The state of access to justice in Canada is "abysmal," according to an in-depth study commissioned by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), with profound inequalities in quality of justice depending on income levels.
The CBA launched its Envisioning Equal Justice initiative in August of 2012 to look at the problem and more importantly, start developing ways to balance the scales.
At the 2013 CBA Legal Conference in Saskatoon the Access to Justice Committee released "Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation to Envision and Act," a summary of the larger position paper that will be released this fall. You can read the summary report here.
The report cites many reasons for serious concern about the state of access to justice in Canada. It states, “Inaccessible justice costs us all, but visits its harshest consequences on the poorest people in our communities.” In other words, the costs of poor access to justice are borne most strongly by lower-income people who are least able to afford them.
The report sets out a recommendations that, if followed, would enable every Canadian living below the poverty line to be eligible for essential public legal services by 2020, with all of the report's targets to be met by 2030. The report comes on the heels of increasingly vocal and public criticisms of poor access to justice made by prominent advocates and legal practitioners across Canada, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada Beverly McLaughlin.
For many the changes will come too slowly - and there is no guarantee that they will come at all. However, it is high time the government, the justice system, and the legal profession recognized the grave challenge presented by barriers to access to justice in Canada. We couldn't agree more with the words of Chief Justice McLaughlin, that, "There is no justice without access to justice."
You can read the CBA's summary report here.
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