The National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters
The Honourable, Thomas Cromwell, Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada spear-headed a nation-wide initiative to increase the public’s access to the civil justice system. The Committee envisioned “[a] society in which thepblic has the knowledge, resources and services to effectively deal with civil and family law matters:
- by prevention of disputes and early management of legal issues,
- through negotiation and informal dispute resolution processes, and
- where necessary, through formal dispute resolution by tribunals and courts.
Four working groups were established:
- Court Processes Simplification
- Access to Legal Services
- Family Law
- Prevention, Triage and Referral
Their reports and other documents related to the Action Committee can be found on the web site of the Canadian Forum and Civil Justice http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/action-committee.
The Prevention, Triage and Referral Working Group was chaired by Rick Craig, Executive Director, Justice Education Society of British Columbia. Participants included Sarah McCoubrey, Executive Director Ontario Justice Education Network.
The Working Group made 11 recommendations:
- Recommendation #1: That all stakeholders adopt the principle that priority and resources should be
directed toward serving people in the most just and effective way possible, as early as possible,
as they begin to experience a legal problem.
- Recommendation #2: In addition to existing principles that prioritize resources for critical legal matters,
stakeholders – particularly government and key funders – should commit to greater support of the
ERSS, based on the principle in Recommendation #1.
- Recommendation #3: That in each jurisdiction stakeholders – particularly service-providers, government
and key funders – agree on what functions and services comprise the ERSS, and that this be
communicated to the public and other stakeholders in both the ERSS and formal justice system.
- Recommendation #4: That stakeholders – particularly service-providers, government and other key
funders – work towards integration of existing services and the development of new services of the
ERSS in each jurisdiction in order to maximize the effectiveness of the sector.
- Recommendation #5: That stakeholders – particularly funders and service-providers – foster collaboration
between ERSS service-providers so as to reduce silos between organizations, maximize the
exchange of technical knowledge and sharing of content and platforms, increase product quality
and innovation, and more effectively promote services.
- Recommendation #6: That stakeholders in each jurisdiction – particularly service-providers and/or
networks of service-providers with the help of key funders – establish a coordinating body or
mechanism to facilitate development and collaboration within the ERSS.
- Recommendation #7: That strategies be created by stakeholders – particularly those involved in
education and community outreach – to develop legal capability among the Canadian population
from youth through adulthood. The objective will be to help people better manage legal disputes
that emerge in everyday life, recognize legal aspects of problems, know how to find appropriate
assistance, participate in an informed way in the resolution of their problems, and minimize their
- Recommendation #8: That stakeholders – particularly government, other key funders and serviceproviders
– support and engage in the necessary training of PLEI providers, intermediaries and
providers of direct legal services to reinforce assessment, triage and referral mechanisms so that
citizens can quickly find the help they need.
- Recommendation #9: That the ERSS be acknowledged and integrated into policy development,
collaborative planning, innovation development and service implementation in the administration of
justice in each jurisdiction.
- Recommendation #10: That stakeholders – particularly government, service-providers and key funders
within the ERSS – work together to identify key outputs and outcomes of the sector and monitor
- Recommendation #11: That relationships be developed between service-providers in the ERSS,
government and universities to promote research concerning access to justice and ERSS sectoral
issues and outcomes.
The Working Group’s final report can be found at http://www.cfcj-fcjc.org/action-committee. It is also supported by a Consultation Paper which elaborates on some of the elements of the report, particularly the development of legal capability and the roles of PLE with respect to triage and referral.