The Federation of Law Societies of Canada welcomes the initiative of the Supreme Court of Canada to make the institution more accessible to Canadians by holding hearings outside Ottawa. For two days in September the courtroom of Manitoba’s highest court will become the home of the Supreme Court of Canada — the first time in history the country’s highest court will have held hearings outside of Ottawa.
“The Federation and its member law societies recognize the importance of making our institutions accessible to Canadians and providing ways to make them better understood’ said Federation President Ross Earnshaw. “Holding Supreme Court hearings outside of Ottawa is an excellent way to do that, so we hope the initiative will be successful and repeated across Canada.”
Access to justice is an essential ingredient of the rule of law, and Canada’s law societies have made greater access to justice for Canadians a priority. The Supreme Court’s plans set a good example for all institutions that share a commitment to improving access to justice. In addition, the law societies, through the Federation, have also been at the forefront of ensuring that the public and the legal profession have free access to legal information to help them navigate Canada’s legal system.
The Federation owns CanLII, the pre-eminent online search tool for legal information including all major Court judgments rendered in Canada. CanLII owns Lexum, the online publisher of all of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions.
Chief Justice of Canada Richard Wagner has indicated that part of the Supreme Court’s plan for Winnipeg will be to meet with ten community or public groups, whose members have a stake in our legal institutions, including students and members of Winnipeg’s indigenous, francophone and legal communities. This type of outreach helps to demystify the Court and foster a better understanding of the people and processes that make up the justice system.
The plan to sit outside Ottawa is just one of several recent initiatives by the Chief Justice to promote Canadians’ understanding of their highest court. Another is the “Case in Brief” plain-language summaries it began providing last year for every reserved judgment.
The chief justice’s video statement to all Canadians is also a noteworthy development. The Supreme Court has established a presence on social media, first on Twitter and more recently on Facebook. In announcing the plan to sit in Winnipeg, Chief Justice Wagner spoke directly to Canadians in a video that was posted on the court’s web site, and also distributed on the court’s social media resources.