Alleviating the Access to Justice Gap in Canada: Justice Factors, Influencers, and Agenda for Moving Forward




Flader, Suzy

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The Canadian justice system requires significant reform if it is to become truly accessible for a diverse range of individuals. While past efforts have focused on increasing the public’s access to formal or recognizable dispute resolution processes, they have typically failed to consider those justice factors which are required to transform the system. This paper explores the importance of fairness and equality as necessary aspects of inclusive access to justice initiatives—those that are more capable of addressing the needs of the vulnerable populations who overwhelmingly require change. Three intentionally broad mechanisms are used in pursuit of this goal. First, a literature review focuses on breaking down the legal concepts of fairness and equality and applying them to the access to justice conversation. Second, a systemic map of key influencers within the justice system highlights the types of changes that different groups can help enact. Finally, case analyses of three recent, high-profile arbitration clause cases—Seidel, Wellman, and Heller— exemplify how divided judicial interpretations of access to justice can negatively implicate vulnerable parties. The overall message is that fairness and equality are factors that should underlie various law- and policy-making processes, particularly those related to marginalized members of Canadian society. Those with monitoring and enforcing powers over the justice system need to use their authority to enforce strategic changes, and must do so by working with justice-seekers. The paper concludes with some guidelines for moving forward to reform access to justice strategies, including implementation goals and suggestions for further research.



Access to Justice, Fairness, Equality