Reports cite heavy toll of legal problems on Canadian society

February 12, 2018
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

The price paid for legal problems is not just made up of dollars and cents, but with impacts on health, loss of employment and an increased reliance on social assistance, reports the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (CFCJ).

Three reports from the CFCJ, released on Jan. 5, break down the number of Canadians experiencing a variety of legal problems and the impact they have on different aspects of their lives. The reports show that millions of Canadians experience physical and mental health problems, loss of employment and a loss of housing as a direct consequence of legal problems.

"These reports focus on three specific areas and I think what they all do is highlight the importance of thinking about justice from the user's perspective as opposed to only the providers' perspective," said Trevor Farrow, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and principal investigator on the CFCJ reports.

"I think we're starting to understand that how the user perceives and experiences the system is very different," he added, explaining that in order to move into a more modern and accessible legal system the gap between user experience and legal offerings needs to close.

The report on health impacts is based on feedback from over 3,000 Canadians describing legal problems they've faced over a three-year period. The data shows that 30 per cent of people experiencing one legal problem during that time frame had issues with their physical health. Further to that number, over 65 per cent of the respondents visited a physician more frequently than normal due to their legal problem.

In the report highlighting loss of employment and housing, the CFCJ points to its Cost of Justice survey, which noted that approximately 100,839 people lose their housing every year as a result of experiencing legal problems. People in this position have to turn to friends, relatives or emergency housing such as shelters to keep a roof over their heads. The number of weeks respondents were without their own home varied, but around 22 per cent were without a home for less than four weeks, while over 11 per cent reported that they were without a home for 52 weeks or longer.

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