Access to Justice: Current Crop of Law Students Committed, Enthusiastic – Thomas Cromwell

This blog originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on April 18, 2018. It is the seventh blog in The Honourable Thomas Cromwell’s exclusive Lawyer’s Daily column dedicated to access to civil and family justice.

It is easy to get discouraged by the slow pace of progress on improving access to justice. But a constant source of encouragement is the enthusiasm and commitment of the current generation of law students.

Everywhere I encounter today’s law student, I see concern about the injustice of our current poor level of access to justice, interest in what can be done to improve it, and commitment to be part of the change to bring about that improvement. The interest and enthusiasm of students for work in legal clinics and with Pro Bono Students Canada and other access-oriented activities are some of the tangible evidence of their concern, interest and commitment.

I recently had the privilege and pleasure of being part of another manifestation of law students’ engagement with access to justice. The Society of Law Students at Thompson Rivers University organized a two-day conference on access to justice. The program can be found here.

In addition to presentations by students and faculty, the students hosted a number of special guests, including the Honourable Robert Bauman, chief justice of British Columbia, the Honourable Len Marchand, a justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Honourable David Eby, minister of justice and attorney general of British Columbia. The organization was entirely student-directed and participation throughout the student body was significant.

I spoke with one of the co-chairs of the conference, Dave Barroqueiro, who is a second-year student. Dave’s take on access to justice and the profession’s role in improving it is bang on and shows how the next generation of lawyers understands the problem and wants to help to solve it. I asked him what lessons he drew from his work on the access to justice problem.

He started by speaking of the need for culture change: “The culture of law and of lawyers must change, and society isn’t willing to wait any longer. The legal industry itself, the profession’s self-insulation, and our paralyzing risk aversion, are undoubtedly major contributors to the access to justice crisis in Canada.”

He also recognized the role that lawyers and legal profession should and must play in improving access to justice: “ … the key to unlocking the solution to the access to justice crisis rests in the hands of legal professionals themselves — we simply need to be willing to adjust to the rapidly changing needs and demands of contemporary, digital-age clients.”

He stressed what he believes is the important part technology can have in bringing about the necessary changes: “Increasing the agility of lawyers and the efficiency of the delivery of legal services ought to be the principal focuses of the legal profession going forward.”

Finally, he recognized what many commentators have stressed: The necessity of responding better to the needs of the public seeking legal services. As he put it, “To think that we, even as a self-regulating profession, can overwhelm consumer-driven market forces for much longer is a delusion. The future practice of law will depend on an active, informed understanding of client needs.”

My impression is that Barroqueiro’s views are not unique. I believe they are shared by a lot of law students. Those in positions of power and influence should encourage and support this kind of thinking in the next generation of lawyers and at least make a start on the important work that they are keen to take up as they progress in their legal careers.

We are leaving them a big access to justice challenge. But I believe that they are up to it.

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.

Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA), Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook

The involvement of Aboriginal communities in child welfare decisions increases the likelihood that Aboriginal children who are being impacted by these decisions will be placed with Aboriginal caregivers who can help to maintain cultural and community ties. In British Columbia, the importance and value of this is reflected in the Child, Family and Community Service Act (“CFCSA”) which, among other things, states that Aboriginal communities have the right to be involved in decisions affecting Aboriginal children in care.

The ShchEma-mee.tkt Project has published an Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook to educate and promote compliance with these and other requirements relating to Aboriginal children, and to help to improve outcomes for Aboriginal children in care. Wrapping our Ways Around Them: The Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA), Aboriginal Communities and Parents Plain Language Guidebook is available online at: www.wrappingourways.ca/.

New Report on the Costs, Benefits and Limitations of Different Dispute Resolution Processes in Family Law

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF), in partnership with the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) have published an exciting new report that examines the use of collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration and litigation to resolve family law disputes.

The study provides valuable insights into the costs of the different dispute resolution processes, how long cases take to resolve, and lawyers’ perceptions of their efficacy and suitability for resolving different types of family law problems.

Read “An Evaluation of the Cost of Family Law Disputes: Measuring the Cost Implication of Various Dispute Resolution Methods” on the CFCJ website here and on the CRILF website here.

Two New Publications from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) recently published two new papers:

The Development of Parenting Coordination and an Examination of Policies and Practices in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta was prepared by Dr. Lorne Bertrand and John-Paul Boyd and reviews the development of parenting coordination in the United States and its adoption in Canada. This paper also explores the findings of the research available to date on parenting coordination, its efficacy in resolving parenting disputes, its efficacy in steering such disputes out of court and its impact on parental conflict. The Development of Parenting Coordination and an Examination of Policies and Practices in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta discusses the practice of parenting coordination in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, compares processes and training standards in those provinces, and makes recommendations for the practice of parenting coordination in Alberta, and in Canada generally.

Children’s Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward, Results from the Survey of Symposium Participants was prepared by Joanne Paetsch, Dr. Lorne Bertrand and John-Paul Boyd and is the first written output from the “Children’s Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward” two-day symposium presented by the CRILF and the Alberta Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. The symposium offered a unique opportunity to survey an informed and involved pool of participants regarding their perceptions and experiences with children’s participation in justice processes. This report presents the final results of this survey of symposium participants, and includes recommendations for moving forward.

