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.

Access to Justice: Highs and Lows of Pro Bono Week

By Thomas Cromwell

The last week of October is Pro Bono Week, a global celebration of the pro bono ethic in our profession. Across Canada and around the world, thousands of legal professionals provide their services without cost for the public good. In Canada, where there is a wide and growing gap between the need for legal services and people’s ability to gain access to them, pro bono is a part of the effort necessary to fill that gap.

We entered Pro Bono Week on a wave of optimism and achievement generated by the Seventh National Pro Bono Conference held in Vancouver on Oct. 4 and 5. The packed agenda included presentations by the chief justice of Canada, the chief justice of British Columbia, the attorney general of British Columbia and the president of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

The message from the top was clear: pro bono work by lawyers is part of our professional responsibility and its importance to the welfare of our community cannot be overstated. The large attendance at the conference and the lively engagement evident in all of the sessions generated optimism and enthusiasm.

While we can and must do more, there is much to celebrate.

But not all of the news about pro bono is good. Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) has indicated that in December it will have to close its court-based programs — two in Toronto and one in Ottawa — for want of funding for the administrative support essential to running these programs. PBO says that each year, volunteer lawyers help more than 18,000 clients in the civil, non-family justice system and, at the same time, reduce delays in the courts’ handling of these matters. An evaluation of the programs concluded that they provided a 10:1 return on investment. In other words, the public purse saved $10 for every dollar in funding. But that is apparently not enough to persuade potential funders to inject the modest resources needed to assure that these programs continue.

David W. Scott, one of the “parents” of these programs, has for many years spent a morning each month at the Law Help Centre at the Ottawa courthouse. He told me that during his October shift, he saw five people:

  • a single mother who is being pursued by a government department for support payments;
  • a friend of an Arabic woman who speaks no English who is defending herself from a landlord’s claim for rent;
  • a young man on parole who was the victim of a fraudulent claim when he was incarcerated;
  • a young mother who was being sued for return of employment insurance; and
  • a woman being sued for alleged non-payment of taxes.

Through the court-based program, David was able to provide modest but critical help. The closure of the Law Help Centre will mean that people like those who David saw — people in their thousands — will be left to their own devices. The need for these services is obvious and compelling.

The willingness of legal professionals to provide these pro bono services has been demonstrated. The business case for doing so seems unanswerable. But even this is not enough to save these programs.

Scott says that he is heartbroken. The rest of us should be ashamed. Who can seriously contend that we cannot find the modest resources needed to maintain these valuable services? If we wanted to, we would.

 

This article originally appeared on The Lawyer’s Daily on November 5, 2018. It is the twelfth 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.

Access to Justice Week Begins Soon in Saskatchewan and Ontario

Saskatchewan’s second annual Access to Justice Week will run from October 20 – 26, 2018. The week will include discussions and activities that will engage different actors in the access to justice conversation as well as highlight projects and programs that aim to improve access to justice for all Saskatchewan residents. The week-long events will build on themes from the University of Saskatchewan College of Law’s 2017 Dean’s Forum on Access to Justice and Dispute Resolution and will include:

  • Legal information, Legal Advice, and Access to Justice; and
  • Expanding Engagement: Creating Connections

Learn more about Access to Justice Week in Saskatchewan here: https://law.usask.ca/createjustice/saskatchewan-access-to-justice-week.php. For a list of events scheduled for the 2018 Saskatchewan Access to Justice Week, visit: https://law.usask.ca/createjustice/A2J2018-AtAGlance.pdf.


Monday, October 22, 2018 marks the start of the third annual Access to Justice Week in Ontario, hosted by The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG). The week will include a range of sessions including:

  • Mental Health – Access and Ethics
  • Indigenous Language Speakers and the Canadian Justice System
  • Addressing the Access to Legal Representation Gap in Family Law; and
  • Justice, Innovation and Community

Visit the TAG Access to Justice Week webpage for information on the sessions and to register to attend events by webcast or in person: https://theactiongroup.ca/access-to-justice-week/.

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.

International research project seeks to scale access to community-based justice

The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ), located at Osgoode Hall Law School, is joining forces with researchers in Kenya, Sierra Leone and South Africa to build a business case for scaling community-based justice services.

Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Community-Based Justice Research (CBJR) project is a newly-launched, collaborative research initiative that aims to advance collective understanding of the costs, opportunities, and challenges of community-based justice programs. In doing so, this project will play a significant role in supporting the improvement of access to justice at the community level.

This project speaks directly to Goal 16.3 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which requires countries to ensure equal access to justice for all of their citizens. Community-oriented justice services fill gaps in the delivery of legal services in many otherwise underserved areas; they facilitate early legal problem resolution, and they empower individuals to engage in society to protect their legal rights. By helping to provide the evidence needed to understand, assess and scale these types of access to justice programs, this project will help countries to better develop and deliver justice to their communities.

The Community-Based Justice Research project is planned in close collaboration with the IDRC, the Katiba Institute in Kenya, the Center for Alternative Policy Research and Innovation (CAPRI) in Sierra Leone and the Centre for Community Justice and Development (CCJD) in South Africa with support from Open Society Foundations (OSF), and will incorporate research methodologies and learnings from the CFCJ’s own 7-year (2011-2018) national, people-centered research project on “The Cost of Justice”.

The press release for the Community-Based Justice Research project is available on the CFCJ website here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/wp-content/uploads/Press-Release-CFCJ-CBJR-International-Research-Initiative-Seeks-to-Scale-Access-to-Community-Justice.pdf.

To learn more, please also visit the Community-Based Justice Research project page here: http://cfcj-fcjc.org/our-projects/community-based-justice-research-cbjr/.

Recently Published Research by The Law Foundation of Ontario Examines the Role of Intermediaries in Connecting Ontarians to Legal Information and Legal Help

The Law Foundation of Ontario has published new research on the role of community workers who help people with legal problems.  In many cases frontline workers, including settlement workers, parks and recreation staff, counsellors, nurses and librarians, among others, are the first (and only) resource that people go to for help with justiciable problems.  These intermediaries play an important role in identifying legal problems and connecting people with information and resources that can be helpful.

The final report from this research – Trusted Help: the role of community workers as trusted intermediaries who help people with legal problems – offers insight into the ways that trusted intermediaries provide help, including:

  •    Referring people to legal service providers
  •     Providing information about legal rights and procedures
  •     Identifying legal problems
  •     Helping people to take steps to resolve a legal problem
  •     Providing assistance to complete legal forms and documentation
  •     Accompanying people to tribunal or court hearings
  •     Accompanying people to meetings with legal service providers

Trusted Help: the role of community workers as trusted intermediaries who help people with legal problems was prepared by Karen Cohl, Julie Lassonde, Julie Mathews, Carol Lee Smith, and George Thomson for the Law Foundation of Ontario. An overview of this research is available in this Law Foundation of Ontario announcement: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/news/legal-help-on-the-frontlines/.

Learn more about the ways that trusted intermediaries help people access legal help and services as well as how to work with, support, and collaborate with trusted intermediaries from parts one and two of this Law Foundation of Ontario report available here: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_TrustedHelpReport_Part1_EN.pdf and here: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_TrustedHelpReport_Part2_EN.pdf.

Ces rapports sont disponibles en français ici : http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_FR_TrustedHelpReport_Part1.pdf et ici: http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/LFO_FR_TrustedHelpReport_Part2.pdf.

 

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.

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.