UVic’s Access to Justice Centre for Excellence Publishes New Reports that Explore Key Learnings for Enhanced Empirical Justice Research

What can the province of British Columbia learn from initiatives in other jurisdictions about enhancing justice data quality and expanding empirical research, evaluation and measurement? The “Learning from Justice Metrics Models in Other Jurisdictions” report produced by Tim Roberts and Associates Consulting for the University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (UVic ACE) looks at initiatives that offer insight on conducting empirical justice research. The report includes findings from Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Canada on how different initiatives have enhanced data quality, driven data sharing, and facilitated an expanded research and evaluation agenda. “Learning from Justice Metrics Models in Other Jurisdictions” is available on the UVic ACE website here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/2a1cb-acejusticemetricsmodelsinotherjurisdictions-feb2019.pdf.


UVic ACE’s “A Supreme Lack of Information” report published in March, 2019 explores the lack of information available on civil cases initiated in B.C.’s Supreme Court. This study is a follow up to a 2015 study published by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) that found significant information gaps in court records in B.C.’s Supreme Court. The report identifies the purpose of this new study by UVic ACE as:

  • To identify the challenges encountered in conducting the CFCJ ‘Attrition Study’, and explore their significance
  • Consider what changes would need to be made to data collection processes in the B.C. Supreme Court in order to better answer the original study’s questions and meet the research objectives, and to provide a high level plan for such changes, and
  • Identify any legal, financial or administrative problems or complications that would be encountered in making such changes to the system

The “A Supreme Lack of Information” study was carried out by Tim Roberts and Associates Consulting for UVic ACE. It is available on the UVic ACE website here: https://ajrndotco.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/48fa3-attritionfollow-upreport-feb2019.pdf.

New Report Examines Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia

A new report that explores ways to improve legal aid service delivery in British Columbia is now available. The report is based on an external review and consultations with the public, carried out in Fall 2018. This recently published report examines ways to make service delivery more efficient and user-friendly for B.C. residents and includes 25 recommendations. Roads to Revival, An External Review of Legal Aid Service Delivery in British Columbia was conducted for the Attorney General of B.C. by Jamie Maclaren, QC. It is available online here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/Roads_to_Revival-Maclaren_Legal_Aid_Review-25FEB19.pdf.

Access to Justice: Next Year a Big One for the Action Committee / Accès à la justice : prochaine année occupée pour le Comité d’action

Thomas Cromwell and Beverly McLachlin

La version française suit.

There are big transitions occurring at the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters. Former Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin has this month assumed the chair of the committee which she had convened a decade ago.

The Chief Justice of Canada, Richard Wagner, has agreed to take on the role of honorary chair, carrying on the practice of his predecessor. Justice Elizabeth Corte and Mark Benton are in place as vice-chairs. With the support of the Ontario and British Columbia Law Foundations, the action committee is preparing a transition plan, a strategic plan and a governance plan, all to be presented and discussed at the committee’s annual summit in the early spring of next year. And the work of promoting and reporting on Canada’s Justice Development Goals is in full swing.

I had the opportunity recently to speak with the former chief justice McLachlin about her hopes and plans for the committee under her leadership. Here is what she had to say.

Thomas Cromwell (TC): What were your expectations when you convened the action committee in the fall of 2008 and how does the committee’s work since then match those expectations?

Beverly McLachlin (BM): My expectations were to start a conversation about access to justice that involved key players from all parts of the country and from all sectors — the legal profession, governments, courts, NGOs and academe — with a view to examining the roadblocks and coming up with insights on how to remove these barriers and improve people’s access to justice.

The committee’s accomplishments far surpassed my expectations. The broad cross-country conversation I hoped for has been engaged, and many new ideas on how to improve access to justice have emerged.

The level of engagement has far surpassed my expectations. As a result, new innovative ideas have actually been implemented — ideas that are improving Canadian’s access to justice “on the ground.” When we launched the committee in 2008, I had no idea that it would have produced such a rich dialogue, much less concrete results.

TC: What do you think are the most urgently needed changes to improve access to justice?

BM: I believe the most urgent change we need is a change in public and government attitudes. Instead of viewing justice as a frill or something lawyers and governments are grudgingly obliged to support, we should recognize (1) that access to justice in all its forms is a marker of a just society and (2) that supporting access to justice — providing people with legal help, counselling and more — will pay off in lower prison costs, lower court costs and enhancing the productivity of citizens. It is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

TC: Where do you hope to see the action committee go and what do you hope that it will accomplish under your leadership?

BM: The passionate women and men who have worked on the committee for the past decade have accomplished much and laid an excellent foundation for addressing the complex challenges that remain in achieving access to justice for everyone. I hope we will be able to establish a permanent umbrella organization to support innovative thinking, ensure that the accomplishments to date are not eroded and move on with new projects that will continue to enhance access to justice.