Both publications are available on the CRILF website here:  http://www.crilf.ca/publications.htm

 

The details in this post were taken from information circulated by the CRILF.

Toolkit on Co-Parenting after Divorce or Separation now Available from CBA

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Family Law Section in conjunction with the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) have announced that the Successfully Parenting Apart: A Toolkit is now available.

About the new Successfully Parenting Apart toolkit, the CBA explains that it:

  • organizes and consolidates online and print resources offering guidance, information, referrals and resources for resolving parenting challenges post-separation in ways most effective for children.
  • is intended to increase family lawyers’ awareness of the best available information to better assist parents in transforming their relationship from being a couple to being successful co-parents.

To learn more about the toolkit or to download a copy of the Successfully Parenting Apart toolkit, visit the CBA website here.

BC Provincial Court Creates Support Persons Guidelines Poster and Flyer

The Provincial Court of British Columbia has created several resources aimed at informing self-represented litigants about the possibility to be accompanied by a support person for family and small claims trials.

Information about these newly available flyers and posters as well as downloadable copies can be accessed on the Provincial Court of BC website here. The Provincial Court encourages you to share the Support Person Guidelines poster and other resources.

New “Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada” Reports

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has published five new reports based on data from their Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada study. As part of this national study, over 3,000 people in Canada were surveyed about their attitudes towards and experiences with the justice system in Canada. Specifically, they were asked about their views on the Canadian justice system, the kinds of civil and family justice problems they experience, their methods of dealing with these problems, and the associated costs they incur to resolve them. The five new reports present survey data broken down according to the following respondent characteristics: “Age,” “Gender,” “Canadian Region,” “Education” and “Born in Canada”. The reports are published on the CFCJ’s “Cost of Justice” page and can be accessed by clicking on the hyperlinked titles below:

Age

Gender

Canadian Region

Education

Born in Canada

The Practice of Family Law in Canada: Results from a Survey of Participants at the 2016 National Family Law Program

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) has published a new research paper based on findings from a survey of more than 200 lawyers and judges who attended the 2016 National Family Law Program. The National Family Law Program is a high-profile, 4-day biennial conference organized by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, that addresses current issues in the practice of family law in Canada. Topics addressed in the study include participants’ views of and experiences with: court-attached family justice programs; hearing the views of children; issues in custody and access disputes; issues in disputes about child support and spousal support; family violence; unified family courts; and, limited scope legal services in family law disputes.

The research paper was written by Lorne Bertrand, Jo Paetsch, John-Paul Boyd and Nick Bala and the study was funded by the Department of Justice and the Alberta Law Foundation.

The English version of the paper is available on the CRILF website here; the French version is available on the CRILF website here.

An Innovative Information Resource for Self-Represented Litigants and Others

To better assist self-represented litigants and others navigate the overwhelming volume of legal information online, the Provincial Court of British Columbia has collaborated with Clicklaw to create one page summaries of some useful online resources in each of the Provincial Court’s major subject areas. Some of the resources that can be accessed online can be found through the following links:

Where do I start for information on Family Court?
Where do I start for information on Criminal Court?
Where do I start for information on Small Claims Court?

These three pages can also be accessed here: bit.ly/clicklawbcpc.
Coordinator of Clicklaw, Audrey Jun has also created a Communications Toolkit.

Earlier this year, the Court also adopted Support Person Guidelines: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-11-04-2017.

Polyamorous Relationships and Family Law in Canada

As our collective understanding of what constitutes “family” continues to change and evolve, the legislation governing the formation and dissolution of family relationships may appear to be lingering behind. In a new paper prepared for the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF), John-Paul E. Boyd explores both the legal components and general public perceptions surrounding polyamorous relationships in Canada. Boyd begins the paper by citing the preliminary findings from the CRILF’s 2016 study on Canadian perceptions of polyamory. After breaking down the data, Boyd moves on to discuss the legal dimensions of polyamorous relationships in the context of the various provincial family law schemes.

Finally, Boyd concludes the paper by posing some questions for members of the family bar to consider when thinking about polyamorous relationships and how they may affect a range of issues, such as:

  • a) Immigration: Can a married spouse sponsor someone coming into Canada to join his or her relationship?
    b) Public employment benefits: Can CPP benefits and employee health benefits be shared with more than 1 other person?
  • c) Wills and estates: To what extent does legislation accommodate concurrent surviving spouses? To what extent can children born from a ménage inherit from non-biological parents who die intestate?
  • d) Adoption and assisted reproduction: How many adults can be legal parents of a child?
  • e) Vital statistics: Can vital statistics agencies be compelled to register more adults as the parents of a child than the biological or adoptive parents of child?; and
  • f) Education and health care: To what extent can education and health care providers be compelled to take instructions from the members of a ménage other than child’s biological parents?

For a more fulsome discussion of the legal dimensions of polyamorous relationships and to see the preliminary results of the 2016 survey, take a look at the report.