Posts filed under ‘Canada’

New web site advocates for more legal aid funding in Canada

The British Columbia branch of the Canadian Bar Association launched a web public education campaign aimed at securing more funds for legal aid. The site www.weneedlegalaid.com features personal stories of people who used legal aid, news and other information that might mobilize support for legal aid in British Columbia. According to the campaing:

“A lack of legal aid funding is unacceptable in a province as rich as ours. This means that many British Columbians facing loss of liberty, homelessness or losing custody of their children do not have access to representation.”

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November 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Access to justice in class action – who benefits?

An interesting dispute is revived in a recent article in the Lawyers Weekly – who benefits from class action. First, the proponents of collective redress emphasize the potential of collective actions to guarantee access to justice to many through bringing economies of scale and spreading costs. Others are more sceptical and contend that class action as a procedural vehicle is mostly profiting for the lawyers representing the class as well as the defendant/s.

The authors of the article tend to recognize the benefits of class action with regards to access to justice:

“At the appellate level, the courts have tended to philosophically favour the values of access to justice and deterrence. The track record of court-approved settlements and class counsel fees is also arguably pro-plaintiff, with few cases rejecting settlements or fee requests.”

On the other hand, the authors (both commercial lawyers) provide insight in the dynamics that take place between the class and its counsel when the issue of lawyers’ fees is discussed. In Smith Estate v. National Money Mart Co. [2011] O.J. No. 1321 (C.A.) the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the fee is disproportional given the amount of the settlement. The court was led by consideration that the total claimed legal fee would eat most of the settlement and thus class members will see little recovery.

Read the whole article on class action and access to justice here

May 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm Leave a comment

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

    March 19, 2011 at 8:48 pm Leave a comment

    Founder of Calgary Legal Guidance receives McKillop Award for Community Service

    Mary Lynn Dorsey, founder of Calgary Legal Guidance received the McKillop Award for Community Service for her energy to provide vulnerable Calgarians with access to justice. Dorsey has been specificaly acknowledged for her efforts to help homeless people who have their ID documents lost or stolen. ID document means a lot for a homeless person – without one he cannot claim social benefits, withdraw money from bank account or prove identity when stopped by police. Dorsey innitiated the Homeless Outreach Project to help the homeless, raise awareness and engage different public agencies.

    Read more about how Calgary Legal Guidance helped homeless to get better access to justice and public services here

    March 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm Leave a comment

    Report of the British Columbia Public Commission on Legal Aid in British Columbia

    The Public Commission on Legal Aid of British Columbia was launched in June 2010 with the task to discuss the future of legal aid. On 8 March 2011 the Commission published a final report in which it calls to recognize legal aid as essential public service:

    “The  Legal Services Society Act should be amended to include a statement clearly recognizing legal aid as an essential public service and the entitlement to legal aid where an individual has a legal problem that puts into jeopardy their or their family’s security—be it their liberty, health, employment, housing, or ability to meet the basic necessities of life—and he or she has no meaningful ability to pay for legal services.”

    Further, the Report recommends:

    • Development of  a new approach to define core services and priorities
    • Modernization and expansion of the financial eligibility criteria
    • Establishment of regional legal aid centres and innovative service delivery
    • Expansion of public engagement and political dialogue
    • Increase of long-term, stable funding
    • Transformation of legal aid into proactive, dynamic, and strategic system
    • Greater collaboration between public and private legal aid service providers
    • More support to legal aid providers

    Read the whole report here

    March 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment

    Canadian legal clinic intends to increase delivery if legal services to deaf and linguistic communities

    Michele Leering, with whom I had the honour to collaborate on an access to justice project in Ukraine, will present soon a study entitled “Paths to Justice: Navigating with the wondering lost”. The report is result of a project led by the the Community Advocacy and Legal Clinic and aimed to the special needs of the deaf people and those who do not speak English and French. Following the findings of the report CALC will attempt to take innovative measures such as:

    • using American sign language (ASL) videos to deliver legal information on internet;
    • involvement of ASL interpreters;
    • organization of legal awareness workshops.

    Read more here

    March 5, 2011 at 8:11 pm 1 comment

    Process-based view on access to family courts

    The Legal Services Society of British Columbia, Canada published a detailed chart of the process of accessing family court for initial orders for custody, guardianship, access and support. In fact there are two decision trees charted. First, the disputants are helped with selecting between the provincial court and supreme court. After the issue of jurisdiction has been cleared the chart helps to navigate the process towards achieving resolution of the problem. It is arguable to what extent this chart could be useful to guide the decisions of laymen but one think is sure – the process diagrams provide great overview of the dispute resolution procedure and show possible bottle necks for disputants and namely for pro se disputants.

    Download the chart from here

    January 17, 2011 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

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