Posts Tagged ‘Access to justice’

How will Ontario’s increase in small claims court limits affect access to justice?

October 31st, 2019 by Claudia Pedrero

This article was first published on rabble.ca

As of January 1, 2020, Ontario will increase the value of claims that can be brought before the province’s small claims court. Soon, the maximum claim that can be filed will increase from $25,000 to $35,000.

Small claims court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice that hears civil disputes. If a person has a claim that exceeds the maximum limit for small claims court, they need to pursue the case through the Superior Court of Justice or go through small claims court and limit the amount of the claim.

Ontario’s intent is to make it “faster, easier, and more affordable to settle claims,” while trying to alleviate some of the backlog at the provincial Superior Court of Justice, which the province notes is one of the busiest courts in Canada.

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Legal aid is important. Ford government’s cuts will hurt us all.

June 13th, 2019 by Brynn Leger

The Ontario government announced considerable cuts to funding Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) as part of its first budget released in April 2019. The budget cuts provide for a nearly 30% reduction in the government’s funding to LAO, which will increase to a 40% cut in future years. LAO funds legal services for those who cannot afford representation in Ontario. They do this by providing certificates to lawyers to compensate them for representing individual clients, primarily in criminal and family law matters. They also fund community legal clinics, which in turn provide legal representation to community members, and also carry out law reform and community organizing initiatives. The province is separated into “catchment areas,” with each catchment area having a designated legal clinic. There are also specialty legal clinics, which focus on certain areas of law such as disability, HIV/AIDS, or injured workers.

On June 12, 2019, LAO announced how those cuts will be applied in the coming year.  LAO will base cuts to legal clinics on low‑income population in each catchment area and other supports available. Toronto clinics will see the largest cuts based on these recalculations. LAO is also urging clinics to preserve one‑on‑one client work and scale back its law reform and community organizing work. These changes are in addition to the freeze on providing new provincial funding for immigration and refugee law services which was announced back in April.

One clinic which will be considerably impacted by these LAO funding cuts is Parkdale Community Legal Services (PCLS). PCLS has been serving the Parkdale community in Toronto for over 40 years, and also functions as a student clinical education program, offering 20 student placements each year. It works in the areas of employment, housing, social assistance and immigration law. It has struggled this year to secure a lease for a new location in the neighbourhood, lacking a secure commitment from LAO to support the move. The latest announcement from LAO will mean a $1,000,000.00 cut to the PCLS budget. Read the rest of this entry

Court fees increase again. Who should bear the cost of accessing justice?

April 10th, 2019 by Brynn Leger

As of April 1, 2019, the Ontario government has introduced significant changes to court fees for Small Claims Court as well as Civil and Family proceedings at Superior Court. Court fees are the costs that come up from time to time as a case moves through the court system and includes fees for filing a claim, setting a date for a trial, and a range of other court steps. These fees are not new and they have had significant increases in the past, but the most recent changes raise questions about access to justice for people and organizations with less money trying to pursue a claim in court.

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With judges like Robin Camp, how impartial is Canada’s justice system?

September 29th, 2016 by Shelina Ali

This article was first published on rabble.ca

I was recently listening to a radio program featuring racialized lawyers in Ontario discussing the challenges they faced in the legal profession and was struck by my reaction. I thought: how unfortunate that this was all being shared publically. Unfortunate, not because I did not believe the experiences of these individuals or sympathize with the challenges they were describing, but because I didn’t want people to know about the challenges. Why would anyone hire a racialized lawyer if they knew that the lawyer felt that there was a higher standard placed on them in court, by judges, as compared with their non‑racialized colleagues?

I wish my reaction was that this was the unusual experience of one lawyer and not a reflection of the justice system’s treatment of marginalized groups generally. Instead, it was one which exposed my own distrust in the Canadian judicial system and its impartiality. And my belief that the justice system as a whole does not provide the same opportunities and access to justice for individuals of colour, women, and other marginalized groups.

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Access to justice crisis: 15 years too long to wait for solutions

March 26th, 2015 by Celia Chandler

We have all heard about Canada’s increasingly underfunded legal aid programs, escalating private market legal costs, and the scarcity of lawyers, especially in smaller, rural and remote communities. This has resulted in what many have termed an access to justice crisis. Indeed, the Canadian Bar Association has set targets for 2030 to equalize access to civil justice, as reported in this column in August 2013. The Toronto Star recently reported on programs in New York City, Windsor, and England and Wales where Self-Represented Litigants (SRLs) get support from students and other advisers who are not lawyers but have some training to find their way through the system — significant in those jurisdictions. But 2030 is 15 years down the road and a long wait for large‑scale system change; in the meantime, we have to live with the significant negative consequences to the legal system.

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Report describes unequal access to justice in Canada

August 29th, 2013 by Shelina Ali

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) released a summary report from the Access to Justice Committee this month called Equal Justice: Balancing the Scales. It addresses the challenges to accessing the civil justice system in Canada and sets out targets that should be achieved by 2030. The targets engage many different sectors of society, including provincial and federal government, the courts system, law schools, members of the legal profession and the public, to improve the accessibility of the civil justice system.

The CBA report comes on the heels of the recent Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision York University v. Markicevic et. al, where Justice Brown quite openly addressed the burdensome costs associated with civil litigation and the right to access the civil justice system (including accessing legal representation).

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