Address Everyday
Legal Problems

01

How are we reaching this goal?

Educate early

Provide targeted, free, accessible public legal education about frequent legal issues, different types of solutions and the process of enforcing rights

Prevent

Foster legal capability so that people can spot legal issues early, get preventative or proactive help and anticipate, avoid or manage frequent legal issues

Offer a continuum of services

Develop and expand legal services to include the full continuum of information, advice, help lines, online services, in-person services, and partial or full representation

Reflect Canadian society

Put the services people need in the communities where they live with the resources to address the barriers they face

 

This year's progress

Across the country, there have been new efforts to address everyday legal issues. These 2017 projects are in addition to the regular ongoing programming of non-profits, legal clinics, courts, pro bono organizations, governments and individual lawyers. These new activities are a sample of the expansion of early education and resolution efforts across the country, meeting the needs of a diverse and changing population.

 

Understanding the Law

In every Canadian province and territory there are new initiatives as well as the ongoing delivery of successful public legal education about everyday legal problems. These sessions focus on family issues, wills, employment, estates, and consumer issues, as well as the legal processes. Call lines offer legal information and advice in Manitoba, Ontario, B.C and Alberta while online chats in Nova Scotia and B.C. let people connect in real time. 

Drop in clinics launched in Manitoba, the North West Territories, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador and pop-up clinics ran in Saskatchewan and BC. Sessions to help self-represented litigants were offered in Ontario and BC. Legal fairs and conferences have been held in public libraries and community centres in Saskatchewan and Alberta. New or update directories of legal services are now available in Quebec and the North West Territories. In Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and the Yukon there are new partnerships of non-profits, clinics, courts and lawyers working together to make reliable legal information available.

Portals to help people find answers to their legal questions using ‘guided pathways’ and dynamic searches are making it easier for people to find the information they need. This type of plain language navigator has launched in Ontario (Steps to Justice), B.C. (MyLaw BC; ClickLaw) and Alberta (LegalAve). B.C.’s Justice Education Society has a virtual assistant that poses questions to help people identify their legal issue. New resources on family, housing, and consumer issues are available online in Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, B.C. and Quebec, including videos launched in Nova Scotia and new translations in many provinces that deliver legal information to newcomers in their first languages.

 

Reaching Out to Specific Communities

Organizations are also ensuring that legal information is available to Indigenous communities with new publications in Inuktitut in Nunavut and in Mi'kmaq in Nova Scotia. In Calgary and B.C, new projects focus specifically on increasing access to legal services and addressing systemic barriers to legal participation within Indigenous communities.

In New Brunswick and Ontario new resources for newcomers and those who work with refugees were published. Legal clinics in Ontario focus on the Iranian and Greek communities. Access Pro Bono offers a free clinic for Temporary Foreign Workers in B.C. while Pro Bono Ontario offers legal help to groups sponsoring refugees. In Nova Scotia, the court has achieved judicial gender parity and launched a program offering mentoring to African Canadian and Indigenous lawyers interested in becoming a judge. Online dispute resolution for small claims matters offers early resolution and referral options in B.C. while the Justice Innovation and Transformation Initiatives focus on out-of-court resolutions.

 

Listening to the Public

Justice sector organizations are changing how they communicate with the public. A Chief Justice in B.C. held a twitter town hall (#AskChiefJudge), while Saskatchewan held a town hall on the future of legal services during A2J week. Nova Scotia’s #TalkJustice project is collecting people’s experiences with the justice system. In Ontario, OJEN / ROEJ and the Legal Innovation Zone are co-designing legal services with youth. 

Projects in Saskatchewan, Ontario and Nova Scotia sought out people’s perspectives on the justice system and created innovative ways to receive ideas and feedback from the public. The Law Society of Nunavut has developed comic-based egal information and LawNow published new editions of its digital magazine, now available for free to anyone who wants to learn about everyday legal issues. The Canadian Bar Association, The Action Group on Ontario and the National Self-Represented Litigants project have all launched podcasts on everyday legal problems.

 

Who’s working on this goal?

The Action Committee is a national coordinating body that facilitates communication and collaboration on access to civil and family law across Canada. It works to connect, support and highlight the work of the individuals, organizations, institutions and collaborative working at a regional or local level. At the beginning of the year, the Action Committee asked these organizations to describe their work on access to justice. 84  respondents indicated that they provide public legal education. Of those, 92% of legal clinics, 80% of law schools, 75% of governments and 55% of nonprofits are providing programs to help people prepare for and address legal problems. The programs focus on different types of information on skills. The majority of sessions helped people to:

  • Identify legal issues: 73%
  • Build legal capability: 72%
  • Triage legal problems: 51%

Throughout this year, many organizations expanded their early resolution services.

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