to justice in British Columbia.” Legal sector analyst, Jordan Furlong will give this year’s keynote event on February 9 on “Redefining Competencies for the 21st Century Lawyer”. For more information about events taking place at law schools across BC and online for Access to Justice Week BC, visit: http://www.a2jweekbc.ca/ or follow @a2jweekbc on Twitter for updat”es.

BC First Nations Justice Council To Hold Virtual Grand Opening For Indigenous Justice Centres

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 Publishes Reports on Legal Problem Experiences in Canada’s Provinces

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.

Project to Assess Unbundled Legal Services Publishes Phase 1 Report

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.

Events Planned for Duty Counsel Day on 27 October

Canadians rely on duty counsel to help navigate the justice system. They play an important role in facilitating access to justice in Canada.

Duty Counsel Day is a national, virtual event that will take place on October 27th from 5-6pm ET/2-3 pm PT.

Here are some ways that you can participate in Duty Counsel Day:

  1. Encourage staff to register for the nationwide online event: www.knowdutycounsel.ca/event
  2. Share your personal video greeting during Access to Justice Week (Oct. 25-29): https://youtu.be/J8ODcKC2jO0
  3. Post on social media (here are some sample posts to make things easy):

“Every Canadian deserves help navigating the justice system. Celebrate our charter right to legal support. I’m taking part in Duty Counsel Day Oct 27. Please join me at the nationwide online event www.knowdutycounsel.ca #a2j

« Chaque Canadienne et Canadien devrait pouvoir progresser dans le système de justice. Célébrez notre droit à l’aide juridique conféré par notre Charte. Je participerai à la Journée des avocats de service qui aura lieu le 27 octobre. Joignez-vous, dans tout le pays, à cet événement qui se déroulera en ligne. https://avocatsdeservicealaune.ca/

You can also download social media images for Duty Counsel Day.

For more information on Duty Counsel Day, please visit: https://www.knowdutycounsel.ca/ or https://avocatsdeservicealaune.ca/.

Family Law Cases in Canada’s Civil Courts Decline by 7% for 2019-2020

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.

Advocates’ Society Report Discusses the Future of Oral Advocacy in Canada

“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada” is a new report by the Advocates’ Society that discusses the future of oral advocacy in Canada’s justice system. The report also examines the history behind the right to be heard, considerations for the mode of hearing, and the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the justice system.

The Right to be Heard report is the culmination of months of research and consultations with judges, advocates in different practice areas, justice system participants, advocacy groups and others. This initative was led by the Modern Advocacy Task Force, which was established in spring 2020 “to make recommendations with respect to the future of oral advocacy in the Canadian justice system”.

This Final Report of the Modern Advocacy Task Force recognizes improvements made possible by modern technology during the pandemic but cautions that such changes to the justice system “should not be mistaken as a panacea for the grave challenges of access to justice, nor as an adequate replacement for in-person justice in all, or even most, cases.” 

According to the report, there are four core principles that lay the foundation for the Task Force’s recommendations:

  • The open court principle;
  • The imperative of access to justice;
  • The integrity of the court process; and
  • The principle of proportionality

In discussing the significance of the report, former Chief Justice of Canada and member of the Modern Advocacy Advisory Group, The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin noted that the report “offers a timely examination of the fundamental role of court advocacy in securing justice and how it can be preserved in a digital world.”

“The Right to be Heard: The Future of Advocacy in Canada”, published by the Advocates’ Society, is available here: https://s3.amazonaws.com/tld-documents.llnassets.com/0027000/27521/the_right_to_be_heard_the_future_of_advocacy_in_canada_digital.pdf.

Canadian Judicial Council Publishes Modernized Ethical Principles for Judges

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has released an updated version of Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare. For more than twenty years, this publication has provided guidance on a range of questions within the judicial community.

While this new publication maintains a format similar to the 1998 volume, it raises questions about present day subjects such as the digital literacy of judges and addresses a range of important issues such as the need to be alert to “the history, experience and circumstances of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, and to the diversity of cultures and communities that make up this country”. In discussing the importance of this new iteration of Ethical Principles for Judges, Chief Justice of Canada and Canadian Judicial Council Chairperson, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, noted that, “[t]hese revised principles explore new and emerging issues relevant to our modern times”.

Ethical Principles for Judges includes sections on:

  • Judicial Independence;
  • Integrity and Respect;
  • Diligence and Competence;
  • Equality; and
  • Impartiality

Ethical Principles for Judges / Principes de déontologie judiciare, published by the Canadian Judicial Council, is available in English and French here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/sites/default/files/documents/2021/CJC_20-301_Ethical-Principles_Bilingual%20FINAL.pdf.