Sunday, September 15, 2013


The CBA is the largest national lawyer association in Canada. It represents 37,000 lawyers, judges, notaries, law teachers and students. Its annual conference was held at the end of August 2013 in Saskatoon, and special invitees and speakers were Chief Justice of Canada Beverley McLachlin, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and CBC's Peter Mansbridge.

Delegates at the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association conference in Saskatoon (CBA) were discussing the merits of several proposed legal reforms, some of which derive from a new 54 page report by the CBA, titled Reaching Equal Justice, which was released at conference. The report pointed to severely unequal access to justice in Canada.

Beverly McLachlin, Chief Justice 
the Supreme Court of Canada, ' 
(Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin then spoke to this concern, saying that ensuring that Canadians are able to access the system, is the most pressing challenge facing the administration of justice in this country. She conveyed that peoples' lives are being ruined when they can't get access to justice. McLachlin said, "We know that there are a lot of needs. People just swallow their pain and their loss and live with it, I guess, in some unsatisfactory way feeling they can't get justice."

People who cannot afford lawyers are the people who are hurt most, that is to say that justice that is inaccessible hurts the poorest people in our communities the most. Many Canadians earn enough money so they cannot qualify for legal aid but they are not earning enough to pay for a lawyer. This appears to be common among family law cases. The result is a rising trend and a growing concern that increasing numbers of people are representing themselves in civil cases and that means they customarily enter the fray entirely unresourced. The ‘Reaching Equal Justice’ report calls for greater federal funding for civil legal aid, and it recommends that all Canadians who are living at and below the poverty line that by 2020, should be eligible for full coverage of essential public legal services. Another objective of the report is to urge Canadian law schools to have student legal clinics by 2020 to help low-income people.

Photograph by: Gord Waldner , 

The StarPhoenix

The author of the report, Melina Buckley, is quoted as saying, "They find the whole process leading up to it is hugely stressful, has all kind of side effects in terms of their abilities to continue parenting their kids because they're stressed. Sometimes they lose their jobs or have to go part-time, all kinds of health and other situations. They tend to get alienated from friends and families because they become so obsessed by it." And then quite often they don't have the kind of outcomes that we would consider just and fair."

In the report, the Association aims at four priorities to improve justice in Canada: access to legal services, the simplification of court processes, family law and prevention, triage and referral and in each of these areas, a working group of CBA legal professionals investigated specific ways of improving legal access nationally.

Canadian Bar Association 
President Robert Brun 
Photograph by: Greg Pender, 
The Starphoenix , The Starphoenix
Robert Brun, President of The Canadian Bar Association told CBC News, "If people don't have the economic resources to retain lawyers to protect their interests and to get their cases before judges to decide them on the facts and law, then they don't have access to justice." He is guardedly optimistic that at the federal level, the report and its recommendations will be heard with an eagerness to implement changes to the present system.

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