Barriers to access to justice: what the people want
In a speech to the Speech to the Law Society of BC Benchers Mayland McKimm, Chair of the Legal Services Society reflects on the problems of access to justice as the low-income people in British Columbia see it. The central question of the speech is – what prevents people from getting access to justice? McKimm immediately turns down the easy answers – it’s not the lack of lawyers or court fees. Drawing on results of series of workshops with stakeholders he states:
“The number one barrier is actually a cluster of obstacles that includes poverty, transportation, and child care. For many people, particularly in remote communities, the biggest barrier to accessing justice is simply getting to the courthouse or even having the means of getting to the courthouse. Participants also noted that their clients do not know what legal services are available and that they fear lawyers and the legal process.”
Another lesson from the study is that from the perspective of the people access to justice has two components:
- “…simply making the legal system more accessible or user friendly”
- “…helping people understand how the legal system can help them”
McKimm offers two practical initiatives intended to improve access to justice. First, he advocates for integration of legal services with “existing, trusted social services.” An example is the training of a health worker about child protection law. Second, McKimm suggests to work towards reduction of the costs of large criminal cases.
Read here the speech of Mayland McKimm