The Canadian Judicial Council Releases Report on Reforms to Improve Canadians’ Access to Justice
“…Access to justice is the essential foundation for our legal system to function and to maintain the confidence of the public it serves.”
--Rt. Hon Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada
Ottawa, 26 June 2008 - The Canadian Judicial Council has released a report on reforms undertaken across Canada to make it easier and more affordable for Canadians to seek justice in the courts. The Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, who also heads the Council, has identified access to justice as one of the most important challenges facing the justice system today.
The report, which focuses on the civil and family justice systems, identifies five areas in which significant reforms aimed at addressing the cost of litigation have been undertaken in recent years in various Canadian jurisdictions:
- Proportionality: Targeting proportionality between on the one hand the scale of court proceedings and on the other hand the value of the claim, public importance of the issues and complexity of the case;
- Experts: Streamlining the use of experts and limiting their number;
- Point of Entry: Assisting litigants without counsel to obtain information and referrals quickly and effectively on first contact with the judicial system;
- Discovery: Containing the scope of discovery procedures; and
- Caseflow management: Expediting the flow of cases through the courts.
This report, which was undertaken by a sub-committee of the Council’s Administration of Justice Committee, is based on records developed at its request for the new Inventory of Reforms created by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice (http://cfcj-fcjc.org/inventory). The report identifies 60 reforms in the five noted areas covered, ranging from pilot projects to changes that have already become permanent.
The sub-committee concluded that while the research had identified many promising practices, there is insufficient evidence to recommend adoption of specific reforms. The report recommends that stronger methodologies of evaluation be developed for judicial changes to ensure that there are measurable objectives and goals before judicial changes are undertaken. This would allow for a more systematic assessments and comparative analyses of the costs and benefits, as well as create a stronger foundation for deciding whether particular changes are applicable to other jurisdictions.
The sub-committee also recommends that greater efforts be made to expand pilot projects when they are successful, bearing in mind the diversity of needs both within and among different jurisdictions.
This report – identifying obstacles as well as promising reforms – is available on the Council’s website and is part of the Council’s continuing efforts, along with other participants in the legal system, to improve the access Canadians have to their justice system -- identifying obstacles as well as promising reforms. The goal is to ensure that Canadians can be confident that they will receive justice from the courts in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective way.
The Canadian Judicial Council is composed of the chief justices and associate chief justices of Canada’s superior courts. Information about the Council, including other publications, can be found on the Council’s website at www.cjc-ccm.gc.ca.
Norman Sabourin, Executive Director and Senior General Counsel
(613) 288-1566 ext. 301