Reaching Equal Justice: An update on the CBA Access 2 Justice Committee

  • December 04, 2015
  • Ed Montigny

The CBA Reaching Equal Justice Initiative considers four systemic barriers that are blocking efforts to reach equal justice and proposes means to overcome them.

The barriers are:

  1. Lack of public profile
  2. Inadequate strategy and co-ordination
  3. No effective mechanism for measuring change
  4. Gaps in our knowledge of what works and how to achieve substantive change

The framework for equal justice report sets out a plan to eliminate these barriers and create a more accessible and equitable legal system. The CBA Access 2 Justice Committee (Committee) established a series of targets in 31 key areas. The targets are framed as measurable concrete goals to be achieved by 2030 or sooner, with interim steps and actions to begin immediately. The report was endorsed by the CBA national Council in February 2014.

One of the key motivations for this project is the knowledge that inaccessible justice costs us all – the costs are financial, but they are also personal and systemic. Tinkering is not enough. The project aims to facilitate everyday justice, re-invent service delivery, transform formal justice, build public engagement and participation, as well as encourage collaboration and foster innovation.

Work has begun on several projects with other key justice system participants.

With public legal education providers, a series of legal health “checks” have been created to assist people in early identification of legal issues. A preventative Justice Tool Kit was been released. This tool kit explains how and why lawyers can take a preventative approach to practising law. The Committee is now exploring ways to promote this tool kit.  

The Committee is working with Pro Bono students to develop a website that brings together services that advance access to justice at the local/provincial/territorial level. This project involves law students in the CBA’s access to justice work, encouraging awareness of access to justice issues early in their legal careers.  

The CBA’s Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee has worked with the Committee to study the issue of ethical considerations in expanding the use of technology to achieve equal justice. A report on this topic will be released in the fall of 2015.

The Committee is also working with the Access to Justice Research network to ensure that the research of the Committee is co-ordinated with other relevant  research underway across Canada.

With the Association of Legal Aid Plans of Canada (ALAP), the Committee is developing National Benchmarks for legal aid. A consultation paper has been produced and distributed widely for comment.

The Committee also encourages members to become active at the local branch level. For instance, Local Branch Sections are invited to explore ways to assist the Legal Aid Benchmarks project using a consultation package being developed by the Committee to obtain input from local legal aid plans and the public.

At the 2015 Mid-Winter meeting the Committee offered tips for branch and local action to implement Reaching Equal Justice. A CBA Equal Justice network has been established to help share information and engage local members in national projects. OBA members can also discuss access to justice initiatives with their Section executives.

The Committee encourages all CBA members to read the Reaching Equal Justice Report and think of ways they or their local branches can help promote the report to keep it in the limelight both within and outside the CBA/OBA. The Access to Justice Committee is happy to assist with materials and suggestions on what branches or individual members can do.

About the Author

Ed Montigny, of ARCH Disability Law Centre, is a member of the CBA Access 2 Justice Committee and is a past chair of the OBA Equality Committee.

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