Public Perceptions of Access to Justice in Ontario

What do Ontarians think of their justice system? In August 2016, The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG), in conjunction with Abacus Data, polled 1,500 Ontarians online to find out about their perceptions of Ontario’s justice system.

Some of the poll’s key findings include:

  • 40 per cent of Ontarians do not believe that they have fair and equal access to the justice system
  • Of those who have needed legal help, 46 per cent sought advice from lawyers and almost one third (32 per cent) turned to friends or family for advice
  • Only 26 per cent sought information via the internet

The complete report, Public Perceptions on Access to Justice, is available here.

An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released a report entitled: “An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta.”

Generally speaking, early neutral evaluation programs are court-based programs that require the parties to a dispute to attend a neutral third party evaluator early on the life of a lawsuit. At these hearings, the parties present their positions in the case and receive the feedback of the evaluator on the merits of those positions and the likely result of the lawsuit if it went to trial. The evaluator may assist the parties in settling all or some of the issues in dispute. However even when a full settlement is not reached, the hearing provides a useful reality check for litigants, helps to clarify the issues in dispute and prepares the parties for future judicial and extrajudicial dispute resolution processes.

Research conducted by The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family shows that these hearings result in high satisfaction rates for litigants, lawyers and evaluators. They promote settlement and the taking of positions supported by the law, and save litigants time, money and emotional stress as a result. They also provide savings to the justice system by reducing the number of contested applications and reducing the number and length of trials.

Based on these findings, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family proposes that a working group be established to explore the implementation of a pilot early neutral evaluation project in Alberta. The Institute makes a variety of recommendations on the optimum characteristics of such a pilot project, drawn from their research, and on the issues the working group must address in its deliberations. In their view, the proposed pilot project aligns well with the objectives and guiding principles of the Reforming the Family Justice System Initiative presently exploring means of improving the family justice system in Alberta, and may be ideally suited for adoption and evaluation as a prototype by the Initiative.
The authors of the report are Joanne Paetsch ( and John-Paul Boyd ( Please address any comments, questions or concerns you may have to them.

In addition, this report pairs nicely with the conclusions reached in the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family’s 2014 report, “Self-Represented Litigants in Family Law Disputes: Contrasting the Views of Alberta Family Law Lawyers and Judges of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench” by John-Paul Boyd and Lorne Bertrand. This earlier report concludes that self-represented litigants tend to take unreasonable positions in family law disputes which ultimately reduce the likelihood that these disputes will resolve without a trial. When cases involving self-represented litigants do reach trial, they tend to require more adjournments and take longer to resolve as a result of self-represented litigants’ unfamiliarity with the rules of court, the rules of evidence and the law that applies to their cases, and the results self-represented litigants achieve tend to be worse than the results they would have achieved had they had counsel. An early neutral evaluation program which includes an objective appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ positions would likely be of great assistance to these litigants.

For more information about the other projects the Institute is engaged in or developing, please visit

Legal Aid Benchmarks

In 2014, a joint Working Group of the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP) collaborated to formulate and propose national legal aid benchmarks for Canada. After much consultation and discussion, the national benchmarks have now been completed. These benchmarks are guiding principles to achieve the shared goal of a national, integrated system of public legal assistance focused on improving access to justice and meeting the needs of disadvantaged people across Canada. These 6 national legal aid benchmarks, under headings of an overall vision, scope of services, priorities for service, spectrum of service, quality of service and an integrated service delivery sector, capture current evidence about legal aid and define pathways for the future, are intended to provide a foundation for national indicators with common data measurement.

To explain these concepts further, the CBA has authored a separate report further elaborating on the rationale and potential of national benchmarks for Canada.

For more information or to provide feedback, contact


L’Association du barreau canadien (ABC) et l’Association des régimes d’aide juridique (ARAJ) ont collaboré pour formuler des normes nationales de services d’assistance juridique pour le Canada. Ces normes sont des principes directeurs visant l’atteinte de l’objectif commun d’un régime national et intégré de services d’assistance juridique publics axés sur l’amélioration de l’accès à la justice et sur la réponse aux besoins des personnes défavorisées au Canada. Les six normes – vision globale, portée des services, priorité des services, éventail des services, qualité des services et secteur de prestation de services intégrés – expriment des indices matériels actuels au sujet de l’assistance juridique et définissent des voies d’avenir. Elles procurent un fondement d’élaboration pour des indicateurs nationaux assortis de mesures communes de données.

Un rapport séparé de l’ABC, Un cadre national pour combler les besoins juridiques : Proposition de normes nationales de services d’assistance juridique publics, expose la raison d’être et le potentiel de ces normes nationales pour le Canada.

