Annual Access to Justice Week to Focus on Using Data to Address Legal Needs

The seventh annual Access to Justice Week will run from October 24 to 28, 2022. This year’s event will feature a series of workshops and presentations on the theme, “Access to Justice Counts: Using Data to Address the Legal Needs of Canadians”. The full schedule is now available. The public is invited to learn more by visiting the event website and register to attend events, which will take place virtually: https://lso.ca/theactiongroup/access-to-justice-week.

Justice Canada Revises Questionnaire for Federal Judicial Appointments

The Department of Justice Canada has made changes to the Questionnaire for Federal Judicial Appointments. Incorporating feedback received from the Canadian Judicial Council (CJC), the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs (OCFJA) since 2016, the newly revised Questionnaire seeks to be more respectful and offer more inclusive language for candidates, among other changes. The Questionnaire is open to persons who wish to be considered for a federal judicial appointment.

For more information on changes to the Questionnaire, view the Department of Justice’s news release in English here: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-justice/news/2022/09/government-of-canada-announces-changes-to-federal-judicial-appointment-questionnaire.html et en français ici : https://www.canada.ca/fr/ministere-justice/nouvelles/2022/09/le-gouvernement-du-canada-annonce-des-modifications-au-questionnaire-pour-les-nominations-a-la-magistrature-federale.html.

Justice Department Publishes Report on Indigenous and Restorative Justice Approaches

A new report published by the Justice Department of Canada provides details on a panel discussion held in February 2022 on Indigenous and Restorative Justice Approaches. The panel discussion that informed the recently published Indigenous and Restorative Justice Approaches report was designed to help set the stage for the National Restorative Collaborative Learning Conference, taking place in October 2022. Key discussion themes at the February panel included: the need for greater awareness of concepts and terminology on Indigenous and restorative justice (Indigenous Justice, Customary laws, Restorative Justice, etc.); understanding the meaning of “justice”; and, more broadly, the need for more education and awareness among lawyers and legal professionals of how to be an ally to Indigenous peoples, the differences among and within First Nations, Inuit, Métis communities and cultures, among other, related topics.

The Justice Department’s report on Indigenous and Restorative Justice Approaches is available in English here: https://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/jr/irja-afajr/index.html.

Le rapport de la table ronde : Approches fondées sur les Autochtones et la justice réparatrice est disponible en français ici : https://www.justice.gc.ca/fra/pr-rp/jr/afajr-irja/index.html.

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.