Access to Justice Week BC is approaching!

The week of February 5th to February 9th, 2024 is Access to Justice Week in BC!

Access to Justice Week is a week of learning, sharing and celebration centred on the access to justice movement taking place in British Columbia and beyond.

This year, we are exploring the question: What does people-centered justice look like? While we are looking at this question in BC, I note that over the past year, two helpful resources for adjudicative bodies and legal professionals have become available nationally and internationally:

Last year, former Chief Justice Robert Bauman noted a recent example of such people-centred work, in Victoria and Surrey, where the Provincial Court and the Ministry of Attorney General are taking a new approach to family law disputes. He specifically referenced an evaluation of the Early Resolution and Case Management Model which provides data that indicates it was highly successful. Since then, the results of using the Model in Surrey are consistent with those in the evaluation results from Victoria.

Alongside improving pathways for early and effective resolution, another feature of people-centred justice is recognizing that different types of users may experience the same legal problems and legal processes quite differently, depending on their personal, cultural, and socio-economic characteristics. Recent examples of addressing diverse needs, removing barriers, and making access equitable in BC include the openings of Indigenous Justice Centres in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria, as well as the South Asian Legal Clinic of BC in Surrey and the virtual Everyone Legal Clinic, which first opened its “doors” in May 2022.

Early resolution and specialized resources often also support child and youth well-being. The law students engaged with A2JBC via Pro Bono Students Canada have been looking at children and youth as a specific population. They have been reviewing primary and secondary source materials and conducting interviews with community organizations to support our work in the Transform the Family Justice System Collaborative. As a result, they will be presenting an interactive session, Youth Legal Needs and the Current Youth-Service Landscape in BC, on February 9, 2024.

Access to Justice Week also includes events hosted virtually and at the province’s three law schools. You can check the Access to Justice Week page to find out more.

I specifically encourage legal professionals to tune into Finding justice: Challenges and opportunities in BC’s legal aid landscape on February 6, 2024. This webinar will feature a panel of key BC stakeholders who will discuss the challenges and opportunities in family and civil legal aid.  Additional exciting webinars, Bridging the Gap: Access to Justice by Van and Boat and Gendered Aspects of Legal Aid also take place on February 6 and 9, respectively.

We hope to build online momentum, so please join us by using the hashtag #A2JWeekBC, following the Twitter account @A2JWeekBC and posting about it as well as about your own involvement and experiences on the social media that you use.

I hope those working in the justice system find time to think about access to justice this month and to do something to mark Access to Justice Week. This is an opportune time to reflect and begin to implement your ideas or ideas that you hear about while participating in the week’s activities and events.

– Leonard Marchand, Chief Justice of British Columbia