Access to Justice: A2J Week about innovation, collaboration, action

by Beverley McLachlin, Chair of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

November 2019

The end of October marked the celebration of Access to Justice Week in three Canadian provinces — Saskatchewan, Ontario and British Columbia. I was pleased to be able to join Ontario’s justice sector leaders for part of their deliberations on the future of access to justice in Ontario and to follow the activities in the other provinces, albeit from a distance.

As we know from Canada’s score in the World Justice Project, while our justice system overall ranks fairly high, we continue to underperform in access to civil and family justice. It is imperative that we keep discussion, education and attention on this critical need in our democracy. Convening A2J Week, including with a legislative proclamation in B.C. and Saskatchewan, is a positive and meaningful contribution.

There was an exciting lineup of activities and conversations that occurred in all three provinces and I encourage you to follow the links at the end of this blog and take advantage of the webinars, reports and other tools created and shared in all three provinces.

While each province took different approaches and discussed multiple topics, some common themes emerged around the importance of innovation, collaboration and, above all, action. I want to highlight an A2J Week activity in each province that showcased these themes.

In B.C., the A2JBC Leadership Group learned about the impact on children’s brain development and brain health of adverse childhood experiences, including parental conflict. This cross-sectoral dialogue resulted in the adoption of an innovative and collaborative action framework to increase the well-being of children through increased parental capacity, enhancing children’s resilience and designing the justice system to reduce parental conflict.

In Saskatchewan, legal coaching was in the spotlight. Lawyers and the public had multiple opportunities to learn more about the benefits of legal coaching — a model that increases legal empowerment and is shown to increase satisfaction in the outcome. A major project has lawyers across Saskatchewan trained and providing legal coaching services. The availability of this service received significant media coverage during A2J Week, broadening public awareness of innovative legal services.

In Ontario, a study released by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice titled “Investing in Justice,” revealed a powerful conclusion — that there is a positive return on investment and social return on investment in justice, both nationally and globally. This study formed the basis for renewed calls to action helping Canadians and governments understand the social and personal value in access to justice and increasing the profile of access to justice in government budget conversations.

From responding to important science, to finding new models to serve people, to articulating the societal value of justice in Canada … I continue to be impressed with the array of expertise, dedication and collaborative spirit that abounds across the country. A2J Week is not just a showcase for this talent but clearly also an opportunity to create meaningful commitments and action plans.

I want to acknowledge and thank the organizations and individuals at CREATE Justice in SaskatchewanTAG and the Law Society of Ontario, and A2JBC who have taken on the oversight of provincial collaboration on access to justice. These organizations have recognized the critical value that a co-ordinated approach can play in advancing access to justice and the impact is evident in the successful events this past month.

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