Access to Legal Services
Canadians have the right to expect that when they have a legal problem or find themselves before the Courts, they should be able to obtain professional legal services to help them navigate the complex system of laws and procedures. It is recognized that barriers to access to legal services exist for far too many people.
Increasing access to legal services is a complex problem that involves many institutions that are involved in the administration of justice including the Courts, governments, the legal profession, and law societies.
The Federation and Canada’s law societies recognize they have a role to play in helping to tackle the problem and make the legal system more accessible to more Canadians.
As a member of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, a broad-based committee established by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Federation helps to provide national leadership in identifying and promoting initiatives to improve access. After five years of work, the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters released its final report on October 8, 2013.
The Action Committee has previously released four working group reports relating to: court processes simplification; access to legal services; prevention, triage and referral; and family justice. The final report sets out a broad road map for reform while recognizing that change must come at the local level.
The Federation has also established a Standing Committee on Access to Legal Services that is working hard to identify practical initiatives to improve access. Law societies across the country have undertaken or are exploring important access initiatives including programs of forgivable loans for students from remote communities, surveys of the legal needs of residents, and increases to the scope of legal services that may be provided by non-lawyers. The Standing Committee will be sharing these and other ideas on a national scale.
The Federation’s Standing Committee on Access to Legal Services has produced an inventory of access to legal services initiatives of Canada’ law societies.