TC: As a final note, I am delighted that Beverley McLachlin has also agreed to take over this space. Beginning in January, she will be a regular contributor on access to justice. Next year is shaping up to be an exciting new phase of the ongoing efforts to improve access to justice in Canada.

The Honourable Thomas Cromwell served 19 years as an appellate judge and until recently chaired 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.

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin served as chief justice of Canada from 2000 to mid-December 2017. She now works as an arbitrator and mediator in Canada and internationally and also sits as a justice of Singapore’s International Commercial Court and the Hong Kong Final Court of Appeal. She chairs the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters.

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on December 19, 2018.


De grands changements s’opèrent au Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale (le Comité d’action). Ce mois-ci, l’ancienne juge en chef Beverly McLachlin est devenue présidente du Comité d’action, qu’elle avait créé il y a une dizaine d’années.

Le juge en chef du Canada, Richard Wagner, a accepté d’assumer le rôle de président honoraire, poursuivant ainsi l’usage instauré par sa prédécesseure. Les juges Elizabeth Corte et Mark Benton occupent les fonctions de vice-présidents. Avec l’aide de la Fondation du droit de l’Ontario et de la Law Foundation of British-Columbia, le Comité d’action prépare un plan de transition, un plan stratégique ainsi qu’un plan de gouvernance, qui seront tous présentés et débattus à l’occasion du sommet annuel du Comité d’action au début du printemps prochain. Par ailleurs, aucun effort n’est ménagé pour promouvoir les Objectifs de développement en matière de justice au Canada et produire des rapports à cet égard.

J’ai récemment eu l’occasion de m’entretenir avec l’ancienne juge en chef McLachlin au sujet de ses souhaits et de ses projets pour le Comité d’action sous sa présidence. Voici ce qu’elle avait à dire à ce propos :

Thomas Cromwell (TC) : Quelles étaient vos attentes lorsque vous avez créé le Comité d’action à l’automne 2008 et, depuis, comment ses travaux répondent-ils à ces attentes?

Beverly McLachlin (BM) : Je souhaitais entamer une discussion sur l’accès à la justice à laquelle participeraient les principaux intervenants de partout au pays et de tous les secteurs – de la communauté juridique, des gouvernements, des tribunaux, des organisations non gouvernementales et des universités – en vue d’examiner les obstacles et de trouver des moyens de les éliminer et d’améliorer l’accès à la justice pour la population.

Les réalisations du Comité d’action ont largement dépassé mes attentes. La vaste discussion nationale que j’espérais a été amorcée, et de nombreuses idées nouvelles sur la manière d’améliorer l’accès à la justice ont vu le jour.

Le niveau d’engagement a aussi grandement dépassé mes attentes. Par conséquent, de nouvelles idées novatrices ont été mises en œuvre – des idées qui améliorent concrètement l’accès des Canadiens à la justice. Lorsque nous avons formé le Comité d’action en 2008, je ne pensais pas qu’il donnerait lieu à un dialogue si fructueux, et encore moins à des résultats réels.

TC : Selon vous, quels sont les changements les plus urgents pour améliorer l’accès à la justice?

BM : Je crois que le plus urgent est de faire évoluer les mentalités chez le public et le gouvernement. Au lieu de considérer la justice comme une chose accessoire ou comme quelque chose que les avocats et les gouvernements sont obligés de soutenir à contrecœur, nous devrions reconnaître que 1) l’accès à la justice sous toutes ses formes constitue l’indicateur d’une société juste et 2) le fait de faciliter l’accès à la justice – fournir aux gens de l’aide juridique, des services de consultation juridique et plus – se traduira par une baisse des frais d’incarcération et de justice ainsi que par une hausse de la productivité des citoyens. Il s’agit d’une stratégie à la fois juste et sensée.

TC : Quel avenir espérez-vous pour le Comité d’action et que souhaitez-vous qu’il accomplisse sous votre présidence?

BM : Les femmes et les hommes passionnés qui ont travaillé au sein du Comité d’action au cours de la dernière décennie ont réalisé beaucoup de choses et jeté de solides bases pour faire face aux défis complexes qui restent à relever pour assurer l’accès à la justice pour tous. J’espère que nous serons en mesure d’établir une organisation-cadre permanente pour nourrir la réflexion novatrice, veiller à ce que les réalisations à ce jour ne soient pas menacées et aller de l’avant avec de nouveaux projets qui continueront d’améliorer l’accès à la justice.

TC : Pour conclure, je suis ravi que Beverley McLachlin ait également accepté de reprendre le flambeau. À compter de janvier, elle sera une collaboratrice régulière en matière d’accès à la justice. La prochaine année s’annonce comme une nouvelle étape emballante dans les efforts soutenus pour améliorer l’accès à la justice au Canada.

