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/.

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.

Annual Action Committee Report Highlights Progress on Access to Justice and Justice Sector Responses to the Pandemic

The national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters has released its annual progress report on the Justice Development Goals. The report offers insights on developments in nine areas deemed essential for better access to justice in Canada. The nine areas are based on the goals identified in the Action Committee’s 2013 “A Roadmap for Change” report which highlighted the need to:

  • Refocus the justice system to reflect and address everyday legal problems
  • Make essential legal services available to everyone
  • Make courts and tribunals fully accessible multi-service centres for public dispute resolution
  • Make coordinated and appropriate multidisciplinary family services easily accessible
  • Create local and national access to justice implementation mechanisms
  • Promote a sustainable, accessible and integrated justice agenda through legal education
  • Enhance the innovation capacity of the civil and family justice system
  • Support access to justice to promote evidence-based policy making
  • Promote coherent, integrated and sustained funding strategies

This year’s Action Committee report also includes a section on the justice sector’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canada’s Justice Development Goals 2020: Challenge and Change” is available in English here: http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/jdgreport2020challengechange.pdf.

Pour télécharger << Objectifs de développement en matière de justice du Canada de 2020 : Défis et changements >> cliquez ici : http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/odjrapport2020defichangements.pdf.

Canadian Judicial Council Publishes 3 New Handbooks for Self-Represented Litigants

The Canadian Judicial Council (CJC) has announced the publication of a new Civil Law Handbook, Criminal Law Handbook and Family Law Handbook for self-represented litigants. According to a May 5th press release, “[t]he goal of the handbooks is to help those who are not represented by legal counsel to better prepare for court proceedings, and to provide judges with tools they can recommend to such persons to help them access the courts.”

The handbooks were developed in conjunction with the Judicial Education Society of British Columbia and provide useful information on how to obtain electronic access to statutes, regulations and forms.

The three new handbooks are available on the CJC website in English here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/en/what-we-do/initiatives/representing-yourself-court and in French here: https://cjc-ccm.ca/fr/ce-que-nous-faisons/initiatives/se-representer-soi-meme-devant-un-tribunal.

New Book Examines What is Working and Not Working to Improve Access to Civil and Family Justice

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law edited by Trevor C.W. Farrow and Lesley A. Jacobs is a newly published book that provides an in-depth look at what is working and not working to improve access to civil and family justice in Canada.

The Justice Crisis uses new empirical research to explore the value associated with the provision of an effective justice system and the costs – individual and collective – of not providing accessible justice. The national and international importance of and the need for this kind of research is widely acknowledged.

Contributors to The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law include: Carolyn Carter, Thomas A. Cromwell, Ab Currie, Matthew Dylag, Trevor C.W. Farrow, Heather Heavin, Lesley A. Jacobs, Devon Kapoor, Michaela Keet, Jennifer Koshan, Herbert M. Kritzer, Moktar Lamari, Marylène Leduc, M. Jerry McHale, Lisa Moore, Janet Mosher, Pierre Noreau, Mitchell Perlmutter, Catherine Piché, Noel Semple, Lorne Sossin, Michael Trebilcock, Wanda Wiegers and David Wiseman.

The book’s foreword is written by The Honourable Thomas A. Cromwell, CC.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law is part of the 7-year Cost of Justice project led by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice. The Cost of Justice project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law was published by UBC Press and is available here: www.ubcpress.ca/the-justice-crisis.

View the press release for The Justice Crisis: The Cost and Value of Accessing Law online here: https://news.yorku.ca/2020/09/02/new-evidence-on-the-justice-crisis-making-the-case-for-reform/.

National Action Committee Publishes New Report on Canada’s Progress on Justice Development Goals

A recently released report by the national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters (Action Committee) offers insights into new developments, research, initiatives and other efforts that are contributing to improvements in access to justice in Canada. This report represents the most recent review by the Action Committee of Canada’s progress on nine goals that are deemed essential for better access to justice. The report tracks achievements during 2018 using the Justice Development Goals as a common framework for coordinating efforts, sharing innovations, and measuring progress on access to justice.

Canada’s nine Justice Development Goals are to:

  • Address Everyday Legal Problems
  • Meet Legal Needs
  • Make Courts Work Better
  • Improve Family Justice
  • Work Together
  • Build Capacity
  • Innovate
  • Analyze and Learn
  • Improve Funding Strategies

The new Action Committee report, “Working Toward Accessible Justice: Tracking Progress on the JDGs in 2018” is available online in English here: http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/2018jdgsworkingtorwardsa2jreport.pdf.

Vous pouvez télécharger << Travaillent pour une justice accessible : Suivi des progrès réalisés sur les objectifs de développement en matière de justice au Canada en 2018 >> ici : http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/sites/default/files/2018ojdstravaillentpoura2jrapport.pdf.

Learn more about the Justice Development Goals here: http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/goals.

Pour plus d’informations sur les objectifs de développement en matière de justice, cliquez ici : http://www.justicedevelopmentgoals.ca/fr.

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.