Pour obtenir de plus amples renseignements, veuillez communiquer avec L’ABC à

Interdisciplinary Speaker Series on Access to Justice

Green College at The University of British Columbia (UBC) will be hosting an interdisciplinary speakers series on access to justice over the coming year.

The first talk took place on September 28 and featured recently retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell, speaking on “Why Don’t we Have Appropriate Access to Justice?”.  Justice Cromwell was joined by Ms. Jennifer Muller (a self-represented litigant from A2JBC) and Mr. Dan Baxter (Director of Policy Development, Government & Stakeholder Relations for the BC Chamber of Commerce).

The talk was livestreamed at Why Don’t we Have Appropriate Access to Justice?, and livetweeted using #justicetalks.  Future talks will also be available as podcasts.

Here are some details about future talks:

October 19 – “Access to Justice and Sexual Violence”, Professor Janine Benedet (Allard Law) and Dr. Tracy Pickett (UBC Medicine/St Paul’s Hospital) (5:00-6:30 pm, Pacific Time)

November 23 – “Access to Justice and Indigenous Laws”, Professor Val Napoleon (UVic Law) and Professor Hadley Friedland (Alberta Law) (5:00-6:30 pm, Pacific Time)

For more information on upcoming 2016 talks, view the Cross-Sectoral Consultation, Access to Justice poster. The last three talks will take place in 2017, with topics and speakers TBA.

Those in Vancouver are invited to attend the speaker series.  For those outside of Vancouver, please consider following the talks on Twitter, by livestream, or by podcast.

Civil Justice and Economics: A Matter of Value / Justice civile et économie : une question de valeur

The Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice (CIAJ), in partnership with the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ), invite you to this year’s “Civil Justice and Economics: A Matter of Value” conference.

This conference will offer a platform for Canadian judges, practitioners and those involved in the administration of justice to discuss their work through the lens of law and economics. The premise of this conference is that economic concepts can help us to understand the effects of what we do and could help us better assess the effectiveness, both economically and socially, of choices and decisions the actors in the administration of justice make.

Civil Justice and Economics: A Matter of Value will take place from October 5-7 at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa. To view the full program or to register, visit the conference page here.


L’Institut canadien d’administration de la justice (ICAJ), en partenariat avec Le Forum canadien sur la justice civile (FCJC), vous invitent à participer à la conférence << Justice civile et économie : une question de valeur >> .

Cette conférence mettra une plate-forme à la disposition des juges canadiens, des praticiens et de ceux qui participent à l’administration de la justice pour examiner leur travail sous l’angle du droit et de l’économie. Cette conférence part du principe que les concepts économiques pourraient les aider à mieux évaluer les conséquences de leurs actions et l’efficacité de leurs choix et décisions, tant sur le plan économique que social. Pour télécharger le programme ou pour s’inscrire, cliquez ici.



Access to Justice Week (October 17 – 21, 2o16)

Access to Justice Week (October 17 to 21) will “explore collaborative initiatives and engage new participants in the access to justice conversation”.

The week’s events will include:
Redesigning Justice: How would you do it?
Barristers’ Lounge
Law Society of Upper Canada
Toronto, ON

Technology, Inclusion and Access to Justice: Broadening the Conversation
Barristers’ Lounge
Law Society of Upper Canada

Connect, Create, Communicate: Public Legal Education and the Access to Justice Movement (Two-day conference)
Chestnut Conference Centre
89 Chestnut Street
Toronto, ON

Connect, Create, Communicate: Public Legal Education and the Access to Justice Movement
Chestnut Conference Centre
89 Chestnut Street
Toronto, ON

Re-imagining Child Welfare Systems in Canada: A Symposium
1014 Osgoode Hall Law School
4700 Keele St
North York, ON

Stories From the Justice System with Raconteurs Storytelling
Hart House
7 Hart House Cir, Toronto

To register for any of these events or for more information, visit The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) Access to Justice Week event page here.


University Researchers and Justice System Stakeholders Unite for Access to Law and Access to Justice (ADAJ) Initiative in Quebec

The University of Montreal has announced the launch of a major access to justice research initiative that will bring together more than 40 researchers (from 9 universities) and 44 justice stakeholders, including the Superior Court of Québec, the Court of Québec, the Ministry of Justice of Québec, local legal services organizations, the Québec Bar Association, the Chamber of Notaries, SOQUIJ and Éducaloi. (The full list of partners is available here.)

“The objective of this initiative is to engage a series of pilot projects aimed at redirecting the focus of the judicial system on the individual citizen and thereby transforming justice into a community project,” states Pierre Noreau, scientific director of the project, researcher at the Public Law Research Centre (CRDP) and professor with the Faculty of Law at Université de Montréal.  The full press release is available in English here.