L’honorable Thomas Cromwell a été juge d’appel pendant 19 ans et, jusqu’à tout récemment, a présidé le Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale créé par la juge en chef. Il a pris sa retraite de la Cour suprême du Canada en septembre 2016 et agit désormais comme avocat-conseil principal au sein du groupe national des litiges chez Borden Ladner Gervais.

La très honorable Beverley McLachlin a été juge en chef du Canada de 2000 jusqu’à la mi‑décembre 2017. Elle travaille maintenant comme arbitre et médiatrice au Canada et à l’étranger. Elle siège également à la Cour commerciale internationale de Singapour et au Tribunal d’appel de dernière instance de Hong Kong. Elle préside le Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale.

Rise Women’s Legal Centre Publishes Evaluation Report

The Rise Women’s Legal Centre is a community legal centre located in Vancouver, B.C. that helps self-identifying, low-income women access family law services and learn about their legal rights. Rise recently published an Evaluation Report that provides details on services they provided between September 2017 and August 2018. The report includes information on the populations they served, the legal needs of their clients, factors that led clients to seek out services at Rise, the extent to which Rise met their legal needs, among a range of other topics.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Most clients (almost 50%) needed legal services for family law matters affecting their children, including help with custody/access/ parenting time matters and child support matters.
  • A significant number of clients sought legal services for matters which would contribute to their financial self-sufficiency, including property division (30%) and spousal support (27%).
  • More than 20% had accessed legal services prior to contacting Rise. These included clients who had run out of money to pay for a lawyer or exhausted their legal aid coverage accessing prior services.

The Rise Women’s Legal Services One-Year Evaluation Report is available in full here: Rise Women’s Legal Services – One-Year Evaluation Report (Diana TIndall) 2018-10-14.

Canadian Forum on Civil Justice Publishes New Cost of Justice Reports

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ) has published three new reports based on data from their national Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada study.

EVERYDAY LEGAL PROBLEMS AND THE COST OF JUSTICE IN CANADA – SURVEY DATA

The full data set from the CFCJ’s Everyday Legal Problems and Cost of Justice of Justice in Canada survey is now available! As part of the CFCJ’s national 7-year study on the Cost of Justice, over 3,000 adults in Canada were asked about their experiences with civil and family justice problems, the costs (monetary and non-monetary) of experiencing one or more civil or family justice problems and their views on the justice system.

The data from this national Cost of Justice survey has been published and is available on the CFCJ website here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Everyday-Legal-Problems-and-the-Cost-of-Justice-in-Canada-Cost-of-Justice-Survey-Data.pdf.


EVERYDAY LEGAL PROBLEMS AND THE COST OF JUSTICE IN CANADA – INCOME

Is there a connection between annual household income and experiences of civil or family justice problems in Canada? A new Cost of Justice report is now available that includes data from the CFCJ’s national Cost of Justice survey organized into three annual income groups: Less than $60,000, $60,000 – $125,000, and More than $125,000.

View the Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada – Income report on the CFCJ website here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/INCOME-Everyday-Legal-Problems-and-the-Cost-of-Justice-in-Canada.pdf.


EVERYDAY LEGAL PROBLEMS AND THE COST OF JUSTICE IN CANADA – SPENDING ON EVERYDAY LEGAL PROBLEMS

Almost 50% of people who experience an everyday legal problem spend some money trying to resolve their problem. Based on findings from the CFCJ’s national Cost of Justice study, average spending on legal problems is approximately $6,100. That is almost as much as Canadian households spend on food in a year. The newly published Everyday Legal Problems and the Cost of Justice in Canada – Spending on Everyday Legal Problems report offers additional insights on monetary spending on civil and family justice problems based on demographic characteristics recorded in the CFCJ’s Cost of Justice survey, as well as pathways used to try to resolve legal problems.

This new Cost of Justice report is available on the CFCJ website here: www.cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/SPENDING-Everyday-Legal-Problems-and-the-Cost-of-Justice-in-Canada.pdf.

UVic Access to Justice Centre for Excellence Launches Newsletter

The University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (UVic ACE) has launched a newsletter!

NEWSLINKS is a new UVic ACE publication that collates recent news and information from the media, the courts, government and the academy that will be of interest to people working to advance access to justice in British Columbia and elsewhere. The first issue of NEWSLINKS includes coming events, links to recent articles on A2J and Legal Education, A2J and Legal Practice and A2J and Self-Represented Litigants, as well as links to recent research and reports on access to justice.

To view the first issue of NEWSLINKS, click here: UVic ACE NEWSLINKS Issue 1. To subscribe to NEWSLINKS, visit: www.uvicace.com.

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: www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-18-09-2018.

