The CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice Summit takes place April 25-27 in Vancouver

  • April 18, 2013

OTTAWA – A new, shared vision of equal justice as well as practical strategies for achieving that vision will be the focus of the CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice Summit in Vancouver, April 25-27. 

A major milestone for the CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice initiative launched last August, the summit aims to usher in a new era of strategic collaboration to make justice a reality for all Canadians by addressing issues including underfunding of legal aid, strains on the courts and judicial system, and the deluge of individuals representing themselves in court.

“An increasing number of Canadians are finding themselves in legal limbo – their legal rights and protections are ‘just on paper’,” says Melina Buckley of Vancouver, Chair of the CBA’s Access to Justice Committee and organizer the two-day event.  “The consequences can be dire if they are unable to obtain the legal help or information they need.”

Organizers see the summit as a first step in turning the situation around.  “We are at a critical moment in terms of access to justice.  We’ve been moving ahead on the assumption that people can manage their own legal problems with a bit of information or advice.  But that is just not the reality for many people.  We need to develop a new national strategy that does not depend on leaving the most disadvantaged people behind,” notes Melina Buckley.

The summit features speeches, panel discussions and debates. The format is interactive and will provide participants access to the most current thinking on the subject. A debate on whether there should be a national “justice care” system in Canada will feature Alex Himmelfarb, former Clerk of the Privy Council and currently Director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs, and Sharon Matthews, past President of CBA-BC.

Former editor-in-chief of the Vancouver Sun, Patricia Graham, will moderate an “interview” style session on perspectives and new directions for reform.

A keynote speech by Justice Thomas Cromwell of the Supreme Court of Canada will focus on the efforts and findings of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters – a group convened at the invitation of the Chief Justice of Canada – that has also been tackling access challenges.

The CBA has taken a leadership role in bringing together lawyers, judges, paralegals, legal aid and pro bono providers, community legal advocates, public legal information specialists, government policy makers, law foundation board members and staff, members and staff of administrative tribunals, academics and members of public policy organizations.

“If we all work together, these key stakeholders have the knowledge and experience to listen carefully and respond to the needs of the public and begin to turn the tide,” says Melina Buckley.

To date, the CBA’s Access to Justice Committee has released five discussion papers, which will be topics of discussion at the summit:

The CBA’s Envisioning Equal Justice Summit in Vancouver is open to accredited media.  Accreditation may be obtained by contacting Hannah Bernstein.

The Canadian Bar Association is dedicated to support for the rule of law, and improvement in the law and the administration of justice. Some 37,000 lawyers, law teachers, and law students from across Canada are members.

- 30 -