L’Université de Montréal a annoncé  le lancement d’un important consortium de recherche consacré au thème de l’accès au droit et à la justice. ADAJ regroupe 42 chercheurs et collaborateurs de 9 universités et 44 partenaires de la justice. Il regroupe notamment la Cour supérieure, la Cour du Québec de même que le ministère de la Justice du Québec, de nombreuses cliniques juridiques de quartier, le Barreau du Québec, la Chambre des notaires, SOQUIJ et Éducaloi.

« Le but que nous poursuivons est de réaliser toute une série de projets-pilotes susceptibles de remettre le citoyen au coeur du système juridique pour faire enfin de la justice un projet collectif », affirme Pierre Noreau, directeur scientifique du projet, chercheur au Centre de recherche en droit public (CRDP) et professeur à la Faculté de droit de l’Université de Montréal.

Le communiqué de presse est disponible ici.

A2J: Unaffordable Legal Services – Concepts and Solution

In the recently published “Access to Justice – Unaffordable Legal Services’ Concepts and Solutions”, Ken Chasse discusses a support services model that would offer more cost-efficient legal services delivery, maintain the current management structure of law societies and make legal services more adequately available. Chasse posits that, “the unaffordable legal services problem is not a legal problem” but rather, “a permanent civil service-type institute” that continuously develops and evolves can lend expertise to law societies about cost-cutting strategies that can be employed to make law services more affordable. To read more about this approach to counter unaffordable legal services, view Ken Chasse’s paper here.

Also related, read another recent publication by Ken Chasse -“No Votes in Justice Means More Wrongful Convictions”, that explores how “government neglect of the justice system reduces the quality of justice available”. This second paper is available here.

UVic Access to Justice Centre for Excellence Colloquium’s Final Report

On May 13, 2016 the University of Victoria Access to Justice Centre for Excellence (UVic ACE) hosted a research colloquium attended by 23 participants from a spectrum of British Columbia justice organizations and agencies. The objective of the colloquium was to bring together various justice stakeholders to discuss the possibility of developing a BC justice framework. Discussion at the colloquium was centred around 3 topics:

A. The nature, status and consequences of the research problem: In defining the problem, colloquium participants agreed that there must be a more coordinated effort in gathering empirical data.

B. Laying the groundwork for the creation of the framework: The consensus among colloquium participants was that over-arching strategic justice system objectives must be set out to achieve the framework.

C. Concrete steps for the design and implementation of the framework: The scope of the research framework was discussed at length, with colloquium participants ultimately agreeing that the project should not involve other provinces due to limited resources and problems of cross-provincial coordination.

As part of the day’s discussion, Uvic ACE proposed a number of ways that it could help advance the justice research framework project after the colloquium. Subject to securing the necessary funding, UVic ACE agreed to contribute in the following 5 ways:

  1. Establishing a provincial, multi-sector Research Framework Working Group (“RFWG”) to pursue the design and implementation of a justice research framework
  2. Working with RFWG in the undertaking of research, providing outreach and information, and convening further colloquia
  3. Preparing a report recommending objectives and guiding principles to inform BC justice research and the work of the RFWG
  4. Preparing a literature review on justice research frameworks, a paper analyzing options for data scan, and an inventory of existing Canadian A2J research
  5. Encouraging interest among UVic faculty and students in support of access-oriented justice research projects

    To view the full Colloquium Report containing a more fulsome discussion of the research framework and UVic’s proposals for contributing to the ongoing project click here.

Law, Technology and Access to Justice

To date, there has been much discussion on the impact of technology on traditional legal practice in terms of virtual law firms, online dispute resolution (ODR), and other innovative legal software. At the same time, however, there has been surprisingly little discussion of the impact of technology on A2J for those with low income.

With the intention of filling an important void, The Legal Education Foundation in London has funded a new website: to serve as a resource on developments at the intersection of “law, technology, and access to justice.” The initiative follows from two previous annual reports for 2014 and 2015 (available here), which talk about developments in the field. At present, one of the website’s main features is a blog by researcher, journalist, and legal services consultant Roger Smith (OBE). Other external contributions include pieces from ADR and ODR experts, a piece from a UK developer of family law software, and an account from Hackney Community Law Centre.

The website is looking to post around 10 blogs per month on topics that pertain to the following themes:

  1.  General overviews
  2. The impact of and approaches to overcoming the digital divide
  3. Legal developments of relevance to those who are poor (ex: use of guided pathways, automated documented assembly, ODR)
  4. Innovative ways in which digital provision may be integrated with and supplement conventional services
  5. The potential use of technology to supplement legal services in low income countries

The website is currently inviting blog contributions (around 800 words in length, 1500 being the maximum) for those interested in writing on any of the above themes. Furthermore, the website is also looking for volunteers to be part of a reference group. If you would like to write a contribution for the site, participate in the reference group, or provide any additional feedback, please email Roger at