Thoughts from the Canadian Envisioning Equal Justice Summit — Parallel Paths to Innovation and Access

I am just back from Vancouver and the Canadian Bar Association Envisioning Equal Justice Summit.  My main conclusion is that the Canadians and the US are now on very similar and potentially supportive paths.

The Summit was brought together to highlight and reflect upon several reports being generated on access issues. There is one on simplification (link not yet available), one on triage, one on legal aid, and one on family justice.  These reports were generated in response to a speech to the Canadian Bar in 2012 by their Chief Justice.

For me, the highlights were:

  • A wonderful poverty simulation, based on this one. (biggest memory for me: the participant who reported that he did well in the simulation because of “luck,” not skill.)  Apparently the simulation does not usually include a legal aid office — hmm –although they added it for this one.
  • The interest in developing access to justice Commission equivalents for the Canadian Provinces. (Steve Grumm, newly at the ABA, spoke at a plenary.)
  • The fact that triage, simplification, judicial education for self-represented cases are on the developing agenda.
  • Conceptions of triage that deal with services long before litigation, built in part on research on the breadth of legal need before litigation.
  • The clear support from the judiciary for access.
  • How similar the discussion about how to handle self-represented litigants in the court room is in the US and Canada.
  • That some Canadian courts are able to provide services similar to those in the US, but that the systems of referral and non-legal assistance seem more robust, given the strength of their social service system.
  • A debate on whether to advocate for a national system of “justice care,” analogous to their health care system.  While the political circumstances are very different, the lessons from this debate may help inform our emerging conversation about how to do more for middle income people excluded from the system.

I like to think that there may be opportunities for cross-border cooperation, particularly in areas of research, such as into judicial communication with the self-represented, networking among access commissions or equivalents, the development of new ideas for triage and simplification, and, of course, technology, which is always cheaper whens costs can be spread over a larger number of partners.


About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
This entry was posted in Access to Justice Generally, International Cooperation, Simplification, Technology, Triage and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Thoughts from the Canadian Envisioning Equal Justice Summit — Parallel Paths to Innovation and Access

  1. Claudia Johnson says:

    Ever since I came back from “Just A Click Away” a conference organized by the Law Libraries of British Columbia–I have felt that we have much to learn from our Canadian colleagues. They are dealing w/very similar issues and challenges and have approaches and attitudes toward language issues, education, information and referral that are refreshing, interesting, and honestly–inspiring. How do we get a a group of people working on similar issues together? How do create a way to share and cross polinate ideas with each other, as well as share reports, data, and approaches that have been tested and succesful? Thanks for this post!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about the strong potential for cross-border cooperation, exchange of information and possibly joint access to justice research projects. It was great to hear from you and Steve – we always have a strong contingent of Canadians at the annual Equal Justice Conference in the US and the more opportunities for dialogue the better.

    I wanted to let your readers know that in addition to the National Action Committee working group reports mentioned in your post, the Canadian Bar Association has developed “building block” discussion papers on five topics: the tension between pro bono and legal aid, underexplored alternatives for access by the middle class, national standards for publicly-funded legal services, the future of legal aid service delivery and access to justice metrics. They are available at:

    We welcome comments from our American colleagues on all aspects of our initiative.

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