Second Annual Access to Justice Week Engages Diverse Stakeholders

Posted: 11/02/2017

Last week marked the second annual Access to Justice Week. Organized by The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) in partnership with 12 organizations this year’s program explored access to justice as it relates to mental health, technology, public legal education and the importance of community driven initiatives.

Sessions were held in Kingston, Ottawa and Toronto from October 23 to 27. Access to Justice Week participants were diverse – they included legal professionals as well as academics, students, non-profit staff, members of the general public and trusted intermediaries such as community workers and librarians.

The Week also saw the release of a new report from TAG titled Millennials, Technology and Access to Justice in Ontario. The report provides helpful insights and contributes to key questions that access to justice and legal technology advocates may be asking: Are Ontario Millennials ready for disruptive services in justice? Why would Ontario Millennials seek justice through technology? What are some of the challenges to adoption digital justice initiatives might face?

Highlights from the week include:

  • Keynote presentations from Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Chair of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters, Hon. Thomas A. Cromwell
  • Endorsements from Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and MP Marco Mendocino
  • Coverage in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Lawyer and Law Times

Materials from Access to Justice Week – including videos from the CPD accredited sessions – will be available on the TAG website (TheActionGroup.ca).

Event Summary:

Access to Justice Innovation
Partners: Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

This half-day program kicked off Access to Justice Week by profiling innovative, community driven work from across the justice sector. It featured remarks from Ontario’s Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and National Action Committee on Access to Justice Chair Hon. Thomas A. Cromwell. A Innovation Showcase profiled work from METRAC, Pro Bono Ontario, Peacebuilders Canada and TAG’s Indigenous Child Welfare project, which is coordinated with various university and community partners in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Alberta.

Improving Health, Improving Service: Well Being in the Legal Profession and Access to Justice

Partners: Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, Law Society’s Equity Department

Recent studies have indicated that lawyers are at a higher risk for anxiety, substance abuse and depression than those in the general population. This susceptibility begins in law school and eventually has an impact on society by affecting people who rely on lawyers to manage their everyday legal problems. This program featured keynote remarks from University of Toronto Sociologists Ronit Dinovitzer and Jonathan Koltai as well as a panel discussion with law students.

Access to Justice in French

Partner: PratiquO

The event featured presentations from Justice Paul Rouleau of the Ontario Court of Appeal and Julie MacFarlane from the University of Windsor along with representatives from various organizations including the Office of the Commissioner of Official languages of Canada, Office of the French Language Services Commissioner of Ontario, the Legal Information Centre, and the Legal Centre for Ontario Women.

Paralegals and Access to Justice

Partners: Durham College, Durham Community Legal Clinic, Ontario Paralegal Association

This session featured a keynote presentation from Stephanie Bell (Durham College) about an innovative hub-based initiative that centres on paralegals enhancing access to justice in the Durham region. This was followed by a panel discussion with Paralegal Benchers Cathy Corsetti and Michelle Haigh along with Laurie Marshall and Stephen Parker from the Ontario Paralegal Association.

Include. Inform. Inspire: Community Legal Information in 2017

Partners: Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), CLEO

This full day forum was open to community workers and others interested in public legal education and information. Sessions explored legal information and legal advice, the role of trusted intermediaries hands-on learning about clear language, clear design, and other skills. Speakers included Bencher Malcolm Mercer, David Wiseman from the University of Ottawa, Jessica Reekie (OJEN), Julie Mathews (CLEO) and Geordie Dent (Federation of Metro Tenants Associations).

The week also featured a wide range of initiatives and resources including:

  • A series of blog posts for each day of Access to Justice Week on Legal Aid Ontario’s blog.
  • A public legal education session about education rights at a public library in Kingston organized in partnership with the Kingston Community Legal Clinic.
  • The launch of Architects of Justice Students, a program that recruits student volunteers from all seven Ontario law schools to engage their communities in conversations about access to justice improvements.
  • A Twitter chat hosted by Peacebuilders Canada about youth justice issues.

The Action Group on Access to Justice (TAG) was established by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2015 to facilitate better coordination and collaboration across the justice sector. It is funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario with support from the Law Society of Upper Canada.

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