2023 Access to Justice Week BC is Underway

We are mid-way through Access to Justice Week in British Columbia. Congratulations to the many organizers, volunteers and speakers whose work has supported the week’s events and activities, which are listed on the Access to Justice Week page.

Access to Justice Week is a valuable opportunity to reflect on the justice system and to learn about opportunities for improvement and adaptation, including by breaking down silos while ensuring each person and organization is clear about their respective roles, incorporating technology while also considering the value of in-person interaction and deliberation and developing a broader perspective of what justice can look like both within and outside of formal institutions.

Last year, Professor Andrew Pilliar noted that the solution has to be person-centred, in order to serve the people seeking justice – “that means not just imagining what those people want, but actually engaging with them.” In this excellent video of field experts, including Professor Pilliar, offering their perspectives on why it remains so difficult for people in BC to access the justice system, we can see that many individuals are knowledgeable, passionate and motivated to create cultural shifts to support greater access to justice.

These efforts must continue as we adapt to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including virtual work and service delivery becoming a “new normal” across the globe. In this context, many reports have highlighted the digital divide. Immediately after Access to Justice Week last year, the BC and federal governments announced their efforts to improve access to high-speed Internet in rural, remote and Indigenous communities throughout British Columbia. This is a step in the right direction. Members of the legal community also took up this issue in a more immediate way from April to May 2022, via the A2J Techdrive, which resulted in a large number of computers, laptops, and smartphones being provided where there is a need to connect people to lawyers and court services. We hope to see similar efforts this year.

Indeed, A2JBC aims for all British Columbians to be able to prevent and resolve their everyday legal problems in an affordable way. We work via a network of stakeholders and supporters and thus communication technologies and the growing familiarity with them have played an instrumental role in allowing us to extend our reach across the province. We plan to continue to develop our reach this year and Access to Justice Week is a great way to create momentum in that direction!

A2JBC has also specifically taken up the theme of person-centred justice in the family law system, which has resulted in the strengthening of inter-sectoral efforts to support BC families and their well-being. To formulate person-centred solutions, we are engaging not only with the health and social services sectors, but also with those who have experiences within the family justice system. We are particularly excited to have youth participation in the leadership of A2JBC and the Transform the Family Justice System Collaborative. The Access to Justice Week webinar yesterday hosted by A2JBC and Pro Bono Students Canada students and attended by law students and members of the legal community, is a great example.

To learn more about the Transform the Family Justice System Collaborative, check out TFJS’s website, which was launched just last year.