'Multi-use courthouses' needed, says report on Canadian justice

December 5, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

A new report calls for a major cultural shift in the country's justice system that would see a lot more money and effort poured into "front-end" services to help Canadians with civil or family legal problems stay out of courts.

The report calls for a co-ordinated, but not centralized, national reform effort to reduce the financial and procedural barriers that frustrate people and deny justice, particularly to the growing number who try to represent themselves.

"The focus must be on the people who need to use the system . . . especially members of immigrant, aboriginal and rural populations and other vulnerable groups. Litigants, and particularly self-represented litigants, are not, as they are too often seen, an inconvenience; they are why the system exists."

It calls for a five-year effort to build a more "user-centered" civil and family justice system to deal with everyday legal problems; and a six-year effort to modernize and streamline the workings of the formal justice system.

The report, entitled "Access to Justice: A Roadmap for Change," says the system needs to widen its focus "from its current (and expensive) court-based 'emergency room' orientation to include education and dispute prevention."

The report is the result of five years' study by a national committee and four working groups of more than 50 judges, lawyers, and academics. The project was kick-started in 2008 by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, who asked Justice Thomas Cromwell to oversee the effort.

It was funded and supported by the federal justice department, the Canadian Judicial Council, and other provincial, professional and academic contributors.

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