Law Commission of Ontario Publishes Major Report on Accountable AI

The Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) has released a third major report examining artificial intelligence (AI) and automated decision-making (ADM) in the Canadian justice system. 

“Accountable AI” analyzes AI and ADM systems used to assist government decision-making, and considers issues of legal accountability when these systems are applied in decision-making in the civil and administrative justice systems.

Key questions explored in the report include:

  • Why and how governments are using AI
  • How AI changes government decision-making
  • The elements of AI regulation
  • How to fulfill the promise of “Trustworthy AI”
  • How to adapt human rights and administrative law to government AI decision-making
  • Ensuring public engagement
  • Improving access to justice

The LCO’s “Accountable AI” report identifies 19 recommendations to address bias in AI systems, “black-box” decision-making, due process, and the need for public engagement.

The final report is available online here: https://www.lco-cdo.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/LCO-Accountable_AI_Final_Report.pdf.

For the LCO’s other reports on AI, ADM and the justice system, visit the LCO website here: https://www.lco-cdo.org/en/our-current-projects/ai-adm-and-the-justice-system/.

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.

Canadian Judicial Council and Department of Justice Sign Key Memoranda of Understanding

The Department of Justice of Canada has announced two Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between the Department of Justice and the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC). The MOUs are aimed at “strengthening judicial independence” and “increasing public confidence in the justice system”. The MOU on judicial independence acknowledges the CJC’s autonomy in fulfilling its mandate to serve the public. The MOU on judicial education confirms how the federal government and the CJC engage on matters of judicial education while respecting constitutional boundaries. The MOUs were signed by the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, the Chief Justice of Canada and the Honourable David Lametti, the Minister of Justice.

The April 28, 2022 press release on the two Memoranda of Understanding, as well as links to additional information, is available in English here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-justice/news/2022/04/strengthening-judicial-independence-and-increasing-public-confidence-in-the-justice-system-chief-justice-of-canada-and-minister-of-justice-sign-two.html.

The press release is available in French here: https://www.canada.ca/fr/ministere-justice/nouvelles/2022/04/renforcer-lindependance-judiciaire-et-accroitre-la-confiance-du-public-envers-le-systeme-de-justice-le-juge-en-chef-du-canada-et-le-ministre-de-la-.html.

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.

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/.

Federal Court of Appeal and Federal Court Mark 50 Years

This year marks 50 years since the founding of Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. To recognize the 50th anniversary, the Courts held a virtual celebration earlier this summer, on June 1st. During the commemoration ceremony, Federal Court Chief Justice, Paul Crampton noted that the Federal Courts’ founding was grounded in a desire for a “just society” and the notion that the Federal Court could play an important role in realizing that goal.

To mark 50 years, the Federal Court of Appeal and the Federal Court will also be publishing a book that showcases past work of the Courts and goals for the future. There will be a formal, virtual book launch on October 1, 2021 and 3 follow-up webinars on October 29th (Immigration), November 26th (National Security), and December 10th (Intellectual Property). To register for these events, visit: https://www.nji-inm.ca/index.cfm/publications/public-resources/fca-fc-50th-anniversary-events/.

A recording of the commemoration ceremony is available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vS46flYYgBg.

Chief Justice Paul Crampton’s speech is available on the Federal Court website: https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/pages/media/speeches#cont.

Details in the post are from the Federal Court’s announcement published here: https://www.fct-cf.gc.ca/Content/assets/pdf/base/2021-07-30-50th-anniversary-video.pdf.

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.

Parliamentary Committee Report Explores the Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Immigration

“Immigration in the Time of COVID-19: Issues and Challenges” is a new report from the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM). The report explores the impacts of the pandemic on Canada’s immigration system, with particular emphasis on family reunification, the parent and grandparent program, and impacts for international students and foreign nationals with expired documents. The parliamentary committee report includes 38 recommendations for consideration by the House of Commons, including:

  • A fully digitized system that also maintains the option for paper applications (Recommendation 1);
  • Increasing financial supports for settlement services to facilitate digital literacy and access to digital tools (Recommendation 3);
  • Implementing measures to permit permanent residents with expired permanent resident cards who have faced renewal issues because of the pandemic to return to Canada (Recommendation 4); and,
  • Prioritizing the processing of family reunification applications in cases where family members are protected persons (Recommendation 8).

The CIMM Committee report is available in English here:  https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/43-2/CIMM/report-5/. The report is available in French here: https://www.noscommunes.ca/DocumentViewer/fr/43-2/CIMM/rapport-5.