The Prevention, Triage, and Referral Working Group addressed many of the roles public legal education can play in enhancing access to justive.
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 recurrence.
- Recommendation #8: That stakeholders – particularly government, other key funders and service providers – 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 their achievement.
- 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 concluded with the proposition that…
“[T]he most fundamental principle on which to base a response is to direct resources towards serving the greatest number of people in the most effective way possible and as early as possible. This is the first principle by which the term “access to justice” acquires meaning and substance.
This principle leads to a paradigm shift in which the justice system itself is re-defined to fully incorporate a well established Early Resolution Services Sector. There is a need to better articulate, resource, develop and integrate the ERSS in each jurisdiction, to build stronger structural connections between it and the formal justice system, to evaluate its activities and outcomes and to conduct empirical research on underlying themes of importance to the sector.
Implementing a fundamental change in the justice system may appear challenging in an ongoing period of budget constraint. Widening inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the stresses of a fast-paced consumer society, changes in the composition of families, and shifts in the cultural composition of our nation add to the complexity of system adjustments. Technological changes can rapidly render communication and information systems redundant, and leave some segments of society un-served. However, these same challenges create an opportunity and imperative to undertake change that will ultimately strengthen the overall justice system and its ability to respond to people‟s everyday problems.
The “fundamental change” proposed here builds on foundations in each jurisdiction that have been described in Section 2. In that sense, the change is evolutionary. The more “revolutionary” aspect of this change is to re-conceptualize and develop the sector as a key partner with the formal justice system, in order to provide access to justice in a way that is more meaningful and immediate to the broad mass of Canadians.” (p. 35)
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.
Other members included Ab Currie, Principal Researcher, Research & Statistics Division, Justice Canada; Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Mary Ellen Hodgins, President, Hodgins and Co., Management Consulting (BC); Gillian Marriott, QC, Executive Director, Pro Bono Law Alberta; John Sims, QC, former Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General of Canada; Colleen Suche, QC, Justice of Manitoba Court of Queen‟s Bench; Barb Turner, QC, Acting Executive Director, Strategic Initiatives, Justice and Attorney General, Alberta; André Wery, Associate Chief Justice, the Quebec Superior Court.