Canadians have the right to expect that when they have a legal problem or find themselves before the Courts, professional legal services will be available to help them navigate the complex system of laws and procedures. Yet barriers to access to legal services exist for far too many people.
Increasing access to legal services is a complex challenge that involves many institutions 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 Canadians.
As a member of the Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, a broad-based national committee established by the former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, the Federation helps to provide national leadership in identifying and promoting initiatives to improve access. Its 2013 report, ACCESS TO CIVIL & FAMILY JUSTICE – A Roadmap for Change, set out a broad road map for reform while recognizing that change must come at a local level. The report identified six guiding principles for tackling the access crisis:
- Put the Public First
- Collaborate and Coordinate
- Prevent and Educate
- Simplify, Make Coherent, Proportional and Sustainable
- Take Action
- Focus on Outcomes
The Federation also facilitates the exchange of information on law society access initiatives through its Access to Legal Services Exchange Group.