Access to Justice: How it’s looking on the ground

by Thomas Cromwell

West Coast LEAF is a legal advocacy group whose mandate is to use the law to create an equal and just society for all women and people who experience gender-based discrimination. In other words, it is an organization dedicated to access to justice writ large. I was able to speak to Zahra Jimale, West Coast LEAF’s Director of Law Reform about its work, her conception of access to justice and, most importantly, how successful we’ve been in improving access to justice on the ground. Here is what she told me.
 
TC: Tell me about your role at West Coast Leaf

ZJ: In collaboration with the community, West Coast LEAF uses litigation, law reform, and public legal education to make change. We do our work in six focus areas: access to healthcare; access to justice; economic security; freedom from gender-based violence; justice for those who are criminalized; and the right to parent. As the Director of Law Reform, I provide leadership, strategic planning and project management with respect to policy and law reform in all of the six focus areas. I work with our team to develop the organization’s position statements and recommendations on implementation and reform of policy and law. I bring to this role my experience of founding and operating an independent family law practice where I provided a variety of family law services, including unbundled legal services, legal coaching, collaborative divorce, and mediation.

TC: What do you perceive as the biggest access to justice gap?

ZJ: There is a significant gap between what the public expects of the justice system and what the justice system delivers and is currently capable of delivering.

There is lack of deeper understanding of what it means to truly access justice; that justice is not simply achieved by accessing, but by obtaining just outcomes in an efficient and cost effective manner, regardless of the type of dispute resolution process that is pursued, be it court or alternative dispute resolution processes; that meaningful access to justice requires recognizing and dismantling the various barriers faced by many, and in particular, that there are intersecting barriers faced by certain populations because of historical and/or current systemic challenges. The complexity of the system, long delays, lack of access to affordable and timely legal advice and representation, and lack of adequately funded legal aid system continue to widen the gap.

An urgent systemic change is required to reduce these barriers and an immediate action must be taken to address the growing access to justice crisis, especially in family law. Where individuals are unable to access lawyers due to prohibitive costs and lack of public service, they are left with no choice but to either forego rights and interests, including the protection of their children’s rights and interests, or represent themselves without appropriate legal advice and/or representation. This is why West Coast LEAF and a team of pro bono counsel is representing the Single Mothers’ Alliance and an individual plaintiff in an ongoing constitutional claim against the B.C. government and the Legal Services Society for failing to provide adequate family law services, in particular to women fleeing violent relationships.

Zahra Jimale

TC: There is a lot of talk about the access to justice problem, but do you see signs of improvement on the ground?

ZJ: Unfortunately, we are far from seeing meaningful access to justice. Although there has been a lot of talk and some action, particularly in diverting disputants away from the court system and litigation generally, the justice system remains inaccessible to those that need it most. The barriers to accessing justice and the significant adverse consequences, including safety concerns for those fleeing violent relationships, are ongoing. Even though nearly half of Canadians over the age of 18 experience at least one civil or family law problem over any given three-year period, justice system funding continues to be woefully inadequate.

TC: If you could do any one thing to improve access to justice, what would you do and why?
 
ZJ: I would change the way we perceive access to justice. I believe once we recognize access to justice as a human right that is fundamental to the protection and promotion of the rule of law, we will then be forced to take the necessary action to ensure that it is meaningful and protected. This includes increasing the public’s knowledge of the justice system and how to manage and resolve legal problems; making available cost effective and appropriate avenues for resolution; providing meaningful access to resources and services; ensuring adequate funding of legal aid; and maintaining appropriate judicial complements and effectively functioning courts.

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on August 13, 2018. It is the eleventh 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.
 

A2J Initiative by Clicklaw and the Provincial Court of BC Offers Help for Self-Represented Litigants

The Provincial Court of British Columbia, in partnership with Clicklaw, have created (regularly updated) mobile-friendly guides to online legal information resources for self-represented litigants, and others who require assistance when starting out on the path to problem resolution for Provincial Court matters.

Intermediaries and court-adjunct staff can find more information on how to access information and resources to assist self-represented persons from this poster: http://blog.clicklaw.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/handout-light-clicklaw-bcpc.pdf. Clicklaw and the Provincial Court of BC encourage you to share the poster. To learn more about the partnership between the Provincial Court of BC and Clicklaw, read the eNews announcement on the Provincial Court of BC website here: http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-29-09-2015.

Government of Canada Introduces New Family Law Legislation

The Government of Canada has introduced new legislation aimed at modernizing and strengthening family justice—making it the first substantial update of Canada’s federal family laws in 20 years.

On May 22nd, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, introduced legislation that would amend three federal family laws: the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEAA) and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA). The legislation has four key objectives: to promote the best interests children, address family violence, curb child poverty and make Canada’s family justice system more accessible and efficient.

Additional information on these new measures can be accessed here: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/government-of-canada-announces-new-measures-to-strengthen-and-modernize-family-justice-683335701.html.